We have all heard the advice that employers don’t like to see resumes longer than one page and only look back 10 years in a candidate’s work history before making a decision to interview or not. In theory, this sounds logical since most hiring managers and HR managers are busy and don’t have the time to read through several pages of information written on each applicant’s resume that comes across their desk. However, sometimes theory doesn’t always pan out to be true.
I’ve written lightly on this topic in the past, but it always seems to raise questions when preparing a client’s resume. All you have to do is Google the term “how long should a resume be” and you will get millions of results with different bits of advice from resources that claim to be experts on the subject. This creates a great deal of confusion for the average job seeker coming out of a long-term employment stint and not familiar with the current resume writing trends of today’s competitive job market. Therefore, I’m going to provide a full detailed explanation on whether or not the one-page resume, 10-year work history rules are truly fact or merely myth.
One-Page Resume Rule
The current belief that a resume should only be one page in length is a rumor that has spread primarily among college-aged job seekers and newly grads. We have found the main reason this rumor exists is because there are college students within the university student body who are advising people during resume workshops that their resumes should only be one page long. In most cases, this should be the standard for an entry-level recent college graduate just entering the workforce for the first time. Mainly because they will not have much real-world work experience to show, so a great deal of content simply will not exist for that particular person’s resume.
However, the major issue arises when this generic advice hits the mainstream media and career blogs, applying the same advice to seasoned professionals and executives who have much more experience and content than the typical college graduate would have. Not only does this confuse job seekers, but it creates instant fear that their resumes are too long and they need to significantly chop out information. Sometimes this also leads them to believe that they should try to achieve this one-page resume rumor, even if it means deleting important information from their background that is relevant to their current targeted career goals.
This point actually leads me directly into the next subject, the 10-year work history rule.
10-Year Work History Rule
As mentioned above, a lot of job seekers in recent years have been led to believe that their resumes should only be one page long, which in most cases requires them to only go back 10 years in work history. Derived from college campuses across the United States and blogged about by university-level kids who have no idea what it’s like to compete for high-tech, demanding, and responsible corporate jobs, it seems like a cliché that I’m even having to write about this topic and explain the truth behind the myth.
It is just that – a myth. It is virtually impossible, impractical, and just flat out senseless to try and effectively market yourself by deleting key information from a resume that is relevant to your targeted career path just because it exceeds 10 years of work experience. Let’s truly think about this for a minute. Job seeker, Kalvin, has been working the same position for the same company over 20 years now. He has decided it’s time for a change. Digging his old resume out from the filing cabinet at home, he finds it is extremely outdated, doesn’t include his most recent position, and goes back to a time when he was working in an industry he loved and wants to get back into. However, he has no idea where to start, so he takes to the internet and searches for “how to write a resume for career change” which leads him to a barrage of different tips.
Many of those tips tell Kalvin not to go back more than 10 years in work history and to keep his resume to one page. Kalvin then decides to take this half-witted advice, reduce his work experience to only 10 years (hiding dates and employment history), and present himself in a weak way by creating a one-page resume focusing only on his most recent position that has nothing to do with his new career-change goals. He distributes his resume hoping to get tons of call-backs, but only finds that weeks have passed and he hasn’t received a single lead for an interview. Back to the drawing board, Kalvin decides to take another stab at resume writing, showing only 10 years of his older work experience that’s relevant to his current goal and still keeping it to one page – but leaving out important aspects of his career that he’s been doing for the past 20 years. A little more confident, but still skeptical, he sends out his resume – and gets the same result. No call-backs or emails. Confused, frustrated, and about to give up after several weeks of attempting to write a good resume on his own, he decides that he is going to hire a professional resume writing service to help guide him in the right direction. This was the best decision Kalvin made during his transition into a new career.
While the one-page resume, 10-year work history rules usually work in certain situations where an entry-level candidate is entering the workforce for the very first time, or someone has been in the same field for many years and does not want to regurgitate the same repetitive information over and over again on the document, these rules should apply in some cases. However, these rules should most definitely be taken with a grain of salt. The fact of the matter is, everyone’s situation is different and you cannot apply the same advice to each candidate’s unique background. If being seen as “too old” or “outdated” is your biggest fear, simply think about it from an employer’s perspective. If you were the owner of a successful company and were more interested in quality over quantity, wouldn’t you want an experienced and responsible employee over a new college grad with little to no work experience?
Writing resumes today is an extremely complex and serious task. It should not be taken lightly and job seekers should be careful in the bits of advice they stumble across online before making such a consequential, life-altering decision regarding their career. A resume is the first impression a job seeker makes – it’s their marketing piece. Make sure you think logically, use a little common sense, and you will find that understanding what needs to be done in your particular situation really isn’t that difficult.