Your Career Q&A: New Rules for Resumes

By Martin Yate Nov 3, 2015
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Have you ever had a question about your career as an HR professional but, like the shoemaker whose children went barefoot, you tended to other people’s concerns before your own? This new column, Your Career Q&A, can help. Best-selling author Martin Yate, a former HR professional and career coach, will take your questions each week about how to further your career in HR, whether you’re seeking a new job or looking to advance in the one you have.

We hope you enjoy our first installment of Your Career Q&A – The Editors


For years I’ve advised job seekers to summarize their experience to fit into a one-page resume, because the recruiters I know have said one page is best. But lately I’m hearing it’s most important to include all of the person’s relevant skills, and it doesn’t matter if it takes two pages to cover that information. Do you agree that a longer resume is OK?

Kristina, Tampa.

Welcome to resume-reading hell

Every HR pro knows from bitter experience that reading too many resumes turns your brain to mush. And working in a profession where too-much-to-do is the order of the day, we only look at resumes when a specific job exists, and we read with focus: Can this person do the job we need to fill?

Meanwhile, the average resume writer suffers under the mistaken impression that you yearn to know everything about him or her. This creates a conflict: HR wants a succinct recounting of skills while resume writers want to overshare. Consequently, back before the Internet arrived, this one- and two-page rule came into being to make resume writers control their verbal diarrhea.

The increasing complexity of work

Since then, technology has increased the complexity of all jobs, which means more space is needed to explain experience and contributions, even when a resume is properly focused. I spoke to Olga Ocon, a respected Silicon Valley headhunter about this issue. Her take is that she wouldn’t pay much attention to an engineer with 10 years of experience and a two-page resume. She explained that anyone who could get 10 years of professional experience onto two pages had either been sitting on their thumbs, didn’t understand what they were doing or couldn’t communicate. She makes a good point.

Problem resolved

So a truth emerges: It isn’t the length of the resume that is so frustrating, it’s the writer’s lack of focus. When a resume is packed with information relevant to the job’s deliverables, the content becomes absorbing.

How important is length?

Imagine you are reading a resume. Turning the first page you mutter, “OMG, this one could fit,” and the feeling grows throughout the second page. Are you then, on turning to a third page, going to declare that you couldn’t possibly interview someone who broke a rule established in the last century before technology increased the complexity of all work?

Given that a resume should be properly focused, its length will be determined by the complexity of the story that it needs to tell.

Martin Yate is a New York Times best-selling author and has worked as a Silicon Valley headhunter, director of HR at a publicly traded technology company, and director of training and development at a multinational employment services franchisor. His company, Knock ’em Dead, delivers professional resume and coaching services.

Have a question for Martin? Email your queries to We’ll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know. We look forward to hearing from you!

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