The one-page résumé has long been considered the optimal approach for selling yourself in the modern job market. It’s normally enough to provide recruiters with sufficient information to prove your suitability, and it’s short enough to hold their attention when they are sifting through hundreds of applications. But are there any occasions when a one-page résumé just isn’t enough?
If you find yourself in any of the following situations, you may have a strong case for straying on to that second page.
You have worked extensively in one field
If you have worked in your field for years and gained extensive knowledge and expertise, you may struggle to squeeze it all on to one page amidst all of your education, achievements, and skills.
So, in some cases it may be perfectly acceptable to stretch your work experience section over two pages. While you could attempt to squeeze all of your previous roles onto a single page, you may find that does not leave you with enough space to truly demonstrate your contribution and impact.
If your most recent two or three roles are hyper-relevant to the vacancies you are applying for, then employers will thank you for providing them with more detail on them, and that will lead to more interviews for you. Bulk up those recent roles to show off the skills you used the most. To add to this, include some powerful achievements, backed up by facts and figures. Even the busiest of hiring managers will make time for a two-page résumé if it is packed with proven results.
If you find that expanding on current roles is leaving you with little space on the second page, you can always provide one-line summaries for less recent experience, or even completely omit roles that are no longer relevant.
You have tons of technical experience
It is not uncommon for technical résumés to spill onto the second page. An expert engineer or developer could have hundreds of tools and technologies in their arsenal, so they cannot always reasonably be expected to squeeze them all onto a single page. As a technical person you are also required to “translate” your technical knowledge to less technically minded people in the recruitment process—and this will take up valuable space on the résumé.
You may also find it helpful to add a technical skills list at the bottom of your résumé to present a complete picture. This ensures that recruiters will find you in tech specific searches (such as, if they are searching for a niche programming language) but you won’t overwhelm readers by cramming every tool you’ve ever used into your profile at the top of your résumé.
You are a contract worker
Contractors have always found it notoriously difficult to write their résumés. If you’ve had 10 contracts over the past five years, it will be nearly impossible to get them onto a one-page résumé.
Therefore, as a contractor it’s definitely acceptable to stretch your résumé over two pages—but this doesn’t mean that you need to submit a seven-page résumé with a detailed paragraph on every job you have ever done. You still need to be selective and ensure that you are only providing details that will be relevant to the employers you are approaching.
This may mean that you provide lots of detail in current roles and summarize your older work. Or it may mean that you batch similar projects into a single summary to avoid repeating yourself throughout the document.
If you are targeting a particular specialism, you may have to provide lots of detail in roles where you had exposure to that specialism, and cut down some of your more generic work.
An efficient approach for many contractors is to create a few different résumés, with each being targeted towards a different niche or industry. This will take a while to setup, but it will make your job hunt much quicker once you start applying for roles.
However, don’t go overboard
While there are certainly some occasions that warrant the use of a two-page résumé, it’s probably best not to spill on to the third. Sure, some recruiters might not mind it, but you have to bear in mind the attention spans in the modern job application process. Hiring managers and recruiters are normally inundated with applications for every vacancy, while facing short deadlines to get them filled. Unfortunately, this means that while most people who review your résumé would love to give it the attention it deserves, they simply just do not have the time.
If it’s vital that you include some extra details that move your résumé into the two-page territory, there’s no need to panic; if that information is significant and well-formatted, recruiters will likely give it a read. But if your résumé is heading for three or four pages of rambling text, then it’s unlikely that many recruiters or hiring managers will even read that far in today’s job market. If you’re struggling to keep your résumé under two pages, then review it, grade each section on relevancy, and cut out or summarize some of the less relevant information.
A résumé should be as long as it needs to be to sell your suitability and convince employers that you are the person they need for the job. Providing enough detail to do this, while also creating a quick and easy reading experience can be a fine balancing act. Ultimately, you need to provide recruiters with enough information about you to get them excited, so if that means submitting a two-page résumé, then so be it.
Andrew Fennell is the founder and director of Job Description Library, and StandOut CV, two leading career advice websites with a mission to help job hunters land the jobs they want. He is regular contributor to CV Library and The Guardian.