The margins were an eighth of an inch, if that. It was an eight point font. There were no spaces between sections and no spaces between experiences. It was hard to look at and even harder to read; but, at least, it was on one page.
Someone had told this student his resume had to be one page, so he dutifully applied that one page rule to a college career filled with several student body offices, internships directly related to both major and career choice, as well as pertinent research. Not a single item or experience listed was misplaced or unwarranted. For four years this student had worked hard to gather leadership experience and related work experience in his field to ensure the likelihood of a good job after graduating. Then he spoiled it by cramming all this pertinent and valuable information onto one page. He was following the so-called “one page rule”. It looked terrible and the result? – no one was going to try to read this resume.
Common Sense Should Prevail in the Resume
The one page rule is outmoded. Perhaps it made sense years ago when colleges were filled with the traditional student whose primary focus was education and who had little or no experience upon graduating. The definition of the traditional student has changed – most students today help with the cost of their education through part-time jobs; many have internships in their chosen majors and careers; many serve as volunteers and run for office on campus. Today’s traditional student builds a strong experiential background during his/her school years that deserves recognition by potential employers. This may not be accomplished on a single page. Just as we have changed our concept of what constitutes the traditional college student, we must reach the point where we let go of old concepts of what makes a great resume. We simply must stop telling students there is a one page rule.
Over the past ten years at various university and college career fairs my colleagues and I have asked the same question of over a thousand employers in a variety of fields – do they believe a resume should be restricted to one page? The answer is always the same – “experience” should guide the length of a student’s resume. If the student has the experience to support it, the resume should be as long as it needs to be. Good judgment and a few simple guidelines are all that is needed to construct a great resume.
Making the Most of “Experience”
First, advise students that the resume should stick to college experience – both on and off campus. Don’t let it go back to high school, either under education or in experience. Students shouldn’t discount any jobs while going to college – working and attending classes readily demonstrates strong work ethic, time management, and multitasking skills. The experience section should highlight those jobs which easily demonstrate what employers say they want most in their employees: communication and interpersonal skills, leadership, teamwork, and organizational skills. Have students showcase volunteer work and internships related to either the major or career aspirations. Recognize that every job has value and demonstrates motivation, but be aware some jobs are more related to occupational choice than others and therefore should have more emphasis. The additional emphasis is provided by more bullets and stronger content.
Making a Good First Impression
Resumes must communicate more than simply what is written. They must look and be professional. Most experienced managers quickly glance at resumes before ever reading them, discarding those with an appearance of being slapped together or with errors or which simply don’t look good. After all, if a potential employee doesn’t make every effort to produce documents that look professional, especially something as important as their resume, they are not likely to do otherwise for the employer. Most employers won’t take the chance. Students must take every effort to make the resume look great. The margins need to be one inch all around, using a traditional 11-12 point font (typically Times New Roman or Arial), putting spaces between sections and between experiences, using a bulleted format showing the skills used under each position so it can be read quickly at a glance, show consistency throughout, and is the length it needs to be.
The Resume Puts One’s Best Foot Forward
Students must use good judgment and common sense when putting the resume together. It is an introduction to the real person, so it doesn’t have to hold everything, but it still needs to present enough. The resume is used to get the interview, not get the job, but it is the one document that can show who the applicant is and what he/she can do. There is no one page rule any longer, but looks do matter.
steave savage, MCC, DCC, has over twelve years experience as a counselor, career counselor, and professor in some of the most diverse student populations in Southern California, working with both traditional and non-traditional students in a wide variety of academic settings including private colleges, public colleges (both non-profit and for-profit), and community colleges. He currently teaches Journalism, Career Development, and Transitional English at the Art Institute of California – Orange County. He has written and conducted professional presentations on a variety of counseling and career counseling topics at conferences, webinars, and businesses. He maintains membership in several professional organizations including the ACA, NCDA, CCA, CCDA and others. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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