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Is the one-page resume dead?

In response to a recently job posting, we got a number of resumes, and none of them were in the "classic" one page format (almost all of them were terrible, but that's another story). This was for a senior software engineer position, so people with over 5 years of experience.

I've got three years of experience at my current job, plus a student developer job I had in college and an open source project on my resume. I always try to keep my resume one page, which limits the amount of stuff that I can put on there.

After seeing these resumes -- though most people had a few more years of experience than I do -- I'm wondering if the one page resume is dead. What do JoS readers think? Is your resume multiple pages?

Luke
Friday, July 16, 2004

That seems to be the trend, for better or worse.  A recruiter I visited recently said that my 2 page resume (with about 7 years experience) was far too short.  She wanted it doubled, at least, listing any little technology I'd thought about in each position.

Ian Olsen
Friday, July 16, 2004

My resume is now three pages and covers about 20 independent projects and four full time positions prior to the independent work: a span of 20 years.  A very experienced peer instructed me in compressing my own resume: his is just 2 pages.

I think the vogue for single page resumes is a PHB and HR thing. If you're applying for a technology job and you're at the senior level, one page only lets you put down highly generalized summaries, but most companies recruiting for tech jobs *want* to see specific line item experience. "Generalized" is what executives and managers "do". Specific is what engineers and developers "do".

I think the key to a good resume is to summarize concisely and to use meaningful categories to "compress" redundant information.  The worst resumes are the ones where the candidate has no clue about summarizing.

Bored Bystander
Friday, July 16, 2004

Mine is kept down to *only* four pages,  with a skill summary on pg 1.  One page would not be enough, and keep in mind that many times the first pass is a machine read looking for buzzwords(Dice, Monster) so length doesn't matter, and less is not necessarily better. 

When I have to read a pile of resumes, I'd prefer at least two pages to get an idea of a developer's progression from project to project.  Also, if I see anything but reverse-order project chronology, it's a toss out. 

Making a resume that will please everyone -- the dice searcher, the ingorant HR drone or head-hunting recruiter, the project manager, and the real decision-maker -- is not possible, except for those with very little experience.

unemployable
Friday, July 16, 2004

I managed to get my resume down to two pages only by re-writing it from scratch. That was a pretty good idea, in any case - I got to reorganize things a bit, and I didn't feel so attached to every little thing in it anymore.

I think a single-page resume isn't a good idea, in general. Two pages is definitely a good size. Keep in mind that the HR screener will only read things on the first page, though. Realistically, they're only really going to read the first paragraph.

This is why you should always tune your resume for every position you apply for. Your "objective" and their job description should match as closely as possible to get past filter #1 (the HR dept).

-Mark
 

Mark Bessey
Friday, July 16, 2004

I had to go through a lot of resumes for a few positions we had opened here a few years ago and I find with the 1 page resumes, you can't get a good feel for what the person can do unless the person is really really excellent at summarizing. So in most cases, I just never had a good feeling about someone with a 1 page resume. On the other hand, any resume with more than 2 pages was too much. My attention span is about 2 pages. Anything more than that and it is merely having my eyes glance over the pages rather than actually reading it.

Now I am not an HR drone and don't always look for the right buzzwords so what can work here may not work somewhere else but don't forget, once you get passed the HR drones or the software filters, it will go to someone with a technical background and they should experience the same issues as I do.
hmmm maybe some invisible text in the document with all the buzzwords would get you pass those software filters... :D

S
Friday, July 16, 2004

I used to work for Resumix (now owned by Yahoo): a resume management program. It scanned resumes for education and job history and created searchable attributes.

For automated resume parsing:
----------------------------------------
Skills (once recognized) count once.

Put job titles in the header for each experience block so it gets recognized.

Put alternate names and terms (parenthetically is fine) alongside: e.g. "C-Sharp (C#)"

Disclaimers do not get parsed: "Helped design legacy interface to Java decision-support system" gets you "legacy", "Interface", "Java", and "decision-support", for example.

