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Ideal nummber of pages in a resume

What do you guys think is the ideal number pages should be in a resume? I know it depends on your years of experience and the type of job you are appying for. But what is the general standard? and what is too long and too short? Is 3 pages too long for a software engineer with 3 years of exeprience and a Masters in CS?

Anon
Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Never go over 1 page.  Ever.  Ever.  That's what the interview is for.

Anon
Tuesday, June 24, 2003

>> "Is 3 pages too long for a software engineer with 3 years of exeprience and a Masters in CS"

Yes, unless you've held a million jobs over 3 years and even then it's too long.  What exactly are you saying on the resume besides I've worked here, here and here and I have a masters in CS?  Must be a lot of extraneous BS.


Tuesday, June 24, 2003

What I did was a "two pages"-"two parts" resume: all that I want conveyed in the resume (experience, education, qualities, goals, miscellanous) are on the first page. Then on the second page, I added a part called "detailled experience" where I specifies more clearly what I did, what was my thesis about...

It works like a charm.

jcm
Tuesday, June 24, 2003

http://discuss.fogcreek.com/joelonsoftware/default.asp?cmd=show&ixPost=53248&ixReplies=1

See, i told you there are only al imited number of topics here.

www.MarkTAW.com
Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Anything more than 1 page is too much. If I get 400 resumes, I don't need 800 pages to read!

The one exception to this is when the second page is nothing by a skills assessment (C++ 1 Year, C# 10 years, etc.). Lots of HR types like that because it helps them sort you faster. Otherwise they need to actually *read* it, oh my.

Marc
Tuesday, June 24, 2003

I have 3 pages becuase I have listed the projects I worked on with 3 line description and technologies used. I try to list only the relavant projects for the job I am appying for and take out all the others but it still goes for 2.5 pages. I work for a non-IT firm as the in-house software developer. There are so many small projects I have worked on over the period of 3 years.

MarkTAW- I never saw any discussion regarding the number of pages in a resume. I apologize if it is a already discussed subject.

Thank you.

Anon
Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Anon - I was kidding, the previous post was about getting rid of the bull and I was referencing that, not your post.

www.MarkTAW.com
Tuesday, June 24, 2003

A 'career transition' person advised me to reduce my 20-year resume to a page and a half. On the 1st page I have 3 thirds: a "profile" (sentences describing my last roles, my 'selling points'); a "skills" summary (list of languages, APIs, types of application); and a summary of responibilities and achievements in my last job (which lasted 12 years, so this section is broad and shallow). The 2nd half-page lists my previous jobs and companies, and my academic and other awards.

I've been sending this resume, with few replies. Yesterday however I had feedback from 2 interviewers.

The first was a headhunter who found my resume on Monster and wanted to put me forward to a company, which he did. When he asked if I had questions I asked about my resume, saying that I had been advised to keep it short. He replied "Maybe that was true 3 years ago. Recently I've been submitting resumes that are 4 and 10 pages long."

The 2nd was a company hirer, whose first comment was "another typically uninformative resume".

I had wanted to keep my resume short, for three reasons: I was advised to; to spare the time of people reading 400 resumes; to avoid the trap of saying what product I worked on in the past, which could discriminate against me working on other products in the future.

Based on this feedback however I wonder whether one and a half pages is TOO short; and in a tight job market I may be hired only to do something very similar to what I did in the past, so better to state that experience than gloss over it.

I'm now thinking of doing it as a 3-page resume. 1st half page: "profile" (especially experienced at C++ on Windows, with the following specialties and other goodies); 2nd half page "skills" (list of languages and APIs, with number of years per each, like on Monster); bottom of 1st page: academic and other awards.  2nd page: table of specific technologies or skills (e.g. multi-threading, networking, GUIs) with a list of the experiences I have had in each area. 3rd page: chronological employment record, summarising things delivered.

The items on 2nd page would be customised to whatever the job advertisement is asking for.

Christopher Wells
Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Ask a dozen people about how to write a resume, and you'll get a dozen answers.

Whatever you do you're relying on the luck of the draw - that your way matches the person receiving the resume's idea of what a good resume looks like.

My advice is use your own judgement on what works best for your specific skillset and experience.

