Resumes: 1 page or more?

Some of my IRC friends are job hunting at the moment, so I’ve been proofreading resumes. These friends are several years into their professional careers at this point, and I’ve found it really interesting to see what they include and exclude to make the best use of their resumes’ space.

No wasted space

I’ve also stumbled into a rule of thumb that I like a lot better than the “1 page rule”: The rule of No Wasted Space.

If you spread 1 page worth of stuff across 2 pages, you’re wasting a page worth of space. This forces any reader to spend 2 pages worth of time on your 1 page worth of content, which is an act of disrespect to them.

Big blank areas are a waste of space if they push your resume to more pages than it needs to be. On the other side of that same coin, however, a bunch of cramped small text wastes its space if it sacrifices easy legibility and scannability for the sake of cramming everything relevant onto a single sheet. And excess words where fewer would have communicated just as well are a waste of ink, as well as interviewer time!

Number those pages

Resumes that run to multiple pages are vastly improved by a little note on the corner of each: “Surname, Page X of Y”.

“I existed!”

I’m still surprised by how often people share awards and titles as “got X award”, “was President of Organization”. I hold the opinion that identical achievements sound much cooler with active rather than passive verbs: “Earned X award”, “Led Organization”, etc.

Stuff in more numbers

I’m a little annoyed by whatever cognitive bias is in play with this one: People sound better at what they do when they stuff more numbers into their descriptions, even when the numbers aren’t objectively very useful or necessary. “Tutored students” vs “Tutored 30 students”, “Improved performance” vs “Doubled performance”, etc. This is another compelling reason to instrument your systems and measure them before and after making major changes, which is something I personally need to improve at work as well :)

The Mirror Trick

When you’ve been staring at a document for hours, it’s really hard to take a step back and tell what kind of first impression its formatting is going to make. To counter this, make your resume in the format you expect an interviewer to see it. Printed out or fullscreened on a laptop are common choices. Then either make your computer flip it horizontally, or just hold it up to a mirror and look at the reflection. This makes it look just new enough that you can spot glaring formatting errors instead of just reading the individual words – “What’s that enormous white space doing there?”, “Wait why is that indented to a different level from everything else?”.