This is one of the first questions being asked by those who are just going to start their job search.
And you know what is the “ideal” answer to this question:
One page is ideal. Two pages – maximum!!
So, there goes the the “laxman-rekha”.
Okay – my resume was/is of three pages. And I do not remember any instance where the resume was rejected because of that.
But do read on. I am not saying that you should write a novel in place of your resume. As far as I can summarize it, there are two valid reasons given why resumes should be kept short
- The difficulty of sustaining interest of the person reading your resume, when it is too long
- Time contraints with the person who is reading your resume for short-listing
But just saying “One/Two page resume” is at best a thumb-rule. Let’s discuss these two fundamental problems instead.
Sustaining the interest is the first thing. And that would mean including interesting things and only interesting things except for what are the standard requirements (personal details, education – even if it has not been interesting, etc.). That would also mean that you elaborate enough on each point of your resume so that it arises interest even if the person reading it may not be previously aware of the context; at the same time keeping it coincise enough so that you are not repeating information, or giving so many details that the reader will get bored. If you have interesting things just for one page, let it be one page. If it is for more, let it be more.
“But still Jaya, I can not possibly send a 10-page resume.” Certainly. But most likely you won’t if you take care of, lets call it “Interestingness Quotient” (InQ).
If you are someone who is straight out of college, have no or little work experience, then in all likelihood, you are quite young to have so many achievements that it will fill pages after pages. Yeah – you can safely ignore the poetry recitation competition you won in your school in 4th Standard. But then if you are really a super-achiever at quite early an age, the best bet would be to include only the “wow”-factors from your list of achievements in the resume. Because if somebody is going through it and sees all big things at the top, less important things (even if they’d be important for the lesser mortals amongst your peers) do not add any value to it – may only spoil the effect created initially.
And if you are a senior person with lots of experience, I think one page resume would indeed be enough. Your professional life will do most of the talking for yourself and you do not possibly need to dig out all the events in whose organization you volunteered to prove that you are a self-starter!!
Okay now. I have decided that I have enough interesting things to fill up three pages and I am sure that if some one goes through the three pages, he/she won’t be bored, rather would be impressed. But what if that all-important someone is constrained for time. The answer to do this one is simple. Just put the things that’d have gotten you a short-list with one-page resume on page 1!! 🙂 And if the person decides to short-list you based on the trailer let him/her get delighted with the rest of the performance too.
Based on this, I decided that at this stage, a three page resume was fine with me. And yeah – you can say that I have somewhere stretched the thumb-rule for myself to include three-pages-maximum. You read it right! Maximum. 😀 I’d be uncomfortable if a fresher sent me a 4-pages resume to review. But then, again – I won’t prescribe a rule for the whole world. It depends on your confidence level.
Finally, there are two circumstances in which it is better to stick to the conventional thumb-rule. First one is when the company you are applying to has specified the maximum length of the resume. In this case stick to the prescribed length or less. Second is when you are not sure you can decide how interesting the things on your resume are. You can stick to the “shorter (when >=1 page) the better” maxim.
I hope HR guys/recruiters do not come chasing me for trying to increase their work 😀