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In this issue, we begin our discussion of resumes by addressing two issues: What is a resume? How long should your resume be?

At the outset, it is important to note that a great resume is not an end in and of itself. It is a means to land an interview, the next stage in the process of landing a job.

What Is a Resume?

A resume is brief written account of personal, educational, and professional qualifications and experience. A related document is called a curriculum vitae (CV), Latin for “course of one’s life.” A CV is a brief written account of one’s career and training. It may sound like resumes and CVs are quite similar and, in fact, their basic purpose is the same: to convince a reviewer that you are well qualified for a specific position. CVs are generally appropriate only if you are applying for an academic or scientific position, however, so we will not discuss them further and will focus on resumes only.

Keep It Short or Go Long?

There are two schools of thought. Some say that a resume should never be more than one page. Others say that a resume can be two, or even three, pages.

Celebrated career coach Lisa Rangel ( advises that your resume generally should not exceed one page unless you have 10-plus years’ work experience. At that point, a two-page resume is okay. On the other hand, Karla Miller, who writes The Washington Post Magazine’s Work Advice column, advises keeping it to one page whenever possible and spotlight “only your best and most relevant accomplishments.” She quotes Lauren Milligan, a Chicago-based resume writer, as follows: “No one has ever gotten an interview off the second page of a resume.”

In my opinion, the length of your resume should depend largely on whether it will be evaluated by a person or by a computer program (typically called an Applicant Tracking System or ATS).

Your resume is more likely to be reviewed by a human for a vacancy posted by a small organization or one that is expected to attract few applicants. It is more likely to be evaluated by an ATS for a vacancy posted by a large organization, one that is expected to attract many applicants, or one posted on a job board like or

If a person will be reviewing your resume, you should work to boil it down to one page. Because people are busy, or like to think they are, providing a solid one-page resume shows respect for their time. A reviewer who wants to know more about you can consult your LinkedIn profile for more details. (These profiles will be covered in a future issue.)

On the other hand, if a machine will be reviewing your resume, you should focus on making sure to include all the key words important to the position, and worry less about length (key words are usually explicit in the vacancy announcement).

Applicant Tracking Systems 

Between email and job boards, computers have dramatically reduced the cost of submitting a resume. However, because submitting a resume is so easy, people submit many more resumes. Reviewing a large number of resumes can cost an employer a lot of staff time.

Not surprisingly, computers can also be the solution to this problem. As Karla Miller notes, “An increasing number of employers are using applicant-tracking software to winnow hundreds or thousands of applications down to a qualified handful.”