The saying goes, “If you ask 10 people about your resume, you will get 10 different opinions.”
So what should an executive job seeker do?
Should you heed the advice of voices past and try to keep your resume to one page?
Should you be bold with your resume format to grab the attention of the recruiter?
Here’s what recruiters are saying they do and don’t want to see when it comes to resumes:
The Resume Page Length Debate
Most recruiters agree that two or three-page executive resumes are fine, but ONLY as long as the information is pertinent and not overly verbose.
Most executives have developed a lot of skills and achievements, and they need space to articulate those to the reader. You can keep the one-pager for use as an executive bio sheet or for networking purposes.
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When it comes to resume page length, learn how to keep your resume “tight” by identifying fluffy content.
Take this below sentence as an example:
“Proactive executive who has excelled throughout the past 12 years, handling complex client projects and maximizing company resources.”
When you start dissecting this sentence, you realize quickly that it doesn’t say much of anything.
What type of executive is she?
What makes her so proactive?
What type of complex client projects?
What resources has she maximized?
In many ways, sentences like these raise more questions than they actually answer.
A better sentence would be:
“Marketing Executive Who Works With Fortune 500 Clients (P&G, Microsoft), Handling Complex Web Development & Integration Projects That Support CRM/Customer Service Agendas.”
TIP: The resume needs to tell your story of why you are the right executive for the position. Choose skills and accomplishments that are compelling and highlight your best qualities.
Should your resume be only one page?
There is no “rule” that a resume should be only one page. In fact, there are many instances when a multi-page resume is not only appropriate, it’s expected.
Length is not the only consideration for a resume’s effectiveness. Yet, the one-page resume myth persists. Jobseekers are being misled that recruiters, hiring managers, and HR professionals won’t read a resume that is longer than one page. That’s simply not true.
While recent research shows that a resume will be read for only seconds when it is first screened, the first review is only to determine if it is a match for the position. If the jobseeker is considered a serious candidate, the resume will be read again.
Concerned that your two-page resume won’t get read?
Jobseekers who believe a HR professional won’t read a two-page resume should stop and consider the resume screening process. The resume screener’s boss is asking him or her to come up with four or five people to bring in for an interview. If a candidate with 5-10 years of experience tries to condense that to fit an artificial one-page limitation, you’re asking that HR person to make a decision about you, based on what amounts to a few paragraphs.
Given a choice between a well-written two-page resume or a cluttered one-page resume which omits notable accomplishments in the interest of saving space, the HR professional is likely to choose the longer resume.
If you submit a two-page resume and the person reading it decides you’re not a match for the job, he or she will stop reading. But if you do seem to fit the job requirements, that person will want to know even more about you. A well-organized two-page resume can actually make it easier for the screener to do his or her job by allowing him or her to easily determine if you’re a good match for the position.
So why does the one-page myth persist?
Some recruiters are vocal about their desire for a one-page resume. However, not all recruiters share this preference. There are certain recruiters who say they will only read one-page resumes. However, recruiters are responsible for placing fewer than 25% of candidates in new jobs, and not all recruiters subscribe to the one-page limit. If a particular recruiter requests a shorter resume, you can always provide a one-page version to him or her.
When hiring managers and HR professionals are surveyed about resume length, the majority express a preference for resumes that are one page OR two pages — the general consensus is “as long as needed to convey the applicant’s qualifications.”
College professors also share some of the blame for perpetuating the one-page resume myth. Some professors — who have no connection to the employment world — believe “their way” is the right way to do things. They provide a template to their students and require advisees to use that format, even if the person is a non-traditional student who has an extensive work history or career path that sets them apart from other job candidates with similar educational backgrounds.
It would be unusual for most 21-year-old students to need two pages to describe their education and work history, but it’s not unrealistic to expect that an accomplished graduate might have internships, projects, activities, and honors that would make it necessary to exceed the one-page length.
If you doubt the “Do as I say, not as I do” approach, ask any professor to see his or her resume. Chances are, it will be at least two pages long to include consulting work and works published, in addition to classroom teaching experience. But professors call their resumes “curriculum vitas,” so they don’t have to follow their own one-page resume limit.
Resumes submitted online are also less likely to be affected by the one-page resume myth. That’s because the one-page format is unique to the printed page. Resumes uploaded to company websites aren’t affected by page limits. Approximately 30 percent of resumes are only stored electronically. They’re never printed out, so the screener never knows it’s more than a one-page document.
Length does matter. Your resume should only be as long as it needs to be to tell the reader exactly what he or she needs to know to call you in for an interview … and not one word more.
Here are some guidelines for deciding resume length:
- If your resume spills over onto a second page for only a few lines, it’s worth editing the text or adjusting the font, margins, and/or line spacing to fit it onto one page.
- Don’t bury key information on the second page. If the first page doesn’t hook the reader, he or she isn’t even going to make it to the second page.
- Don’t be afraid to go beyond two pages if your experience warrants it. Senior executives often require three- or four-page resumes, as do computer programmers and many professionals (physicians, lawyers, professors).
- Traditional college students and those with five years or less of experience should be able to fit their resumes onto one page. Most everyone else, however, can (and should) use one page OR two.
- Make sure that everything you include — regardless of length — is relevant to your job target and what the hiring manager will want to know about you!
Now, let’s talk about the format of your resume…
The Format Debate
It’s more confusing today than ever as to which format is best for an executive resume.
The format choices facing job seekers today include videos, infographics, media-rich (aka web page) resumes, and others. Distinguishing yourself from your competition should be in the back of your mind as you consider alternative resume formats.
But, when it comes down to it, a recruiter needs/wants to see a resume that they can scan in six seconds, yes six seconds, so being able to locate the most relevant information (like skills and experience) on the resume is very important.
TIP: Unless you are applying for a position with a video-game company or are in a highly creative field, keep the format more traditional with a powerful profile area that showcases your brand/unique differentiators and what you can do for employers.
Make sure your format enhances your content, not overshadows it.
The Job Title Debate
Some executive job titles don’t accurately describe what they do “across the board.”
That is, your job title in a small company could represent something totally different when translated to a large company executive team. The caveat here is that when a potential employer is checking with previous employers, the title may not match so don’t create something too obscure.
TIP: If your title is unique to your company or really vague, it may be helpful to update it to reflect what you actually did.
Another option is to use your real title and put an equivalent title in parenthesis next to it so the recruiter can see both.
Executives tend to use this tactic successfully on their LinkedIn profiles.
Do what you think is best for you, your position, and your future career goals.