Resume Advice: Should a Tutor Push the One-page Rule?

By February 19, 2012Peer Writing Tutoring

In the process of an overwhelming internship search, I have been updating, rearranging, and tailoring my resume to fit the perceived expectations of prospective employers in both the film and editing/publishing fields. This is also the second week in a row that I have commented on resumes at the Loop Campus outpost, so it seems appropriate that I write a post reflecting on a specific challenge related to this highly-structured form of writing.

Resume writing can be a tricky subject for a tutorial because while there are many clear-cut standards that any writer should adhere to, other rules can be bent and/or broken depending on who or what the document is being written for.

By simply typing ‘resume guide’ into the google search bar, one can find a variety of different sources on the subject, many of which give conflicting advice.

For example, many guides push the hard and fast one-page rule for any resume, while others place more emphasis on readability and clarity. Louise Fletcher, founder of Blue Sky Resumes and a member of the Professional Resume Writers Association, stresses the amount of experience in a particular field as the only potential determinant of page length.

“Recruiter or hiring managers don’t care if your résumé is one or two pages long. But they do care whether it is easy to read and gives key information upfront…less than 5 years experience probably only requires one page and more than that may need two.”

While Fletcher’s advice focuses on the diversity of resume writers and their experiences, there are those who push the one-page rule more adamantly on behalf of resume readers. “Ideally, your resume should be one page, because recruiters and managers have short attention spans,” says Jennifer Brooks, Senior Associate Director of the MBA Career Management Center at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. “It’s your ad; it doesn’t have to be comprehensive. If you feel the need to write down everything you’ve done in your entire career, you’re not thinking about the buyer, who just needs to know what’s relevant.”

I found this consideration a bit difficult to explain to a writer who had extensive experiences and achievements that were all at least somewhat related to the accounting field. In this situation, it can be very tempting to list every single detail at the expense of the document’s readability. Because the writer was concerned about the length and density of the resume, I advised her to incorporate only the most recent and relevant experiences.

In a tutorial setting, one should respect the writer’s intentions and observations with regard to this aspect of the resume. If the writer brings in a resume that is two or more pages long, he or she is probably aware of this fact and its potential risks. Instead of strongly supporting one side of this issue, I find that it is more productive to ask the writer to explain ‘why?’

As with any technique or stylistic choice in a piece of writing, intentions are important. If the writer has a definitive reason for the length of his or her resume, then the tutor should respect this decision. But if the writer is concerned about this matter and unsure how to proceed, then it is probably a good idea to explain the strengths and weaknesses of both lengths.