If you're wondering whether it's OK to have a two-page resume, the answer is almost always a resounding YES! While a one-page resume used to be the norm, two pagers are now considered best practice in most situations. But of course, one size doesn't fit all and you may need some guidance on how to achieve a two-page resume, so in this article we'll be looking at:

  • When to use a two-page resume

  • When NOT to use a two-page resume

  • The benefits of a two-page resume

  • How to fit a resume onto two pages

  • Whether a 1.5 page or 2.5 page resume is OK

  • Whether a two-page resume can be printed double-sided

  • How far back a resume should go

  • Whether a two-page resume is a deal breaker

Without further ado, let's investigate the ideal resume length so that you can decide whether a one- or two-page resume is best for your personal situation.

When to use a two-page resume

As we've already said, a two-page resume is ideal in most situations. They're particularly popular with professionals who are settled into their careers and looking to continue along the same path. In this situation, the reverse-chronological resume format is common and will generally fit within two pages.

When NOT to use a two-page resume

Of course, not everyone is settled into their career and looking to pursue the same trajectory. Freshers, graduates and school leavers often don't have enough work experience to justify a two-page resume and can be better off sticking to one page. Similarly, career changers may not have enough experience relevant to their new aspirations and can consider trimming their resume to one page to eliminate irrelevant details.

At the other end of the spectrum, C-suite executives, freelancers, and contractors may find that they have too many projects, gigs, or interim roles to fit snugly onto two pages and may choose to expand on to three. In that case, though, it's important to make sure that the content is as tight as it can be – don't use this extra page as an excuse to get extra wordy!

Academic, federal and medical resumes fall into a category of their own and have no recommended length limits, due to the publications, peer-reviewed articles, conferences, training and rotations that can be involved.

The benefits of a two-page resume

There is a plethora of benefits to keeping your resume to two pages. Firstly, it's what recruiters expect, so why throw them a curveball? Presenting a resume aligned with current best practices and expectations shows that you're up to date and understand the constraints on your reader's time.

And speaking of time, did you know that, on average, a recruiter only spends 6-7 seconds on their first scan of a resume? That's not an awful lot of time to make a spectacular first impression but, with a well laid out resume with on-point content, you can achieve that in two pages. Even if the recruiter isn't reading every word, you can still make the important information jump out within this timeframe. That's less likely if you've presented a dense 10-page life story.

Aiming for a two-page resume is also a good way of reining in your more verbose side, if you're prone to waffling. Setting a limit on the length of your resume will really help you to focus on including only the most important and impactful information.

Tips and tricks to fit a resume on to two pages

So you've decided to aim for a two-page resume, but that's easier said than done! Especially if you have a long career behind you, it can seem like a Herculean task to summarize your working life on two pages. Luckily, the experts at TopResume have some handy tricks up their sleeve that they're willing to share with you.

Focus on one role at a time

You can start with a master resume, containing all the information you can think of regarding your skills, experience, and education. That master resume can be as long as you like – but you'll never send it out. Instead, select only the most relevant parts to include on any one application. Not only will that significantly reduce the length, it will also ensure that your reader doesn't have to wade through irrelevant detail to find the bits they're interested in.

Bullet point achievements over responsibilities

Rather than exhaustively listing your responsibilities, combine them with achievements to show how you've excelled in the role. No one wants to read a long, dry list of what you did every day, so pick out the most important bits to show how you made a difference. The rest can be discussed in an interview, if required.

Present this information in concise bullet points of 1-2 lines, rather than a paragraph. Paragraphs tend to be more wordy, take up more space, and aren't as easy to pick key points from.

Adjust the margins and font

Now this tip needs to be thoughtfully considered. If you have a line or two dangling onto a third page, you can change the font style, font size and margins to create more space and reduce the document to just two pages. The caveat here is that you should never do this at the expense of readability. Keep your font to a minimum of 10-point, in a sans serif style, with margins of at least 0.5 inches all round. Solid walls of tiny, illegible text are more off-putting than that third page, so use a critical eye with this tip.

Summarize or remove outdated or irrelevant detail

A recruiter doesn't want your entire history, they want to know whether you fit their open vacancy. To that end, allocate more space to recent and relevant roles, qualifications, skills and training, and either summarize or delete anything else. For example, if you still have your degree modules listed on your resume after five years in the workplace, it's an easy win to delete them and free up a few lines of space for something more compelling.