And the horse you rode in on
Tuesday, June 24, 2003

The one-page resume was the rule twenty years ago. Of course, twenty years ago just about everyone who actually had a resume (as opposed to simply filling in job applications) only worked at 2-3 jobs tops in their entire lives.

We're more mobile now, especially in this industry, and I think the one-page resume is a dinosaur (and for employers who don't care enough about their workforce to read more than that). Even attorney resumes, long the last bastion of the uber conservative, are now allowed to broach the second page if they have reason to.

Venture secondpagewards when you simply don't feel like a one-page resume can possibly be accurate. I wouldn't go past two pages, tho. Nobody will read farther. Figure the really important stuff is on the first page - the second page is there if the first page makes them want more. ;-)

As my career progresses, I take bullets and text out of my earlier employment history. Soon some of the jobs will be 1-2 liners. I think of it just like perspective - as the work recedes in the distance, my description of it gets smaller...

Philo

Philo
Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Here's an idea:

The unofficial "post your resume for critique" thread. Either a link to the .doc or the hotjobs/monster page, or just paste it in.

www.MarkTAW.com
Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Marc: It looks like we will never hire each other :)

The one page resumes I see are all spaghetti coders. Not somebody I wish to join my team. After a few years of enterprise development only the list of technologies can fill half a page (ever seen a network architect resume?). Even more, I want to see the spark, the way one combines the technologies and designs the applications not just a list of companies and jobs one had sailed through. Spaghetti coders are 100 a dime these days.

As a bonus, the employer will know why you ask for that load of money at the end of the interview.

In conclusion, go light if you have a light experience and go heavy (2 pages, maybe 3) if you have things to say.

I don’t know anybody in my company who will even consider calling you to an interview with a one page resume.

coresi
Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Coresi,

I wasn't very clear before (shocking I know) but I was talking about this person specifically. If you are filling 3 pages with only 2-3 years of experience than you are stretching it. If you are talking 10 years than that is a different story.

It also depends on the position in question. If it is an entry level or somewhat junior position then shorter might be advised. For a senior level position it makes more sense to have a longer resume.

Personally, my resume is easily 2 pages long and I'd bet I could hit 3 if I wrote it today. But I've not had to send out a resume in years, so I'm not really sure.

Marc
Tuesday, June 24, 2003

What about a 159 page resume?

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1893115941

www.MarkTAW.com
Wednesday, June 25, 2003

If a good coder is an order of magnitude better than the average coder (which most here seem to agree with), then surely a good coder after 1 year will have as much to say on their resume as an average coder after 10?

I think it's hard to say ... you can have a job for a year and do the same thing every day, or you could be working on lots of different projects and technologies.

And the horse you rode in on
Wednesday, June 25, 2003

I don't know guys, most multi-page resume's I've seen go into way too much detail, and almost all of the details are totally irrelevant to the position I am trying to fill.

By page two I am usually reading about the dozenth arcane x-bean-mookfalata thing they learned back in `94 and I start to scan the rest of the page(s) for something interesting.

And that's bad, because once the reader starts to scan you lose your personal voice. Your story becomes an incohesive laundry list instead of a focused story of an upwardly mobile genius who just couldn't stop getting promoted or tackling one organizational clusterf--k after another and saying "COME ON! IS THAT ALL YOU GOT!"

Besides, there's somthing classy about one page.

Throw down.

Matt
Wednesday, June 25, 2003

OTOH, some resume are designed to turn up in as many searches as possible so you want to list that you learned C64 Basic in kinderdergarten.

www.MarkTAW.com
Wednesday, June 25, 2003

In fact, it depends on where you live as well. I'm in australia, and my resume at the end of uni was four pages. I've been working for five years now and it's still four pages, albeit with very different content.

At the end of uni, they held a couple of workshops on resume writing etc. and four pages was the recommended length.

ko
Wednesday, June 25, 2003

I am surprised there aren't more analogies drawn between a resume and the code we write.
Just because you have 20 years of experience doesn't necessarily mean you need a longer resume. It's like the topic that comes up from time to time on measuring one's productivity in Lines of Code. Usually, the more lines of code, the WORSE a programmer is. Now I don't mean that having a long resume corresponds to your LOC, but rather that you don't always need to *say* more to *mean* more (or *do* more in the case of computer code). It reminds me of a great quote by someone here a couple weeks ago: If it's EASY to read, it was HARD to write.

