Why Your Résumé is 10 Pages

Even though there are hundreds of articles professing the beauty and efficiency of the one page résumé, not a day passes where I don’t see a five pager. The issue of length has even surfaced amongst college undergrads applying for internships, who seem to have increasing difficulty trimming their list of accomplishments and experiences into a single page (really). This is a troubling sign for future HR and recruiting professionals tasked with selecting applicants, as job seekers who are unable to shorten their credentials will continue to have difficulty in their search.

The amount of time a recruiter or hiring manager spends reviewing any single résumé varies by the individual.  When offered a single page résumé, the reader is much more inclined to give that page a proper scan to make a fair assessment.  A two page offering should get a proper review as well.

The moment a reader realizes that a résumé is more than say two or three pages, negative impressions flow and the reader becomes less inclined to give the document their full attention. Just the appearance of several pages in a preview pane causes the résumé’s owner to lose favor instantly.  The applicant has made the reader work harder than is necessary to make a simple yes/no decision on their candidacy, which leads to this negative impression.

This does not mean that a long résumé will never get positive results, but positive results are in spite of (and not due to) the résumé’s length. The decision to interview a candidate can usually be made within seconds if the résumé is properly written, and any content beyond that only serves to lessen the impact of the vital material.

Why is it important to have a shorter résumé?

The biggest problem for applicants using several pages is that important content gets lost. It’s a simple signal-to-noise issue, perpetuated to some degree by candidates being afraid to omit an item that has a small chance of garnering interest from a manager or the inclusion of several words/phrases that may attract the virtual eye of ATS software.  Highly qualified candidates are passed over every day due to untrained or impatient screeners not readily finding the content sought.

The inability to distill work history and qualifications could also indicate poor communication skills. Someone using a five page résumé may be deemed more likely to write lengthy emails, reports, and employee evaluations, not to mention the possible correlation to verbose code and comments.

Both candidates and those that assess them benefit from shorter résumés.

What are the most common reasons for long résumés?

Bullets and formatting – Bullets are an effective way to highlight a few accomplishments. Unfortunately, writers frequently misuse and overuse bullets to bring attention to items that would be better displayed in combination or as lists.  This is notably a problem in Summary or Profile sections, where two or three crafted sentences would be infinitely more effective than perhaps five to ten bullet points.  (Aside:  Today I saw a résumé with a Summary section of 23 bullet points that occupied an entire page of a seven page résumé, where most of the bullets detailed proficiency with individual technologies later listed in the Skills section.  A summary should be brief by definition.  The last bullet, of course?  “Strong written communication skills”)

Improperly formatting an entire document or sections can also lead to length issues. White space is always suggested to assist in readability, so it may require some creativity to try and maximize your use of the available space.  A poorly designed table can take up much more space than is needed. Experimenting with line spacing, fonts, margins, and indents can help your cause.

CVs and cultural differences – Another explanation for multi-page résumés is the common use of CVs outside North America, as CVs are often much longer and more detailed than what US companies expect or desire.  In my personal experience, it has become apparent that candidates raised and educated in foreign countries are much more likely to use several pages than candidates from the US and Canada, which is entirely understandable given the customs in many other countries.  The unfortunate consequence is that foreign candidates face yet another hiring challenge based on this difference which could be easily avoided.

When making decisions about interviews and forming opinions about candidates based on the résumé alone, it’s important for recruiters and hiring managers to consider cultural differences as an attributing factor. It will also be helpful to inform applicants who submit a CV that the preferred document in the US is a shorter résumé. When CV users in the US start using the more accepted and brief résumé format, the industry will be better off as a whole.

Redundancy – Many technical résumés include multiple redundancies when referring to skills and proficiencies.  You may see one bullet “Proficient with Python” followed by a bullet saying “Proficient with Ruby” instead of simply combining them, or several lines in a paragraph that use identical or similar phrasing to introduce an experience or skill. Other résumés list a text block containing identical company name and location information with different job titles due to promotions and movement within an organization. Listing the same information several times on a résumé does little to reinforce your experience on the reader.

TMI, relevancy, and prioritization – Most résumés include passages that are entirely unnecessary and only serve to occupy space in areas where more useful data could be provided.  For experienced job seekers, this extraneous material may be college details (coursework, GPA, honors) from many years ago or dated past employment that has become irrelevant to your current skill set. Some job seekers feel the need to write descriptions of an employer’s line of business and history, even if that company is widely known. (Aside: The résumé with the 23 bullet points mentioned above included four sentences on what Google does.)

