I’m in a perpetual argument with more than one person over the appropriate length of a resume. I’ve always believed in the 1-page resume. Most on the other side see 3-pages as a logical limit. They are wrong, of course. The 1-page resume is the perfect size. You never need more than one page explaining who you are. If you think you do, you are overthinking yourself. The resume is not supposed to be a novel about your life, it’s supposed to be a book report about the novel about your life. It gets the reader interested in the story, but it doesn’t tell you everything or give away the ending.
My favorite example is Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs has an amazing resume, and it’s only one page with plenty of white space. I won’t reprint it, but here’s the gist: I was a founder at Apple where I helped invent the Macintosh which revolutionized the computer industry. Then I worked at NeXT, where my ideas made programmers lives easier by (insert NeXT stuff here) . . . Then I worked at Apple where I invented the iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, etc. Also, Pixar, where I gave the thumbs-up to Toy Story and those other movies you and your kid can actually agree on.
There are books written about Steve Jobs and his life and everything he did. Multiple books with competing movie adaptations and big name Twitter celebrities attached. Jobs’ resume is not a book. It gives you a few brief facts. It lays out key accomplishments. Most importantly, though, it makes you want to learn more.
That’s the key to a resume. A resume has only one purpose, to get you in the door. You need to sell yourself in an interview, where you will truly land the job. A resume will not land you a job. It can only hurt you when executed poorly.
When I was a hiring manager at a former company, I looked for 2 key elements in an applicant. I wanted a cover letter that was clearly unique, written by someone who had read my job posting clearly and was answering me directly. The worst thing you can do while looking for a job is to cut and paste your cover letter. Hiring managers can tell when you’ve done that, and this is the quickest way to lose their attention.
I also looked for a 1-page resume. This wasn’t a sudden death decision. I interviewed and perhaps hired applicants with a multi-page resume, but multi-page resumes simply don’t make sense.
"Did Leonardo need 3 sheets of canvas for the Mona Lisa?"
A resume is both a piece of artwork and a sales pitch for your talents. You can certainly insert creativity into your resume, in which case the single page format becomes even more important. No matter how funky and outside-the-box you choose to think, the single sheet of 8.5 by 11 inch paper is the medium of choice. Did Leonardo need 3 sheets of canvas for the Mona Lisa? Of course not. Art fits onto a single page without breaks. This is why art museums are full of single canvases and not silly triptychs.
There is something daring and defiant about the single page resume. It says at once “Here I am in my entirety” and also “A single sheet of paper cannot contain me!” A three-page resume is always too thorough. Every aspect of your job described in detail. Loose undergraduate associations and strange summers of volunteering meander through a page that should be high peaks of accomplishment and wide valleys that draw the reader.
That’s how I feel about resumes, but I’m realizing that my thinking is outdated, or at least it will be very soon. After all, what is a single-page resume in the digital age? What is a three-pager? That’s an anachronism of paper. Certainly resumes are among the few documents left that most users feel compelled to print. That is mostly because there is not yet a better alternative, and that’s a shame and an opportunity.
LinkedIn is my resume at this point. It shows what I did; who I know; what came before. All the resume essentials. It leaves out a lot of the stupidity that seems vital on a traditional resume. References. Software knowledge, especially Microsoft Office. That insipid objective statement.
Would you rather call the references I suggest, or would you rather do a little social networking? When you find out I know Sarah, your Director of Marketing, from when we both worked together in Milwaukee, wouldn’t you rather ask her what she thinks? Even seeing the connections without reaching out paints a better picture than you’ll get from a coached reference call.
LinkedIn also eliminates the unnecessary junk, while leaving limitless space for what’s important. What’s important? Jobs. What’s not important? Things nobody paid you to do. First, everyone knows Microsoft Office, and if you don’t, you should really start lying about that. My knowledge of Excel is literally the only lie on my resume. Why indicate you know Illustrator? Doesn’t your prior job experience indicate a necessity to know the tools of the trade?
Most of all, it’s time to end the objective statement. Hi, I’m Philip, I work really hard, I like what I do, and you’ll be happy you hired me. That’s every objective statement in a nutshell. Anything else is gymnastics of verbiage and diction.
Social networks undoubtedly play a major role in the job hunt, and it’s time to embrace that and bring your social connections to the forefront, at the expense of archaic means. The last time I interviewed a job applicant, the applicant had his twitter handle on his resume. I started following him. He started following me. By the time we sat down at our interview, he had read a column or two, and I had skimmed his feed for references to drug use and Nazi memorabilia. It wasn’t even a secret, we both admitted to this sort of research.
Why not? I would much rather an employer see the collection of information publicly available about me than a single sheet of paper with a summary of my best days. Let me talk about the best days in an interview, as part of the story of my success. Instead of worrying or arguing over the single-page or multi-page resume, it’s time to find a better method altogether. The information is all readily available, we just need a concise way to package the story and get your foot in the door.