Should my Executive Resume be One Page, Two Pages, or Three Pages?
Quick history lesson: In years past, there was a well-known “rule of thumb” of having a one-page resume. Over the years, that has changed. Two pages became common among experienced leaders and professionals. Three-page executive resumes weren’t unheard of.
What works today?
I’ve written resumes of varying lengths, and I’ve had clients get great jobs with one-page, two-page, and three-page resumes.
That doesn’t mean that any of those options is fine for anyone! The length of your resume should be based on a solid strategy.
Also, resume trends do change, and nowadays the vast majority of executive resumes I write are two pages long. I write less three-page resumes than I did in the past because I know how short recruiters’ and executives’ attention spans are, and I know that most readers aren’t reading all the content on a three-page resume.
Currently, my breakdown of resume projects is something like:
- 5-10% One-Page Resumes: These are typically for recent college grads, individual contributors with less than 5-10 years of experience, and people changing careers (whose previous careers aren’t directly relevant to the target jobs).
- 80-85% Two-Page Resumes: Most of my clients are best served by a two-page resume. Doing a 20-year career justice on one page is difficult. How will the decision maker recognize the value you can bring to the table? If many of your competitors submit two-page resumes loaded with accomplishments, how will you be able to get an interview if you limited your resume to the accomplishments that would fit on one page? It’s also hard to ensure the document is keyword optimized if it’s only one page.
- 5-10% Three-Page Resumes: These can be acceptable for very senior-level executives, such as C-suite leaders and those with salaries in excess of $500k, if the experience and accomplishments justify that length. In some instances this length may also work for a lower level executive, but there needs to be a rationale for using that length.
Research shows that most recruiters and hiring managers are open to two-page resumes provided that they’re filled with compelling, relevant content. (Unfortunately, too many resumes out there are filled with boring info that’s irrelevant for the job being applied for.)
The persistence of the one-page resume myth
Should you follow the Elon Musk example of resume writing?
- Elon Musk doesn’t need a resume. He’s a household name; people already know what he’s accomplished without reading a resume. A Google search for his name returns 3.7 million results. He’s been featured in every major media outlet all over the world. He has a Wikipedia page. Plus, I doubt Elon Musk is looking for a job, so he doesn’t even need a resume.
- What about John Doe, the CEO of a $600M company that makes widgets, who simply doesn’t have the level of prominence of Elon Musk? Not to mention Jane Smith, a purchasing director for a $2B company. How will executives like them convey their accomplishments to complete strangers who’ve never heard of them–on only one page?