Sometimes, a candidate only gets one page to make their case

In the recent past, the standard advice was that all entry-level professionals should have a one-page resume, max. However, that's not necessarily the case today, since many recruiters and hiring managers expect to see a two-page resume regardless of the level of experience. 

One reason for the outdated standard that a one-page resume is the goal for entry level graduates is the notion that, when you've just graduated college, there probably won't be much to put on your resume. However, that's no longer true, given that graduates today have more opportunities to gain relevant experience while in school. Internships, assistantships, co-ops, part-time work, and even leadership roles in extracurricular activities are opportunities many college and entry-level candidates can access to add value to their resume.

Still, for some entry-level candidates and other types of job candidates, a one-page resume is sufficient. Thus, the quandary remains, should a resume be one page or two pages?

In this post, we cover

  • When should a resume be one page

  • How to make a resume fit on one page

  • When to use a two-page resume

  • When to use a three-page resume

  • Additional recommended reading

So, how many pages should a resume be? Read on to find out. 

When should a resume be one page?

There are indeed some instances where a one-page resume is appropriate and preferred, including:

  • High school students who have little to no experience and few activities to highlight

  • College students and entry-level candidates who have not participated in any of the activities mentioned above

  • Career changers who need to focus their resume on transferable skills that relate to their new target industry or career, due to not having enough relevant experience

How to make a resume fit on one page

So, should a resume be one page? Yes, when you fall into one of the above scenarios. Now, you're likely wondering how you can cram all the information you need in your resume onto one page. What should you include? What can you remove? 

Below are 10 techniques to help you achieve a one-page resume that will help you to keep to the page limit and still wow a recruiter.

Highlight only internships and relevant work experience

While it's great to show you've had a job since you were 16 and can commit to a company, unless it's relevant, it's not necessary. Keep the focus on relevant work experience and any internships you may have held recently or while in college. 

You can still show you had previous jobs, and how long you were with those companies, in an “additional experience” line under your highlighted positions. This will show you have longevity and loyalty without taking up valuable space.

Combine similar experience under one position

"Similar experience" could be things like several work-study positions in different offices or cashier work at more than one store. The duties you completed are going to be nearly the same, so combining the roles on your resume is the most efficient and effective way to save space. You can showcase achievements for each position separately in bullets below the daily functions.

Remove short-term positions

Unless the short-term position you held is relevant, remove it. Positions held for a short time can communicate that you're a job hopper who can't commit and that you won't stay in a role long term. Highlighting short-term positions can be a screen-out factor, so don't do it.

Include only necessary skills in descriptions

Necessary hard and soft skills are the qualities a company is looking for in a candidate; they are usually listed in the position description. For example, if you're applying for an entry-level sales position and have past experience as a gas-station clerk, you will want to highlight your customer service, sales, product support, and communications skills. You probably also cleaned the facility, stocked supplies, and managed inventory, but those are not necessary skills for a sales position, so they can be removed.

Shorten your work accomplishment and experience list

You should use bullet points over paragraphs in the Work Experience or Relevant Experience section of your resume. Keep the bullet points concise and short - no more than 1 to 2 lines each.

Focus on valuable achievements and combine where appropriate

Review the bullet points you've included for each experience and ensure they only highlight your most notable and quantifiable achievements. Remove any points that don't add value or are merely tasks you did vs accomplishments you achieved. Each position should include 3 to 5 bullet points, max.

Many bullet point achievements can be combined and shortened. You don't want to tell the whole story of how you achieved it - recruiters want to know what you've done. If they have questions, they'll ask about the how during an interview.

For example, if you increased sales by 15% by building relationships and improving customer satisfaction, you can reduce this to one bullet that says “Increased sales by 15% and improved overall customer satisfaction.” You can go into detail during an interview about how you built and leveraged relationships to increase both simultaneously.

The summaries of previous positions are a common aspect of the resume that gets fluffed. When you include summaries, keep them as short as you can while showing what you can do. Don't get too into detail here - simply list your areas of expertise and the skills you have.

Do not fluff achievements either! Recruiters will know, and it will not leave a good impression.