What I learned from by layoff coach:
----------------------------------------------
Don't focus on what you know or even what you did; focus on the specific benefits that your working brought to your clients/employer. For example, "Maintained legacy systems which brought in continued revenue and allowed new development without losing customer base."

Even if you did not decide what you did, explain why it was valuable. Don't assume that the resume reader will know why converting from one-off import scripts to a robust XML import utility is a Good Thing.

Cheers

Richard C Haven
Friday, July 16, 2004

My experience spans 5 decades and I can easily condense that to one page.

1960's set the world on it's ear
1970's I ruled
1980's stomped on those young upstarts
1990's y'know, this stuff is getting tedious
2000's aw crap, who cares anymore

Your mileage may vary.

old_timer
Friday, July 16, 2004

>> Don't focus on what you know or even what you did; focus on the specific benefits that your working brought to your clients/employer.

My problem with this advice is that most development is defined from above and the developer often has no influence upon the reality or business case for their work.

I used to have language like that in my resume. I've worked on a lot of projects as a free lancer. My resume was up to 7 pages with such language. My current resume just fits into three pages and contains all project highlights. But no "business benefits".

As a freelancer, my clients sold the stuff I developed for them. Benefit: my clients had stuff to sell. Shouldn't it be obvious? What am I not seeing?

It's as though all candidates, even ones far removed from planning and management, are judged on their ability to sound like a manager candidate. Or are they?

Bored Bystander
Friday, July 16, 2004

Hmm.  I read resumes for developers a now and then.  Basically, if the first paragraph gets my attention, I'll skim the first page.  If the first page is impressive, I'll want enough detail to convince me that you can actually deal with complicated, nasty problems.

If your last job/project or two was sexy and relevant, reverse chronological works well--I'll read about whatever cool things you just finished doing, and then read until the end of the second page.  At that point, any remaining jobs are pretty much irrelevent, and I'll stop reading.

Three pages is the absolute limit--unless you're so impressive I'm still reading for sheer *fun*--but one is almost never enough.

Of course, we don't have an H.R. filter.  YMMV.

And if you edit your resume for the specific position, highlighting stuff we care about, you're much more likely to get called.

J. Random Hacker
Friday, July 16, 2004

My resume reads much like an unabridged dictionary.  In this way I conquer all grep-based HR filters.

muhahahahaha

muppet
Friday, July 16, 2004

Borded Bystander has a point.

I can think of one instance where I did something that produced benefits for the company, outside of selling product. I wrote a program which migrated from a proprietary bug tracker (Problem Tracker 3.5 if you're curious) to Bugzilla, which enables us to be more productive.

The "business case" for most of what I've done goes more like this:

Them: We need this feature to sell to this customer.
Me: OK.

Luke
Friday, July 16, 2004

My resume is 2 pages long and I have 21 years of experience.  I summarize my first 10 years as its less relevant than the last 5-10 years.  Expand upon your most recent contributions and those most relevant to the work you're applying for.  Employers want to know what you have specifically contributed to.  A list of buzz words and acronyms does not cut it.

I've had very good luck with my resume getting me into interviews where I'm qualified.

I have to do specific shortening of my resume to make it onto 2 pages.  But a one page resume would be fluff, IMO.

More notes from the job hunting field:
- Employers are being picky - really picky.  The job I really wanted I got rejected because I don't know UML.  Weird?  Well, they're doing something right because that was definitely the one I wanted.  Actually, I haven't head back yet, and its only been 2 days, ... but I'm skeptical.
- Its really tough to be hunting a job and holding another one down at a small company.  The reason I'm leaving is that our current folks are technically clueless, and getting more so.  That they haven't figured out my "vacation" plans of late, only shows their utter detachment from reality.
- Used to be you could expect an automatic pay raise by switching companies.  Those days are gone (not that I expected that, but its even going to be hard to not take a cut.)
- Job hunting causes large mood swings.  Best not to share all your instantaneous thoughts with your friends and family. Have plenty of alchohol on hand for after the day.  Make sure you get your exercise in. Stay away from sharp objects.
-

not usually anon
Friday, July 16, 2004

>>My resume is now three pages and covers about 20 independent projects and four full time positions prior to the independent work: a span of 20 years.  A very experienced peer instructed me in compressing my own resume: his is just 2 pages.<<

