The one-page résumé

Should a résumé be limited to one page? How big should a résumé be if it can be bigger?

I’ve tried keep my résumé up-to-date over the years, but I always struggled with adding too little versus too much information. As a guy that’s read a lot of résumés, I tried to consider whether smaller (e.g. one or two page) is preferable or larger (e.g. three or more pages) is preferable. I see why people that have to sort through hundreds of résumés might prefer something more concise to quickly make a decision and move on (and may even ignore most of a résumé that is “too long”). I also see why someone with a lot of experience might want to elaborate on their experience with a lot of details.

So what do I prefer as a guy looking at other peoples’ résumés? I think a well-organized résumé that at least provides summary on the first page is preferable (and I can decide whether I want to keep reading or not). I wouldn’t overlook a candidate myself simply because the résumé was “too long”. Hiring a team member is a big deal (at least it is for the teams I’ve worked with) and I appreciate when people take pride in their work and want to share the details on things they’ve contributed to. However, I read a couple blogs recently that illustrated examples of bias against long résumés. Perhaps the résumé readers had good reasons, or perhaps they didn’t. That is kind of besides the point if you’re just trying to get your résumé to be noticed in a fair light. There really are no standards or rules when it comes to résumé writing, and you’re probably not going to please everybody.

As a guy writing my own résumé I’d prefer to throw in a lot of detail. I think I had one version of my résumé that was up to seven pages, but I also wasn’t very serious about actually looking for a new job at the time. I have this potentially fictitious situation worked up in my head where there’s résumé “gatekeeper” of sorts looking at hundreds of résumés and decides what shall pass to the next phase and what shall not (to hiring managers I suppose). In my fictitious scenario, the gatekeeper may or may not have the technical insights to make an expert judgement, but when you’re dealing with hundreds of résumés you probably have to make compromises in time management and “play statistics” a little. Perhaps even the “prettiness” (style) of the résumé plays a role at this point (something I’m clearly not good at since I’m still going to try fill the space I use with information, not images or fancy use of white space). I imagine the unwritten “rules” are a little different if you are in an artistic field (or simply don’t have a lot of information to fill up a page of information on your background).

In the end, I decided that I should limit my résumé to a single page. My first instinct was to make everything font size 2, but I came to my senses. In order to summarize everything I wanted to say in a single page, I thought about how I could more compactly organize pertinent information about my background.

First, I decided to simple ignore everything I did prior to college and my professional career in software development activities. I still think those things are important as they illustrate experiences that shape the way I think and approach challenges. But those things don’t make the cut for the way the world works – or at least how I think it usually works in the fast-paced world of business and engineering. I left in my experience right out of college, first working for NAVAIR (government employee with the title “Computer Scientist”) and then with Cubic. At Cubic, I had a few different ill-fitting official titles including “Systems Analyst”, but used a more functionally-descriptive title for my résumé. After working for Cubic, I worked for BAE, then Wyle, and finally for KBR (KBR bought and absorbed Wyle). While I had many different projects and roles at each of these three organization, the core contracting vehicle and missions were “pretty much” the same. So I combined these three company work experiences into a single block with a summary of my experience at these organizations (leading up to present day).

I got everything down to a page, but still wished I could add more for the folks reading my résumé that might actually be interested in details. So I put a link at the bottom of my one-page résumé to my résumé page on this website, which includes the additional details that I couldn’t reasonable squeeze into one page – without requiring a microfilm reader. I’ve noticed others doing similar things in résumés – sometimes providing a URL to their LinkedIn profile, which serves the same purpose.

I still argue there are no rules and big résumés are fine, but I personally think having a one-page résumé with links to a website with more information is likely a better strategic move overall. The big résumés I did not like (as a reviewer) were the ones that did not provide an upfront summary and therefore required reading every detail in order for me to form a summary in my own head about an individual’s overall experience. Those résumés are painful to go through. Perhaps even well-organized large résumés with a summary make the reader feel obligated to read every detail.

So here’s what I came up with:

The link above is included on my one-page résumé. When you go to this page, you will see the same one-page résumé text repeated in the “résumé summary” section. At the bottom of this section, there is a download link to a PDF version of my one-page résumé where my phone number and email address have been removed. This is to avoid getting on a lot of spam email and call lists of course. Because I removed my phone number and email address, I added a URL to my website contact form and to my LinkedIn profile (in the PDF). I also have a “normal” version with my phone number and email address of course – just not posted publicly. Back to the web page itself and below the résumé summary and PDF download link… Here, I can post all the information I want (and I do). I even have links to other pages with information. Again, there are no rules. I’m free to post as much as I want and others are free to read or ignore as much as they want.

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