From what I have learned, a resume is NOT a legal/archival/statistical document that is supposed to tally up every thing you've done over time. Rather, it is a *marketing* document whose ONLY purpose is to get you to the interview. You have a message you want to get across, and usually a simpler, more concise message has more impact than a lengthy one.

[Now if I could only practice what I preach and write a shorter reply...]

Jordan Lev
Wednesday, June 25, 2003

I've worked at two jobs in three years.  My resume is two pages long.

I tried it on one page but it looked much too thin that way.  If I were a recruiter, I would think that someone who could describe themselves all in one page must be lacking experience.

I don't know if I am correct or not -- I am only saying what I believe.

Alyosha`
Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Jordan - agreed that the longer your career the more efficiently you should write your resume. When I had one year of experience, my resume was a page long. Now that I've been working for 14 years, my resume is two pages long. 1 year/page -> 7 years/page.... ;-)

"From what I have learned, a resume is NOT a legal/archival/statistical document that is supposed to tally up every thing you've done over time"

Absolutely WRONG. If you have *any* significant gaps in employment, you *will* be asked about them. (I don't know why - never made any sense to me)

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, June 25, 2003

"If you have *any* significant gaps in employment, you *will* be asked about them."

Well, yes you will be asked about them, but that implies that you actually made it to the interview (or do you mean that you have been asked such questions prior to an interview?).
One would hope that you would be given the chance to explain any gaps -- although on the flip side it seems like a lot of people here are saying that it doesn't matter what your excuse/explanation is because employers are looking for ANY abnormality that will help them speed along the "narrow-down-my-stack-of-800-resumes" process. Hmm...

Jordan Lev
Wednesday, June 25, 2003

I prefer the one-page resume. Tell me what's interesting about you, not everything there is to know about you, a la, "it all started when I was seven." That doesn't mean I don't want to know where you've worked ... but it's sufficient to give me brief paragraphs on the last few positions, and just the interesting stuff from before that.

> "If you have *any* significant gaps in employment, you *will* be asked about them."

Not exactly. You will only be asked about them if your resume is otherwise interesting. If your resume is tedious, they won't ask you a dang thing.

Zahid
Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Two pages.

Well spaced out, containing all relevant information and enough space to put some eye-catching nuggets in, and explain some about yourself.

Seems to have worked for me.

Mr Jack
Wednesday, June 25, 2003

There's no agreement on this, but the one page resume is often completely unreadable because people simply make the font smaller to fit everything in.

The other tendency is for the lenght of the resume to be in inverse proportion to the amount of experience. I often get five to ten page resumes from people who have just left college in which the leadership skills they learnt cutting their neigghbour's lawn at the age of 13 are meticoulsy stated with bullet points and all, whilst those with 30 years teaching experience often just stick in half-a-dozen lines. I think it's a case of the effort going into the resume reflecting how likely you are to get the job anyway.

The rule can't be stated too often; tailor the resume to the job.

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Thank you all for your inputs so far. I will reduce my resume to 2 pages from 3.
Here is what I think:
1 page resume is good for some body just fresh out of college, for entry level jobs. Just highlight your education and interships, part time jobs.
And
1 page resume is good for somebody with over 10 year of exeprience, applying for upper management jobs or for somebody who is well known in the industry. For example Joel :). If he was looking for a job today, do you think he really needs a resume more than 1 page long?

2-3 pages long if you have 3-10 years of experience. If you have worked for 3 years, you have to have stuff to say more than 1 page, unless you have worked only on 1 product at 1 company for the last 3 years.
Put all the important stuff on the 1st page and put all the supporting stuff on the 2nd page.
What do you guys think?

Anon
Wednesday, June 25, 2003

I think a 1- or 2-page resume is perfect for most needs.  In some exceptional circumstances, you may need to go slightly beyond a 2-page resume, but I honestly don't think that most cases warrant it.

I've managed to keep my resume at 1 page and I've worked in the industry for about 10 years now (granted, I'm a bit unusual in that I've only been with two different employers in 10 years, which made this a little easier).