Cut out hobbies and interests

Unless your hobbies and interests are relevant to your target role, there's no need to include them on your resume. If your pastimes are aligned with your career aspirations, by all means include them – but keep them to one line.

Remove references

Have you included reference contact details, or “references available on request?” That can be deleted immediately. Everyone knows that reference checking is part of the recruitment process, but giving this information on your resume won't change a thing – and it won't contribute anything to selling your candidacy.

Share information elsewhere

You may have limited your resume to two pages, but that doesn't mean you can't provide additional information elsewhere. Writing a cover letter gives you the chance to expand on your key selling points and convey a bit of personality, as does adding a link to your LinkedIn profile in your contact details.

Are half pages OK?

While it's not the end of the world to have a 1.5 or 2.5 page resume, it doesn't scream polish and attention to detail. Consider whether you could make a few adjustments to get the resume onto fewer pages or, if not, use that extra half page to add more information to sell your candidacy.

If you really feel the resume is complete and you're only half-way down the last page, use the opportunity to improve the layout. Remember that white space around the text is just as important as the text itself, so consider re-spacing or re-formatting the document. After all, you want your first impression to be that of a consummate professional, not someone who's just thrown some words together in a rush.

Should a two-page resume be printed double-sided?

Most resumes these days will be viewed on a screen initially, but there may be times when you want to print your resume – for example, if you're attending an interview or jobs fair. In these eco-friendly times, it's tempting to print your resume double-sided, to save paper, but we'd advise against it. 

Firstly, it's useful if an interviewer can place both pages side by side to scan and make notes as you chat (for the same reason, we recommend paper clips over staples). Secondly, it doesn't look as good when both sides are printed. Thirdly – and most importantly – it's not common to print resumes double sided, so the recruiter might not even look at the back, meaning they miss out on half your sales pitch.

How far back should a resume go?

In our tips and tricks above, we said that you can reduce the amount of information you include by summarizing or removing outdated information. One of the best ways to do that is to consider how far back your resume goes. As a rule, we'd recommend no more than 10-15 years. You'll be able to go into detail on your recent jobs, achievements and qualifications, whilst taking the focus from roles prior to this.

If you like, you can even eliminate your earliest roles – this technique is particularly useful if you think that age discrimination might be an influencing factor.

If you choose to keep the jobs on the resume in a summarized form, you can either create an Early Career Summary, specifying job title, employer name and dates of employment only, with no detail on responsibilities or achievements, or you can add a Career Note. This is simply a one- to two-line explanation of your career prior to your chosen cut-off point.

Similarly with your education, you only need to include your highest-level qualification. If you attended university, you can ditch the high school section. If you have a long list of training courses and certifications, you can either remove the earliest ones or select only those that will have the biggest impact on your reader. The key here is to be selective about the information you're presenting.

A word of caution

You may find two-page resume templates in Word or Canva that look appealing. Apart from the fact that these templates often have very tricky spacing constraints, as they aren't designed around your specific career, they also aren't designed to be read by an Applicant Tracking System. It's important that your resume can be parsed into, and accurately interpreted, by an ATS, so that it has the best possible chance of ranking highly in keyword searches. Often Word and Canva templates use tables, text boxes and graphics, all of which can introduce errors to your beautifully-crafted resume. Even columns can confuse some of the older systems. We recommend using a single-column format, free of text boxes, tables, graphics, icons and photos for a truly professional and polished resume.

Is a two-page resume a deal breaker?

In short, no, having a resume of exactly two pages is unlikely to be the deciding factor in the success of your application. It will, however, affect the reader's initial perception of you as a professional and we all know that you don't get a second chance to make a first impression.

 Offering up a two-page resume says a lot about your attention to detail, your ability to write concisely, your knowledge of current professional standards, your self-awareness, and your ability to choose the most pertinent information to present. It's definitely worth putting the extra effort into creating a two-page resume that positively reflects you and your professionalism.

The takeaways

In this article, we've discussed why a two-page resume is the norm and how you can achieve that yourself. To summarize:

  • One-page resumes are great for applicants with minimal professional experience and career changers

  • Two-page resumes are ideal for most professionals in most situations

  • Three-page resumes are to be avoided except in a very few cases

  • You can tweak the content and the format of the resume to achieve your desired length

  • Half-pages should be avoided if possible

  • Focus on the last 10 years

And don't forget the golden rule – all the information on your resume should be relevant to the job you're applying for.

Does your resume reflect the very best version of you? Is it an appropriate length for your past career and current aspirations? Submit it now for TopResume's free resume review before you apply for that job!

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