Well, mostly a myth, there are a lot of variables and subjectivity to this one.
I’ve helped at least a hundred people in the past decade by reviewing their résumés and providing feedback based on my experience (I was a volunteer recruiter at Microsoft for 7 years, attending career conferences and campus recruiting events, as well as a hiring manager at PepsiCo). In a good percentage of these reviews, I’ve noted that there were major gaps in work history, a significant lack of detail, or a surprising lack of listed experience based on my knowledge of the individual. Invariably, the reason I get for this is that they needed to fit it all on one page.
I can confidently tell you that unless the application instructions specifically call for a one-page résumé (and most do not), you will NOT lose the chance for an interview because you have more than one page, but you COULD lose the chance if you don’t have pertinent details for the position in question. Of the hundreds of résumés I received and reviewed every year, I have NEVER passed one up because it was two-pages or more, but I have passed on many because of what looked like a lack of experience. It’s the content that counts.
You do not want your résumé to be a graphic and verbose novel of your life, but it should be a concise summary of your relevant work experience and ACCOMPLISHMENTS.
Now, as a general rule, if you have 0-5 years of work experience, you could probably comfortably fit your experience and education on a single page. I reviewed a résumé once for someone with only a year of experience that was two pages long – now that’s too much. As you start getting up there in experience, it becomes more difficult to get it all on one page, so my advice would be to forget about the length and focus on the content. If it spills over to two pages, so be it. Now I know some MBA programs require everyone to submit a one-page résumé for online profiles or résumé books, so if absolutely necessary, squeeze it down to meet those specific requirements and bring your real-sized résumé to that all-important career fair (see separate post on career fair strategies here).
I actually used a 4-page résumé for my current position at PepsiCo. With 20+ years of work experience under my belt, even I admit that’s a bit extreme. There were a few caveats – it was an Executive position and I was being actively recruited for the role, so I was not sending an unsolicited résumé. Of the eight people that I interviewed with at PepsiCo, only one person commented about the résumé being too long. As I mentioned earlier, there is a lot of subjectivity on this topic. I still got the offer. I know I could condense it to three pages, as one entire page was devoted to “Additional Experience” – everything from non-profit work to consulting work, which I could have comfortably removed. However, at two pages I would lose a lot of the content that differentiates me from other candidates, so personally I’d rather take the chance and keep my résumé longer. If you are feeling the same way about your résumé, my humble recommendation would be to go with your gut instinct rather than following generic rules about résumé length.
Do you have a story to share about the length of your résumé or feedback you’ve received? Please feel free to share them in the comments section below, or send them via twitter to @Rich_Velazquez.