I could do that, but then they'd know I was in my 40s.  Since I got my MS in CS in 1991, that's where I chop my resume.  I have a full resume if they ask, but all I send out is the one that starts with a MS in 1991.  It's 2 pages.

Not-MSBob
Friday, July 16, 2004

That whole "business case" slant is just plain silly if you're applying for a development position.

When interviewing a candidate, I always ask them questions about what they did.  I hate these silly "linked list" questions.  Instead I ask them to draw block diagrams and code samples from a specific project on their resume.  Their turf, and I get to know whether they understand a subject they claimed they worked on.  If they say they wrote a decrypto algorithm, then I  get to start pounding them about crypto holes and strategies.  They wrote a window based GUI? Great, we're going to find out all about their widget set, event model, use cases, etc.

I want specifics.  I expect my employer will want them also.

not usually anon
Friday, July 16, 2004

My favorite site for all you job seekers:

http://www.oddtodd.com/

It will give you a laugh.

hoser
Friday, July 16, 2004

Recently I've began to print out only the first 2 pages of any resume I get. I've noticied that more experienced people actually tend to have 2 page resumes where their early experience is summarized in a few bullet points. Usually the long resumes mean either lots of contract gigs or a person who wants to present more experience than they really have.

In the end long resumes don't really help. When interviewing I'm mostly interested in projects at most recent employer. If I'm interested in a specific technology that the candidate worked with, I'll ask about the project.

igor
Friday, July 16, 2004

Hmm, I'm pleasantly surprised by the quality of this conversation. Most HR professionals don't seem to understand resumes half as well.

I write them for a living, but unlike most resume writers, I'm not a former HR person. I call my self a PR person, but propagandist would be more accurate. I write resumes to "sell" my clients to prospective employers, and to a degree that means creating resumes that meet the needs of employers.

That doesn't mean giving employers what they want!

Way too many dolts will insist they want a one-page resume. That's because they (correctly) view their job as one of rejecting, not hiring. Most of the work involved in hiring revolves around rejecting applicants. Even the final hiring process is really little more than a Survivor's Island scenario where only one person emerges victorious.

Understanding that your resume must survive the rejection process is key to getting the job you're applying for. How do you survive the winnowing process? Probably the best strategy is a detailed well formatted resume. For IT/IS professionals, that usually means 2+ pages. And, if you've been an independent contractor for decades now, there's no way you can fit that on two pages, let alone one.

A quality presentation makes the first cut almost everytime REGARDLESS of what it says. Just looking good is enough to get in the smaller stack. But that doesn't get you the job either. My generic advice to this room would be to use a summary to spell things out for the idiots in HR (I mean that kindly — they're not techs and they really don't know what most of that stuff means), but then develop the rest of your resume in a way that is internally consistent.

Information clusters make reading long resumes much easier.

ABC COMPANY, Water Lake, MN
<b/>Reverse Osmosis Technician</b>, 1998-2001

There you have a classic information cluster. In a glance the employer sees all the pertinent information. Subsequent bullets should use smaller type and should be indented to the right in outline format. This makes it easier to skip over that text until the reader is ready to sit down and actually read your resume.

Tables can be if you want to throw in long lists of applications, tools, systems,  equipment, etc. Just be sure to organize the information in a way that makes it easy to find specific information.

Finally, don't contact me to do your resume! I'm a Mac guy and I've finally given up on doing tech resumes because I have no clue what you guys are talking about (and neither does HR).

