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Do the Standard Rules of Resume Writing Still Apply?


A magnifying glass is placed on top of a resume.


​The advice on resume length hasn't changed since the 1960s: One page for every 10 years of experience, but never more than two pages.

But work and how we execute our professional responsibilities have changed profoundly in the past 30 years. Technology has made all work more complex. More-sophisticated work skills naturally take greater space to explain.

And today we must contend with all resumes ending up in databases that can contain millions of documents detailing job seekers' similar accomplishments and experiences.

Recruiters can often find the candidates they're looking for in the top 30 or 40 search results within those databases. This makes it important that your resume is data-dense enough to rank among the top results, which means that a one-page resume is unlikely to be discovered. While the two-page resume can deliver twice the data density because you are using twice the space and, hopefully, twice the pertinent data, it still might not be enough.

Here's a secret: I've never met a recruiter who was entranced by the first page of a resume, enthralled by the second, then turned to a third page and said, "Oh, I couldn't possibly see this highly qualified candidate. She has a three-page resume!"

The key is to make sure that your resume is pertinent to the job you seek. If you can load up your resume with the right information, then don't worry about the number of pages it takes.  

21st Century Resume Rules

A carefully focused resume enables you to provide the data density that ensures discoverability in database searches. This "careful focus" means that your resume is built with the needs of both computer algorithms and recruiters in mind. The first page needs to hit all the job's priorities, which helps the document rank high in search results, and draw the recruiter in with a story that shows you can do this job. When the first page makes a convincing argument, the rest of your resume will be read carefully.

Let form follow function with your resume. If it takes three tightly edited pages to tell a properly focused story and make it readable, just do it. What's the alternative? Leaving out relevant information and keywords would mean your resume is less likely to get pulled from resume databases or sell the recruiter on your skills.

Have a question for Martin about advancing or managing your career? From big issues to small, please feel free to e-mail your queries to YourCareerQA@shrm.org. We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know.

Packed with practical, honest, real-world guidance for successfully navigating common HR career challenges, Martin Yate's new book, The HR Career Guide: Great Answers to Tough Career Questions, is available at the SHRMStore. Order your copy today!

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