How many times have you heard this? “YOUR RESUME SHOULD NEVER BE LONGER THAN ONE PAGE.”
And yet, you’ve also been told your resume should include detail about your achievements; cover anywhere from 10-15 years of work experience; list your education, certifications, and pertinent training; and also outline volunteer work. What are you to do with such conflicting info, and better yet, how do you fit all of that detail into just one page?
The short answer? You may not have to!
We’re going to break down just how many pages your resume should include based on your background and experience. Let’s talk length!
When is 2 pages the way to go?
Mid-level Professionals and Beyond
A 2-page resume is widely used for a range of professionals spanning diverse fields -- for mid-level professionals or those with 5+ years of experience in their field it is the standard (Yes, you read that correctly!).
This enables you to incorporate key info for each of your professional roles indicating how you delivered value. Think of ways you saved costs, increased revenue, or developed new business in your role. Focusing on your achievements over a list of job duties can take up more space. Not only is that okay, it is preferable! People want to know what you did and the impact your actions had for your employer, though we suggest you “write tight” (keep it brief).
Tips for writing and formatting:
If you oversee teams or are a manager, consider discussing how your leadership contributed to business success while also providing specific detail about your oversight.
Be sure to include a header on the second page with your name, email, and phone number in case the pages of your resume become separated.
Sections to include: Header/Contact Info; Opening Summary; Skill Listing; Professional Experience & Achievements; Education (Move this AFTER your work experience once you’ve been in a professional role for about 5 years); Involvement.
When is 2 pages not the best fit?
If you’ve just recently earned a degree and are pursuing an entry-level role, a one-page resume can work just fine for you. As you’re drafting your document, consider how your education, specific coursework, relevant projects, internships, or leadership from extracurricular activities prepared you to excel in an entry-level role.
While you may not have held a role in your field before, it’s still important to outline how you drove success for your employers and in your education. Include examples from your employment, certainly, but also consider adding specifics about non-paid work you did or even outline key projects you completed as part of your coursework that demonstrate the knowledge you already hold in your field.
If you’re studying fields like marketing, finance, or technology, collaboration is an important skill to highlight. Did you lead a group project? How did you ensure the group successfully met the assignment’s requirements? Did you assist a small business with the creation of a marketing plan? Great! Can you report results from the company? Even better!
Tips for writing and formatting:
Consider including your participation in school-related activities or organizations, which can be listed separately from your employment. You can even briefly outline key projects to demonstrate the impact you made.
Always be specific about your contributions! Bonus tip: quantitative AND qualitative points both count!
Sections to include: Header/Contact Info; Opening Summary; Skill Listing; Education (if you earned your degree in the past 5 years, list this BEFORE your work experience); Experience & Achievements; Involvement.
Professionals with 1-10 years of work experience often fall into the 1-page resume length as well. As you advance in your career (typically once you’ve held a professional role for about 5 years), you’ll likely remove the extraneous detail outlining your involvement during college, and reduce this section to list solely your degree, major, and the name of the institution. Be sure to add in pertinent certifications you’ve acquired, but for the majority of professionals with 1 or even 2 degrees, the “Education” section is quite short. Don’t worry, that space will be taken up by the “Experience” section of your resume, where you’ll be outlining key accomplishments to illustrate your Pattern of Excellence from across your employment that demonstrates your potential for future success.
Tips for writing and formatting:
Always consider how your actions aided the business. Did you identify an opportunity for cost savings? How much? Did you develop training that made it easier for your co-workers to onboard new clients? Call it out!
Think critically about examples that demonstrate how you delivered results and note those while succinctly outlining your actions and the overall benefit to the company.
Sections to include: Header/Contact Info; Opening Summary; Skill Listing; Professional Experience & Achievements; Education & Certifications (reduce this to degree earned, institution name, year graduated and move it AFTER your work experience); Involvement.
Not 1 page, not 2 pages…gasp…there could be more!? When?
On the other end of the spectrum are select professionals who stretch their resumes to 3 pages. For business executives or leaders in specific fields in which publishing articles or speaking at public events and conferences is expected, it’s important to outline activities that demonstrate this expertise. While the first 2 pages of resumes in this category will likely be dedicated to the roles they’ve held and ways they’ve contributed, the last page of the resume is utilized to call out things like:
Select speaking engagements & participation in panels
Involvement in industry organizations or nonprofits
Additional info pertinent to future career goals
Sections to include: Header/Contact Info; Opening Summary; Skill Listing; Professional Experience & Achievements; Education & Certifications; Various sections from the bullets above specific to the individual.
But Wait, There’s More – The 4+ Resumes (Federal Resumes & Curricula Vitae)
Is there ever a time when a resume goes over *over-dramatic fainting* three pages? Yes – but it is VERY rare! If you are someone with significant accomplishments who is also actively involved in multiple organizations, it’s important to incorporate that. Keep in mind, in this case it’s even MORE important to be succinct and focus on how your actions added value.
Here are the main instances of when someone would require more than 4 pages:
You are applying to a role in the government sector (usually federal). Resumes for this specific area are quite different than your traditional “corporate” resume, must adhere to that specific job posting’s requirements, and can lead to lengthy resumes.
You are in the academic space; regardless of the area, if you are in research and possibly teach at a university, your resume can end up being quite long. From outlining every course you have taught, to publications, presentations, conferences, and more, academic CVs can end up being 10+ pages!
Sections to include: The various sections incorporated will likely be similar to a 3-page resume but are highly dependent upon the stated requirements of the job.
No matter the length best suited to you and your career, remember that it’s always important to be succinct, incorporate information in your resume that applies to the role you’re pursuing, and emphasize how your actions assisted the business. No fluff, focus on impact. And remember -- be sure to include quantifiable or qualitative detail when applicable.