But if you want to get ahead, make yours look cleaner than it does. [For a sample, check out my resume at http://www.gisleson.com/resume.html — it's not a tech resume, but it's VERY easy to read at a glance, and has some meat in it if you read closely (and employers about to make a hiring decision usually do read your resume closely — if you make it that far.]

Mark Gisleson
Friday, July 16, 2004

Here (country in W. Europe) it's very rare to see resumes with more than one page.  I'm not fond of writing resumes, but I always rewrite them for each application, mostly by removing items, to increase the signal-noise ratio for the potential employer.
Freelance may be another story.

Pakter
Friday, July 16, 2004

What people havn't said yet:

In our Tech industry, HR people are looking for 'buzz-words'.  Do you know, and have you used, and how much experience do you have, in <fill in the blank with buzzword>.

Thus, the more technologies you use, the more blanks you can fill in.  All of this takes space on the resume.  AND, the HR person does not CARE about the technologies that you can use that they are not looking for.

So, the perfect resume for an HR person is the one that has one page, and has only the Buzz-words they are looking for.  This is not realistic, but I never said HR people are realistic.

As a result, Tech resumes have gotten quite long.  One page doesn't cut it for most people.  Mine is two and a half pages, but I put all the important buzz-words on the first page, and use the other two pages for work history.

However, you don't want to irritate the HR person any more than you have to, but you DO want them to be able to find the Buzz-word, that you have, that they want.  So, two or three pages.

In other industries, with a more stable set of skills, one page is considered desirable and sufficient.  In our software Tech industry, it is ok to use more pages.  If you are over 3, though, you are probably putting in WAY too much detail.

AllanL5
Friday, July 16, 2004

Anyone who has a resume over 2 pages needs to rewrite it.

Or since they probably don't understand how resumes are used, hire someone to rewrite it.

Clutch Cargo
Friday, July 16, 2004

Answering the OP: Yes.

The one page resume was a natural result of the pre-GenX careerist era, when you stayed with one company your whole life (or at least for a huge chunk of time); in addition, you had one core set of talents.

These days, the workforce is more mobile, and skills evolve much more quickly, so one page generally isn't enough.

Philo

Philo
Friday, July 16, 2004

I recently pared my resume down to 1 page.  It was painful.  I've been in the development business for 11 years; 2 pages seemed just right.  To get it down to 1 page, I had to cut out my Objective, limit myself to three bullet points per job/project, and drop my first job off the resume completel - but my first programming job had some pretty cool stats that I liked having on the resume.

I'm considering taking it back up to 2 pages.

www.ChristopherHawkins.com
Saturday, July 17, 2004

One page resumes normally look awful, with atrociously small fonts.

Two to three pages should be enough. The important thing is to tailor it to each job you apply for. You should have at least half-a-dozen separate resumes.

Stephen Jones
Saturday, July 17, 2004

I suspect this has to do as much with the internet age - where most of the people who see your resume will be either a computer looking for keywords, or a human being looking at a computer screen - than with anything else.

www.MarkTAW.com
Saturday, July 17, 2004

I was always advised that more than one page was a sin against God, though it was by my college counselors, who perhaps don't deal with many people that have enough to really fill more than one page.
I believe the rational is that people reading your resume usually won't read half a page, never mind a full one (I think they quoted a figure of a couple seconds per resume once), so multiple pages just discourage them.  For m the discussion here, howerver, it sounds like technical (as opposed to HR) people will read the whole thing (as long as you don't go too long).  Add to that the fact that submitting a resume on-line usually eliminates the pagination, and maybe two pages are ok these days.  But I'd make sure the begining reads really well.

Michael Chansky
Sunday, July 18, 2004

I know one person who has done fine with the one page resume.  I was taught that 2 pages was the ideal however, and most of my peers seem to be the same.  This was from high school, thru university and onwards.  In truth so long as it is good I expect both 1 and 2 page resumes will work fine.

I have just been looking at the resumes of some people we are thinking about hiring and they are terrible.  If yours reads well and is understandable you have a big advantage already!

Colin
Sunday, July 18, 2004

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