(also: how long your résumé should  be)


1. Résumés usually require from one to three pages, depending on how much experience the person has and how specialized their experience is.

2. One page is normal for junior job-seekers, and for unskilled or semiskilled labor. For most of these, it really is critical to keep it on one page.

3. Three pages is typical for executives, senior management, and senior tech people. Most of the résumés I write run to three pages, and my clients have been very happy with the results.

4. Another page or two may be needed for senior IT people. This is because they are likely to have long lists of software and technical skills. (Even for IT, I rarely go beyond four pages.)

5. Academic and professional CVs can go much longer. If you need one of these, you already know about this.

6. Knowledgeable résumé services do not limit all résumés to one page.

7. Knowledgeable and competent hiring managers do not expect résumés for skilled people with more than a few years of experience to be on one page. There are nonetheless a few hiring managers who have missed this, and insist on one-page résumés even for highly skilled candidates. You can please these few, or you can please the great majority, who want all the information they need to make a sound decision—and will probably throw out your one-pager.


The one-page résumé is the most pervasive and misleading myth about résumés. “Keep it on one page” is good advice for someone who’s just entering the job market, or for people who have only a few years of experience in jobs with fairly straightforward responsibilities, or many years of experience in some less-skilled jobs. In some fields, a significant number of the people who read entry-level or junior résumés will indeed throw out any résumé that runs longer than one page. Before I specialized in executive and senior tech résumés, I wrote one-page résumés for those clients.

But for other job seekers, few things will sink your job search faster than a one-page résumé. My executive, management, professional, and senior tech résumés have virtually always run onto a third page.

This is not a matter of theory for me. I’ve heard from many clients who were very happy with the results they got from their three-page résumés. And for many years, I used my own tightly-packed three-page résumé to find freelance and staff work—and I got enthusiastic responses to it.

When you get much beyond the entry-level or semi-skilled stage, your résumé will eventually go onto a second page. Depending on your field, once you’ve had five or ten years of experience, you’ll usually need two or three pages, and in some specialties sometimes more. In most fields, once you’ve acquired some experience, you just can’t fit enough on one page to get across everything that qualifies you for a responsible job, that makes you stand out from other applicants, and that covers all the likely possibilities for what a given employer will be looking for in a résumé. You also can’t fit in enough keywords to get you past an automated screening. If it does get past the screening, a smart, experienced hiring manager or HR person, who is looking for someone to take on important responsibilities in a difficult job, and who has a large pile of other résumés that have also passed the screening, is probably going to toss a one-page résumé in the trash.

For job-seekers with substantial experience in responsible positions, an effective résumé is one that starts out with key points and a professional appearance, to give an employer incentives to keep reading, and then backs up those points and that appearance by setting forth all the concrete background an employer might want to see, fully and clearly but without wasting words or space. An effective résumé should also facilitate both scanning for main points and reading in detail—each of these is critical at different stages of the hiring process. “Too long” isn’t a function of how many pages, but of how much needs to be included and how efficiently it is expressed.

Unfortunately, since everyone has heard the “keep it on one page” line when they were starting out, and since it’s applicable to so many people even later in their careers, that advice is all over the place. It’s usually taken out of context, by people who don’t realize that it only applies to less qualified job-seekers.

Many of the people who repeat this myth without knowing what it really means are just writing filler articles for newspapers, magazines, or Web media. In any case, they’re just copying what they saw somewhere else. Low-end résumé services also sometimes talk as if a one-page résumé is all anyone needs—because a page of obvious bullet points is all they’re capable of doing (especially at bargain-basement prices).

Because it’s everywhere in print and on the Web, “keep it on one page” is also repeated out of context by career counselors trying to help adults who are farther on in their careers.

And so, “keep it on one page” has become an extremely widespread myth. This means that occasionally you may run into a hiring manager who believes it too, even when they’re hiring for highly skilled positions in fields where résumés normally run two or three pages, or even more. They may persist in that belief for a while, because few people will dare to correct them. I’ve seen this happen even with managers in specialties like I.T., where résumés normally run from two pages for junior people to five pages for experienced hands-on specialists. That shouldn’t be surprising. If you’ve been around for a while, you undoubtedly know that by no means all hiring managers are competent to do hiring. And in any case, even competent managers may have some blind spots when it comes to functionalities outside their professional skill set—functionalities such as communications, which is a professional specialty all to itself.

There are limits to résumé length, of course. Three pages is the practical maximum for most résumés. I.T. résumés may run to four or even five. (In fact, I don’t often go beyond three even for senior I.T. résumés. But I like to think I write more concisely than most, and I can certainly get more on a page than most without having it look crowded.) Professional or academic CVs, which list publications, seminars, etc., can go to six or eight pages or more if there’s enough material. (I’ve read that Carl Sagan’s CV, near the end of his career, ran to almost 250 pages. But by that time, it was doubtless just a reference tool for him—he didn’t need to send it to employers.)

Your résumé doesn’t have to keep growing in length with the years. As you add recent experience relevant to your evolving goals, you’ll just condense or weed out the older information that either isn’t relevant to your current objectives, or gives more space than is needed to experience that is duplicated in your more recent job history. (You still, of course, have to show that your experience in key areas goes back a ways.)

The important thing to remember is that no competent manager or HR person ever bounced a résumé for a mid-level or senior position just because it ran to more than one page. And on the other hand, it’s the smartest and most knowledgeable managers who are impressed by a coherent and detailed presentation that answers all the questions they might think of (with no wasted words, of course). In your job search, you’ll be running into a few incompetents, along with a much larger group who appreciate full information. Which group do you want to please?




Long copy sells more than short copy.

— David Ogilvy, founder of Ogilvy & Mather,
on the occasion of his induction into the Direct Marketing Hall of Fame


“I don’t know what the key to success is, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”

—variously attributed