HR Headaches: Is a 2-Page Resume Ever Acceptable?

Learn about when the right — and wrong — times are to submit resumes that are more than one page.

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You’ve posted your vacancy online and the resumes are pouring in. They may vary in length depending on the position you’ve posted. Typically the more entry level the position, the shorter the resume. If you’re posting a job that needs no experience, a resume can be nothing more than contact information and education history. The more skills and experience necessary, the longer the resume should be.

For certain positions, a lengthy resume is necessary. Some talent will be unable to outline their extensive background, qualifications, and certifications without at least 2 pages. For the majority of roles, however, a single page should suffice. Applicants should understand a resume is a synopsis of their experience, not a laundry list. The best resumes whet a hiring manager’s appetite for more information — provide a reason to call the candidate in to discuss further. A longer resume might offer more reasons to exclude, rather than include, a candidate in the hiring process.

Review time

Eye tracking software found most recruiters review each resume that makes it through an applicant tracking system, or through email or snail mail, for about 7 and a half seconds. A 2-page resume isn’t going to get much more time than that. If it’s formatted correctly and makes it through the ATS, hiring authorities are likely looking at the first page (where the most recent experience should be placed) for relevancy, then moving on to the next candidate.

Most recruiters review each resume that makes it through an applicant tracking system, or through email or snail mail, for about 7 and a half seconds. A 2-page resume isn’t going to get much more time than that.

For businesses that use applicant tracking systems to screen resumes, the 2-pager may be a way to get around the system. ATS looks for keyword matches. Let’s say your open position is an account representative, and a candidate’s resume cites experience with the same title. ATS goes further, however, looking for frequency of the keyword. In some cases, the more the term is matched, the more likely the resume will make it through the software. If the candidate has multiple jobs with the same title, it’s legitimate. If the keyword appears repeatedly without multiple similar job titles, they may be trying to beat the ATS system.

When a 2-page resume is appropriate 

For candidates with less than 10 years’ work history, a single page resume is generally sufficient. An overview of experience and skills should be enough to warrant an interview, if appropriate. The resume should be a succinct listing of titles, companies, and dates, with a short blurb for each that outlines responsibilities. Applicants should reserve detailed information for the interview process.

For candidates with more than 10 years’ experience, a 2-page resume might give the candidate more room to list background and experience without resorting to a 4 point font that no recruiter wants to see.

There are times when 2 pages (or more) are necessary. If there are extensive certifications, degrees, or publications that candidates need to include, additional pages should be added at the end of the resume.

There are times when 2 pages (or more) are necessary. If there are extensive certifications, degrees, or publications that candidates need to include, additional pages should be added at the end of the resume.

For workers in IT, multi-page resumes might be necessary to list certifications, projects, and training. For senior-level positions, a longer resume is necessary as well, up to the C-suite, where resumes can be lengthy. The higher up the ladder, and the more accomplishments, the longer the resume should be.

Other positions that may require a lengthy resume include openings in academia, or research and scientific vacancies, where publications are relevant to the hiring process.

Look for readability

Most hiring authorities and candidates understand the second page isn’t going to get as much scrutiny as page one. Unless the job seeker has (mistakenly) listed their experience in reverse chronological order (oldest job first, newest last), the most recent background will be of the most interest. Page 2 might list jobs held in college or high school, which are less relevant to recruiters.

For candidates with extensive training, licensure, certifications or publications, a readable resume outlines experience on page 1 with a notation at the bottom that lists of these are available on page 2. This gives the hiring authority the option to quickly verify qualifications before doing a deeper dive.

If the resume does go into 2 pages, the second page should be at least a third of the page. If it’s just a line or two carrying over, reformatting would have been a better choice.

Keep it professional

A resume faux pas is to include personal information that isn’t relevant to the job search: these can often stretch the resume into multiple pages. Time spent playing video games and achievement levels won’t be of interest unless the position is for someone who creates games or writes code. An interest in krav maga or parkour may seem like someone who’s energetic and up for a challenge: it may also suggest they’re going to spend a lot of time off wearing a cast.

Some personal interests are relevant that candidates should include. Time spent doing volunteer work should be included, particularly if the company has a strong presence in the community or is known for corporate social responsibility. If a candidate has a blog or a podcast — while not relevant to the specific position — it could demonstrate the ability to market, research, and network.  Bi-or multilingual abilities should always be included, as well. If personal experience has no link to the work or the company, like an interest in baking, for example, it shouldn’t be included.

Revealing information

For most recruiters, a single page resume is preferred, but short or long, resumes can be revealing. A lengthy resume for an applicant with little experience can indicate a disorderly person who can’t marshal their thoughts. A short resume from an applicant with extensive experience may mean they move around a lot, or that they don’t place value on their achievements. Resumes that put the best foot forward are neat, concise, and provide an outline worth discussing, rather than tell a full story.

The time spent reviewing a resume may be mere seconds, and for the majority of vacancies, from entry to mid-level, that’s sufficient. A 2-page resume is appropriate for some openings, particularly where extensive experience or qualifications are a must. But for the most part, a single, clearly written, and neatly formatted resume is enough to get a job seeker through to the interview process.

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