What’s the ideal length for a resume? Traditionally, career experts have advised job seekers to distill their experience down to a single page. But a recent study showed that recruiters and hiring managers preferred two-page resumes, choosing them more than twice as often as single-pagers.
ResumeGo, a professional resume writing service, conducted a study of hiring professionals to determine the most effective length for a resume. The study included 482 recruiters, hiring managers, executives and other human resource professionals, and involved a hiring simulation in which participants screened resumes for jobs in a variety of industries.
The sample resumes were based on those of real candidates. Half were one page long, and half were two pages long. ResumeGo asked hiring professionals to select resumes that best fit each job opening.
In all, the participants selected 7,712 resumes — 5,375 of which were two pages long. The results showed that hiring professionals were 2.3 times more likely to choose two-page resumes than one-page resumes.
Recruiters Spent Twice as Long Reading Two-Page Resumes
Earlier studies have shown that recruiters and hiring managers spend seconds reviewing resumes. However, participants in this simulation spent several minutes on each resume. They were also willing to spend more time reading longer resumes. The participants spent an average of four minutes and five seconds on two-pagers, compared to two minutes and 24 seconds on one-pagers.
Two-page resumes also scored higher when participants were asked how well each document was able to “summarize the candidate’s work experiences and overall credentials.” Two-page resumes had an average score of 8.6 (on a scale of 0 to 10), while one-page resumes had an average score of 7.1.
Why Did Two-Page Resumes Do Better?
If you’ve been told to keep your resume short and sweet, you may feel skeptical. But Peter Yang, ResumeGo’s CEO of Resume Writing Services, offered several explanations for why longer resumes may be more effective at getting the hiring manager’s attention.
A Chance to Tell Your Story
“The story that a resume tells is of utmost importance,” Yang told PayScale. “It’s critical that your resume paint a coherent picture of you that matches the image of the ideal employee the hiring manager has in mind.”
Job seekers who are going by the old rule of keeping their resumes to a single page may find themselves deciding to cut accomplishments just for the sake of saving space, but Yang said that’s not always the right move.
“If your resume is naturally two pages long but you then decide to omit certain sections or bullet points here and there just for the sake of shortening your resume, you risk ending up with a resume that feels unnatural and may not tell your complete story,” he said.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”‘It’s critical that your resume paint a coherent picture of you that matches the image of the ideal employee the hiring manager has in mind.’ – Peter Yang, CEO of Resume Writing Services, ResumeGo” quote=”‘It’s critical that your resume paint a coherent picture of you that matches the image of the ideal employee the hiring manager has in mind.’ – Peter Yang, CEO of Resume Writing Services, ResumeGo”]
An Opportunity to Showcase Skills
“As recruiters and hiring managers are reading through resumes, they’re usually trying to look for certain specific skills and credentials that the perfect candidate should possess,” said Yang. “Therefore, when it comes to two job seekers who have very comparable backgrounds, it’s often the person who showcases more credentials on a lengthier resume who wins out simply because they included more qualifications and keywords that match what the employer is looking for.”
Appearing skilled may also be more important, in this context, than being skilled. Per Yang: “The longer resume helps make them seem like more ideal fit for the job than the other candidate, even though in actuality they may be equally qualified.”
Recruiters May Think Longer Resumes Equal More Experience
Two-page resumes may also give the impression that the candidate has too much experience to fit on the page — again, regardless of whether this is actually the case.
“Over the course of their careers, hiring managers and executives are used to hiring candidates who are highly qualified, and consequently tend to have resumes that extend beyond a single page because they have so many achievements and years of experience to showcase,” Yang said. “Because of this, hiring managers may have subconsciously developed a mental association between qualified candidates and lengthier resumes over time, so they now have a bias towards two page resumes because of this cognitive link, independent of the actual competency level of the job candidates they are screening.”
How Long Is Too Long?
Reading these results, you might be tempted to stretch your resume as far as it can go. After all, if two pages are better than one page, why not go to three or four — or beyond?
Although it wasn’t part of ResumeGo’s study, Yang agreed that a two-page resume was likely preferable to longer resumes.
“From my personal experience, even though you can certainly fit more information on three pages than you can on two, there is a balance you need to strike,” he said. “You will likely get diminishing returns on the additional information that you would include on the third page anyway, and hiring managers may get tired of reading a seemingly never-ending resume that just keeps continuing on and on.”
Resumes that go to three pages or longer also aren’t as common in workforce, Yang said. While it’s important to stand out during the job search process, candidates want to stand out for the right reasons — their experience, skills and aptitude for the job, not gimmicks like a novel-length resume.
There are exceptions to that rule, but for the most part, if you need more than two pages, you probably need a curriculum vitae, not a resume. If you’re applying for a job in academia or research — or outside the United States — a CV might be a better choice than a resume. CVs include information on education, training, publications, presentations and awards, as well as work experience, and often run beyond two pages.
What Should Job Seekers Do With This Information?
Let Necessity Be Your Guide
The best reason to go with a two-page resume is that your experience won’t fit on one page.
A good resume showcases your experience and qualifications so that a hiring manager can quickly see that you’re a good fit for the role. Fulfilling that function is more important than meeting a certain page length.
“Times have changed, and so has the criteria for resume length,” wrote resume expert Kim Isaacs at Monster.com. “The new guideline is: A resume should be long enough to entice hiring managers to call you for job interviews. That may sound vague, but there is no hard-and-fast resume length rule that works for everyone. Factors to consider include career summary, occupation, industry, years of experience, number of employers, scope of accomplishments, and education/training.”
The right length for your resume will depend on where you are in your career, your experience and skills and the specific requirements of the job under consideration. But don’t feel that you need to beef up — or trim down — your resume beyond meeting those requirements.
“If your resume is longer than a single page, there’s no need to spend time trying to cut it down to one page,” Yang said. “Recruiters and hiring managers will generally be happy to look at any course lists, achievements and internships that you include.”
He continued: “On the other hand, if your resume happens to fit on a single page anyway, don’t feel the need to make it longer by adding in fluff, adjusting the margins, or increasing the font size. Employers will see through these superficial changes and view them negatively.”
Regardless of Resume Length, Get to the Point
An eye-tracking study from The Ladders showed that recruiters spend an average of six seconds reviewing a resume before selecting it or moving on. While ResumeGo’s survey had different results, it’s important not to take these findings as license to meander.
Regardless of length, a good resume is a sales pitch. You need to make your case quickly. That means including the right keywords so that you make it through the applicant tracking system to a human’s inbox and quantifying your achievements with percentages, dollars made or saved, etc.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”Regardless of length, a good resume is a sales pitch. You need to make your case quickly.” quote=”Regardless of length, a good resume is a sales pitch. You need to make your case quickly.”]
Make Different Resumes for Different Opportunities
By now, you probably know that you should customize your resume for every job opportunity, instead of just sending the same generic version to every hiring manager. But you might not have considered this in terms of resume length as well as content.
It’s worth it to make a one-page version of your resume, even if your experience warrants a longer version. It gives you options, if you decide that a one-page resume feels more appropriate for a given opportunity. Having a one-page version will also help you at networking events, should you need to hand over your resume quickly.
Finally, developing a shorter resume will also help ensure that you’re not padding your experience just to make a page count. If you like what you see in the short and snappy version, you can consider whether you really need two pages.
Tell Us What You Think
How long is your resume? We want to hear from you. Share your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.