CV formats often used by foreign developers are more likely to list minute details of each technical environment.  This includes languages, operating systems, IDE’s, frameworks and libraries, app servers, databases, methodologies, and build tools, sometimes complete with version and release numbers. The sheer volume of this data can be quite cumbersome for contractors and consultants who work for several clients in a year, which is the norm for many new arrivals to the US.  This information is rarely a major factor in interview assessments, wastes valuable space, and portrays the writer in a negative light due to a perceived inability to prioritize the minimal importance of this information.

Résumé reuse – Candidates who might apply for a range of positions typically use a single résumé during the application process.  When you possess the qualifications for many roles, it’s best to create multiple versions that stress a primary role while also referencing the other roles you could handle.  Using one résumé for web dev, sysadmin, and devops roles will water down your real value by trying to appeal equally to each set of requirements. Customizing a document for each of those roles, while giving careful mention to your experience in those other areas, is more effective.

CONCLUSION

Everyone is able to distill their career into a one or two page document if they are willing to prioritize what is important, pay attention to formatting, and be efficient with words (said the guy who wrote the 1200+ word essay on résumé length).

Like this content?  Check out my DRM-free ebook Job Tips For GEEKS: The Job Search

26 comments

  1. Pingback: Why Your Resume is 10 Pages | Enjoying The Moment
  2. Vito S

    I could not disagree more with this post.

    I don’t know how “HR professionals” feel, but as a hiring manager in need of qualified developers with experience in the field, I have absolutely no interest in a 1-page resumé: If the depth and breadth of your experiences need to be stretched to fill a single page… you aren’t qualified.

    Resumés are not tweets: Make them matter.

    • fecak

      Thanks for the comments. Exactly what part of the article do you disagree with? I mention those that advocate a one page resume, but I’m thinking 1 page is sufficient for the newer entrants to the market and 2 pages is sufficient for others.

      I’m not advocating one page resumes for everyone, but I’d certainly prefer 1 or 2 pages to 5 every time.

      I don’t think candidates would need to ‘stretch’ their depth and breadth to fill a single page – actually, the opposite is true, where they would need to condense.

    • Mike H

      I could write you 50,000 words on what I did in college, and it means very little compared to 1-2 pages of work experience, projects, and skills in the past 5 years of work experience. Length doesn’t determine how much something matters. In fact, I’m sure I can find a lot of famous one line quotes that have mattered a lot more than either your or my resume. ie: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,”

  3. Rick

    It seems to me that there’s a big difference between an HR staffer that goes through dozens of resumes in a single day and the manager of a small company looking to fill very specific positions.

  4. robertmeta (@robertmeta)

    This advise might serve people well in the general community of job seekers, but I hardly think this is good advise for geeks. As someone who has been in the position of hiring literally hundreds of developers in the past decade… most one page resumes are complete trash, and I don’t have the time or energy to follow up with each one individually to get the “non-useless” version of their resume.

    You send me a resume with too little information, in the junk bin you go. Seriously, I am not calling you in for an interview just because you wrote a vague resume. I don’t have time to follow up with every idiot who choose brevity over all else.

    • fecak

      Thanks for reading. I’m actually surprised that you get enough one page resumes to even be able to have formed such an opinion. The ratio of five pagers to one pagers in my 15 year career is easily 4:1 or better.

      You seem to be the exception, dismissing resumes for brevity instead of dismissing due to length.

      I think it’s relevant to ask how large the company is that you work for? I think small companies tend to always favor brevity, or at least the small tech companies I’ve worked with in my career have preferred concise resumes to bloated ones.

      • Dave Cridland (@DwdDave)

        OK, that’s bizarre. Most small companies I’ve talked to haven’t asked me for a CV (or Résumé) at all, initially. When they do, they want a fairly complete list of employment and education history, and a good run-down of skills. A case in point is when I briefly worked with Robert – I didn’t dust down a résumé at all, I was never asked for one. (Interestingly, European companies generally ask, US companies generally don’t – perhaps because of the apparent cultural differences encouraging useless summary-style résumés).

        When I’m hiring, I too want a decent run-down of the candidate, and as a (generally) small employer, I often know the basics of the candidate, and want to know the detail. A two-page résumé would be minimum, and if it lacked the right information, I’m not interested.

        And here’s the thing – when hiring, I often know the candidate can fill the narrow core role. “Can code C” – done. This is box-ticking, and I need to know this very early on. That’s why tech CVs and résumés tend to have the skills list up top, split out so I can scan quickly.

        What I look for next is whether they have flare and spark, and whether they’ll be able to pitch in across the organization, bolstering the company as a whole. “Worked on SNMP agent” – wow, interesting.