I've posted my resume as an example of how you can fit a lot of useful information into a 1-page format.  If anyone has any constructive comments on it, I'm always interested in hearing them.

http://cs-people.bu.edu/emerick/resume.doc

Emerick Rogul
Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Do not go over 2 pages! Recently I've been doing a lot of interviewing and I've quit reading past page 2 in 99% of cases. If you have 3 years of experience doing small projects pick a few that would interest the target company and describe them as one-liners. Lump the rest into a generic bullet.

Put a list of skills/languages/technologies/buzzwords upfront so that it's the first thing they see. This will make it easier for HR people to match you to an opening.

igor
Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Make sure everything someone needs route/evaluate
you by is on the first page. After that the number of pages
doesn't matter because 99% of the people will
only read the first page anyway. Minie is 5 pages or
so. The info is there if you want it.

If someone can scan your skills in 15 seconds you've
done a good job. That's all you got.

On the first page make sure you are completely
buzz word compliant. Make sure your value add
is clear. Don't say useless stuff like team player,
fast learner, etc.

valraven
Wednesday, June 25, 2003

The Answer is 1-3 pages, depending upon length of experience, and preferably custom tailored to the job you are submitting for.

If the HR person or hiring manager can't be bothered to at least skim over your 2 1/2 page resume to do first cuts, screw 'em.

The Long Term Answer is we should use more interactive resume formats.  A resume that displays in short form with links to more information (and, in some cases, even demo code snippets) that is indexable and searchable would be nice.  Obviously HTML could be used for this, though a custom XML schema might be the best answer.  Just don't let it be designed by a committee of companies and/or industry experts or it will take 5 years to be specified and will be bloated past the point of being usable.

The hard part would be getting people on both sides using this new format.  If Microsoft Word supported it, that prospect would be... a little less hard.

Mister Fancypants
Wednesday, June 25, 2003

One of the most impressive resumes I ever read was probably close to 10 pages long.  The only reason I didn't interview the guy was that his asking price was outside my budget.

Raw size isn't much of a factor to me; content's much more important.  Nearly every candidate I've interviewed for any position has had a multi-page resume, because that's the only way to fit the information I need to evaluate someone.  That is, meat about what they did.

Of course, my team generally looks for "well-rounded" candidates who've done more than just programming, so that tends to skew in favor of longer and more complex resumes that have more details about accomplishments.

Phillip J. Eby
Wednesday, June 25, 2003

"The rule can't be stated too often; tailor the resume to the job. "

Stephen, do you have resume format criteria on your website too?

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, June 25, 2003

I think a 159 page resume is fine, if you have a lot to offer -- but I think that resume is even better when it's in FULL COLOR!!!

programmer
Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Christopher Wells:
I have been advising a mate of mine on this, he got bumped recently, but he is shit hot. Everyone has been telling him to keep the resume short, nobody likes to read lots, yadda, yadda. It is coming across as dogma.

As someone who has spent a lot of time out of work (2x redundancies) I learned the hard way how to write a resume. And yes the climate changed. A badly-typed fully-buzzword-compliant resume got you interviews 3 years ago. Nowadays people take their hiring much more seriously so they read them in 2 steps.

For the first step, they screen. Just about anything can get your CV filed in the trashcan at this stage, especially if the resume pile is large. What they are looking for is the buzzwords & maybe key experience. Your key skills should then be on the first page. If your CV was half a page long it still might be too long here.

Now that they have removed 90% of the pile they go through the rest of it more seriously i.e. it gets read properly, first by a HR type, and then maybe reviewed by a techie type.

These people want details! They want to cross examine your skills against your experience, figure out your design/QA/coding ability and team size experience. You can get screened here too. They will then start doing screening interviews (possibly over the phone), and may use your resume to construct interview questions.

My resume is 4 pages long and a bit wordy. All the screening stuff is on teh front, the rest is work history & projects. Until I expanded it up to this size I wasn't getting any interest whatsoever.

Richard
Wednesday, June 25, 2003

I think there might have been a change in the optimum length for a resume, arising from the preponderance of online applications.

1 or 2 page resumes have always been the mark of a good communicator, able to capture key points, and prepared to put in the work to summarise, and to thus show respect to his or her reader. There's no doubt that was the style.

However a friend of mine looked for a job last year, and found little interest using his normal resume, which had always worked well in the past. At the suggestion of a recruiter ( they're not all bad ), he added descriptions of important achievements, taking the length out to five pages. That resume immediately got interviews and job offers.

