“You MUST keep your résumé to 1 page…unless you’re going for an executive level position.”
It’s advice people hear so often that they don’t even question it. They work themselves ragged for days or weeks at a time, tweaking and trimming, shifting margins by a fraction of an inch, and adjusting their word choice to choose shorter words when they find that a single word has snuck onto the next line.
It’s also complete and utter CRAP!
And here’s why…
The Artist vs. The Accountant
We’re all of two competing minds. I call them The Artist and The Accountant. (Which coincidentally also sounds like the worst Aesop’s Fable in the world)
The Artist knows no bounds, cannot be reigned in and creates for the sake of creating. This is the side of us that insists that we write terrible poetry for our first, young loves. (Or was that just me?) The Artist exists in that feeling of flow you have when you’re on a roll with something and can’t be stopped.
It is the most animal, the most aspirational side of us, but it’s slowly quashed throughout our lives as people tell us all the things we CAN’T do. We can’t be an astronaut, we can’t go to school in a superhero costume, we can’t, we can’t we can’t. And that’s when we’re introduced to The Accountant.
The Accountant is that little voice in our heads we wish we could tell to shut up. It draws strict lines around things, forces us into boxes, makes us play by the rules, and reminds us that there are limits. The Accountant is the mind we have when making a big purchase. We need to make sure we don’t overspend, so careful consideration is required.
…and because of that nobody likes The Accountant. He’s basically that annoying little kid in class who always says he’s going to tell the teacher what you did. That kid is not popular, and he definitely doesn’t easily get offered jobs.
The Artist on the other hand, with his passion and boundless ideas, is a very intriguing person. People like being around him, it’s the side of us our friends and family know, which makes him infinitely more interesting and infinitely more hirable.
When people arbitrarily force a page limitation on their résumés, they are stifling their inner Artist, and by extension, removing some of the qualities that would make people actually give them a job.
It’s no surprise, then, that what is widely considered to be the first résumé was created by someone we more often associate with art: Leonardo da Vinci.
Some of you are still thinking, “But, Nick, that all sounds well and good, but I NEED to keep my résumé short!”
Let’s take a step back from jobs and think about this in terms of a contest.
Pretend there were two sweepstakes where you could win a trip. The first prize package told you all about the amazing shopping experiences you could have, the 5-star dining experiences, the world-class museums, and the luxury hotel you’d be staying in. The second package on the other hand told you, “A trip worth up to $1500.”
Which one would you want more?
If you take more than 1 second to say the first one, I will come to your house and hit you in the back of the head.
Why is that? They could actually be describing the exact same trip, but one is driven by aspiration and the other is grounded by its limitations.
The same thing is at play when you force your work history and your successes into a narrow cage, it undersells you.
The fix is relatively simple: let loose. If you have amazing successes in your past, write about them. Forget thinking about what you think you should say, and instead focus on what they want most. Then write ALL of your ideas down in as many pages as it takes. And if it takes 5, 10, 20 pages or more? Awesome!
Don’t worry about word count or formatting or font! Right up front you don’t want to be burdened with that, it’s only going to cause you to sell yourself short.
Instead of trying to keep your résumé short, I would encourage you to see just how long you can make it. If you really have that many amazing accomplishments to list, they deserve to be seen!
Write every one down.
After that, then and ONLY then should you worry about trying to pair it down. But rather than doing it arbitrarily, use your new ULTRA RÉSUMÉ like a word bank.
When you find a job to apply to, you don’t have to worry about hoping your résumé will fit the bill. You can actually make a custom résumé on the fly and know it will be the perfect one for this position. All you have to do is copy and paste only the successes and accomplishments from your past that best sell you for this particular job.
The résumé you send out will be this shortened one, not the full dossier. And if it’s over 1 page? That’s great!
Because you started from a limitless place, you will know that these are your best selling points and every one will be justified. So if you hit 2 or 3 pages? That just means you have more selling points than the average person and can actually help you get a job.
So let your inner Artist loose and let me know how it goes!
And feel free to use the comments to share any résumé horror stories you have, because let’s face it: we all hate writing them.
PS: If you’re visiting from Recruitment Queen, welcome! Drop into the comments, introduce yourself, and have a look around. There’s lot’s more content to be found here for people looking to jumpstart their job hunt.