        I want to know they’ve a solid breadth of experience that’ll add perspective to the work I need them for. That’s not just skillset and employment, either.

        So no, I think your advice is flawed. Instead, I think that while prioritization is certainly needed, it’s more a matter of ensuring the attention is held long enough. If the candidate doesn’t get my attention and tick the boxes after the first page, it’s junk bin. If I’m still reading after the second page, I’ll likely read to the end. But I need that end. I need to want to meet that person.

        True story – I once hired someone because I read their CV by accident while kicking off the hiring process, and on the first page, I discovered they were a fit, because they claimed C. The second page had the details on SNMP agents written in C. I read to the end, hired the person on the spot.

      • fecak

        What exactly would you say in my advice ‘is flawed’? Something in my comment, in the article, elsewhere?

        You make a few points here. I think the biggest problem I have with your comments is that you seem to be saying that a two page resume is what you want at a minimum, but your anecdote says that you decided someone was a fit just based on the first page. The second page bolstered that opinion, but you decided to speak to the candidate based on the first page.

        If we were not going to do interviews with candidates, and we were to hire based on the written word alone, I’d want 20 page resumes perhaps. I’d want as much data as possible – full references listed, code samples, the works. There will be things that come up in interviews that won’t be on the resume.

        Do you ask questions about having to learn on the job in the past? Do you ask anecdotes about trouble with past co-workers or managers? Do you ask tech questions? Those things aren’t on the resume because they’ll be covered in interviews. We don’t expect those to be on resumes.

        Frankly, most people have long resumes because they don’t know how to distill the important stuff from their experience while trimming what doesn’t matter. Listing duties that people in the industry will know are your duties is not necessary – list accomplishments.

        But back to the point – we don’t hire on resumes. The resume’s sole intent is to start a dialogue and provide a framework for that dialogue in many cases. If you are able to make a decision to start that dialogue based on one page, or even one sentence, why is it necessary to have more at that point? The resume did the job it was intended to do for both parties using one page.

        Your advice seems to suggest that if 2 pages is the minimum, junior candidates should just start putting fluff in. Nobody wants to read that, and the majority of resumes tend to be fluff that could be communicated in fewer words (not to mention poor formatting and the other reasons cited in the article).

    • Justin Blaauw

      I think you make a valid point. One which I did not consider. Recruiting Agencies have to go through hundreds of CV’s a day for applications to jobs which asks for certain skills they do not understand or have even heard of. All they have to go on is the CV and I orginally agreed with the author that a shorter CV makes sense especially when you have been in the industry a long time and probably have a lot of experience detail.

      When you (robertameta) pointed out that calling someone in for an interview is a serious, and detailed and most important a time consuming and expensive process, you have to be sure you are not wasting your time.

  5. Gabe

    I am reminded of the quotation by Blaise Pascal: “I would have written a shorter letter, but I didn’t have time.”

    I have seen some of those resumes, with the same achievements copied and pasted across several pages of short engagements. I agree that is makes it challenging to find what meaningful work has been done. I would rather have the candidate carefully consider what is important among their accomplishments and show me that. The impression I got from most of those resumes is “I do the same thing day after day, year after year. Don’t ask me to think outside the box or to innovate. I am simply hear to execute.”

    If you view the resume as an example of critical thinking, then the many-pagers often demonstrate a lack of focus on what provides value to the consumer of the resume.

    Another quotation that comes to mind: “Brevity is the soul of wit.” :)

    • fecak

      Both quotes are fitting, the one from Pascal really nails it. I agree with your impression from those long redundant resumes, and unfortunately many of these candidates are good at what they do but just poor marketers.

      This is why professional resume services (which are not always helpful) exist and do reasonably well. I’ve primarily given away my resume consulting services for years.

      Thanks for reading and the comments.

  6. Biron

    I’m really glad to see a section on redundancy here. I always talk about this to job candidates because I’m a Recruiter. It’s really important to eliminate redundant sections and get more of the crucial info onto the first page of the CV!

  7. logesh

    Yeah, Most potential employers and recruiters says one or two page resume is enough to show all your detailed information, even for experienced candidates too.

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  15. daemonus2014

    I did more [education, experience, etc.] by the time I was 25 then most people will do by the time they’re 70. My resume, unaltered, is about 30 pages long without certification attached and 35-40 pages with certification [e.g. proof of education, etc.]

    This five page stuff is okay when the most you’ve achieved is working at McDonalds. When you’re a go getter with tons of education & experience it’s a pain in the bloody ass.

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