I think online reading hides the number of pages, and reduces the usefuless of keeping the resume short.

However I also think there is a lot of variation. I've seen a resume from a lawyer that just had a paragraph stating his current position with a very prestigious law firm, and his degree from a prestigious school. Said it all, really.

The other extreme are resumes from ambitious academics, where they list every single publication they've ever done, extending to 20 pages or so.

My advice would be 3 pages.

.
Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Incidentally, one thing I *am* sure about is that the ideal number of 'm's in "number" is one.

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, June 25, 2003

:) Thanks Philo. I will make sure I run the spell checker on my 1/2/3 page(s) resume!

Anon
Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Sorry about that - too cute/snotty by far.

I've got serial comms on the brain and it's making me twitchy.

Philo

Philo
Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Emerick: thanks for posting your resume - it *IS* one page, and looks clear to me. The only two things I don't see are where you used Visual Studio .NET, and whether you were really using Win32 in May 1993 (before NT 3.1 was released). I rewrote my resume using your format and posted it at http://members.rogers.com/xwells/resume.doc

Richard: I now have Overview and Skills on the first quarter of the first page. There's room to expand the Overview for specific applications, if I remove irrelevent projects (such as device drivers for an MFC job). I *THINK* I've touched on all the details you mentioned (design/QA/coding/team size). Do you have any hints on what an HR person might be looking for in a resume, especially on the second pass?

. (dot): do you know what is meant by "descriptions of important achievements" ... can you quote or reference an example or two, from a programmer?

Philo: I once thought I knew everything there was to know about serial comms, at least on PCs - I didn't know people still thought about that kind of low-level stuff!

Christopher Wells
Thursday, June 26, 2003

Christopher -- change the Document > Properties before you send this out!

Duncan Smart
Thursday, June 26, 2003

Christopher - synchroniZation.

tekumse
Thursday, June 26, 2003

My tuppenceworth...

As mentioned above, the _only_ purpose a resume serves is to get you an interview. Nothing more. Keep it simple and make it easy for people to find things that will make you stand out.

I used to be able to cram my resume onto one page.

Key skills at the top in a bulleted list (ie: Visual C++ 6.0, Visual Basic 6.0, yada yada plus a few general things like "team management" and "GUI design").

For most recruiters, this seems to be all they'll ever bother reading ... until last year I had "VMS" near the bottom (having done a major porting project on it 1997/98 but avoided it ever since) until some headhunter bork phoned me up about a VMS maintance programmer job. Whoop de doo.

For the rest of the page, a summary of recent work containing a bulleted list of things I achieved and various responsibilities I took on. 

And at the end, a couple of lines on non-computer interests, to show that I try and have a life outside of the techy world I live in during the day.

This got expanded to two pages when it wouldn't fit, but I'm continually trimming things, as I imagine most people aren't too interested about some Borland ObjectPAL work I did nine years ago anymore.

So - my vote is no more than two, and only then if it's all content, no padding.

Better Than Being Unemployed...
Thursday, June 26, 2003

When I get some free time (which right now looks like 2007), I'm going to try something different for my resume - I'm going to have a one page cover, then two pages of screenshots with URL's.

"I did this, and this, and this..."

If I ever get around to doing it, I'll post the results (if any)

Philo

Philo
Thursday, June 26, 2003

Duncan - thanks ... I had tried (late at night), unsuccessfully when the Properties dialog didn't display the "Summary" property sheet: which was due to the document's being already open in winword.

tekumse - thanks ... winword makes spelling mistakes obvious. I'm using 'S' instead of 'Z' because that is Canadian/English spelling (like "colour" instead of "color", and centre" instead of "center").

Mister Fancypants - word documents can contain hyperlinks ... though they lose their hyper when they're printed.

Anyway I reformatted and reposted at http://members.rogers.com/xwells/resume2.doc ... now projects are on the 2nd page, and sorted by 'tecnology' ... I think this makes it all easier to skim, and makes it possible for a non-technical HR person to tick buzzwords and to get some insight into technical details.

Christopher Wells
Friday, June 27, 2003

Christopher - re achievements, this actually referred things the guy had done that made him look interesting to talk to. Some of them were only tangentially relevant to software.

What interesting things have you done in your life, sort of thing.

.
Saturday, June 28, 2003

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