Trim your Education section

One area where you can often cut some content is in your Education section. This section can include many items, like:

  • The degree issued

  • The issuing institution

  • City and state of institution 

  • Honors

  • GPA

  • Relevant coursework

  • Graduation date (or expected graduation date if the degree is still in progress)

At a minimum, include your degree and the institution that issued it - this is most important to employers. You can also choose to include your GPA or any honors you received, as long as you can keep them on the same line as your degree. Any other details are unnecessary when you're working to trim your resume to a single page. For example:

Bachelors of Art - Filmmaking (cum laude), New York State University

Tighten your resume summary

Generally, a resume summary should be no more than 3 to 5 punchy sentences that highlight your top achievements relevant to the job. Review your summary and see if there's any way to tighten it up and reduce it to get your message across succinctly in 2 to 3 sentences. 

Leave off unnecessary information

The information recruiters are not interested in can take up valuable space. If you are about to (or have) graduated college, high school information is no longer relevant. It's assumed you graduated high school since you were able to get into college, so leave off the clubs, graduation date, sports, and other achievements from your youth.

Also, it's no longer standard to put “References available upon request” on your resume. Most applications ask for references, and everyone knows a reference check is a part of the process, so including this line is unnecessary.

Here are a few more items that you should leave off of your resume to keep it to one page (and in some instances, regardless of the number of pages!).

  • High School: If you have a college degree, forgo listing your high school information. It's unnecessary and doesn't add value for the hiring manager. 

  • Irrelevant work experience: Mentioned previously, only include work experience that's relevant to the job posting or that adds value to your resume in some way.

  • Address: The only piece of location information employers want these days is your city and state or zip code. Leave off your full mailing address - including it will show you're not up to speed with today's US resume standards. 

  • Unnecessary resume sections: Though additional sections, like Hobbies and Interests, can add value in some scenarios, if you're aiming for a one-page resume, leave sections like this off.

Reformat font size and spacing

Changing margins can give you so much additional space! You can go as low as 0.5 inches on all sides — just not any smaller. After you've everything you need on the document, start adjusting your margins. When you achieve your one-page resume, leave the margins as they are. You want the page to look full and appropriately spaced.

If you change the margins to the smallest permissible size and still need help, reduce the font by point five until you get to one page. It's not recommended to go below 10-point font on a resume, however, because any smaller font is too difficult to read.

Can a resume be 2 pages?

As you ask, “when should a resume be one page?” a natural second question to follow would be, “when should a resume be two pages?” 

A two-page resume is the most common resume size and makes sense for:

  • Entry-level professionals with sufficient relevant experience and activities that speak to their ability to succeed on the job

  • Seasoned professionals

  • Career changers with ample transferable skills, certifications, and experience that relate to their new target industry or career

In most instances, your resume should not go beyond two-pages, even if you're a seasoned professional with 15 or more years of experience under your belt. With that said, bear in mind that you don't want to aim for a two-page resume for the sake of having a two-page resume. 

What matters most is the content of your resume - not the length. If you're able to use a one-page resume to emphasize and highlight your career history in a way that shows you're an excellent candidate for the job, then by all means, do so. The last thing you want to do is to force your resume onto a second page by including irrelevant and unnecessary information. If a recruiter sees your resume as “fluffed,” it increases your chances of being passed over, regardless of your level.

Again, there's no rule of thumb that says a resume has to be two-pages, so if you feel good about your one-page resume as a seasoned professional, use it!  

When to use a three-page resume

In most instances, a three-page resume is strongly discouraged - stick to a one or two-page resume whenever possible. However, there are a few instances where a three-page resume might be appropriate, including:

  • You're a professional with a long list of proficiencies and technical skills

  • You have several published works to include

  • You have several contract, consulting, or other types of gig work to highlight and explain

  • You're seeking a job in the sciences or academia, where your resume should be over two pages (and, sometimes, over 10!)

  • You're seeking a US Federal Government job, which means your resume could be 3 to 7 pages long to include all required information 

Should a resume be one page? Yes, in certain situations 

Now you know the answer to, “should a resume be one page?” You also know how to get it to fit on one page if that's the best option for your circumstances. 

Fitting your resume on one page may seem like a daunting task, but when you take the above tips and techniques and apply them, you'll find it's easier than expected. What's most important is that your resume makes you stand out in the best possible light. Remember to start with relevant information and have your job goal in mind at all times. This will help you to focus your skills and showcase how great a fit you'll be for that dream job!

How did you do making your one-page resume? And should your resume be one page for sure? Why not submit it for a free resume review today for feedback?

This blog was originally written by Felicia Tatum and has been updated by Ronda Suder.

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