How big is your IT Resume?
October 27, 2010 10:08 AM   Subscribe

[IT JobFilter] I'm hearing conflicting stories on resumes these days; purportedly, the old myth of "one page resume" is dead and recruiters want to see your entire project history even if that's four to five pages. Looking for experiences or suggestions related to software development resumes.

I've been out of the hunt for gigs for 10+ years; in the past, gigs found me. Now I want to find gigs. I'm more of a BA/Management track than a Dev track so I am at a loss as to how to manage the resume. Yes, I know there are "resume review" firms that will charge me for an opinion, but I thought there might be enough geeks here in the hive mind to give me an idea of how to approach this.

So, thoughts? Consolidate to one page with brief summaries, or detail the past ten years in excruciating detail?
posted by cavalier to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
In my very recent previous life running an Internet company I looked at multi-page resumes with an eye toward the recycle bin. Almost without exception there was no reason for multiple pages. That's the whole purpose of the interview. Now what is on your one page better be the important stuff and tailored for the job you're applying for.
posted by FlamingBore at 10:12 AM on October 27, 2010

There are two things at work, I think:

1) Now that resumes are often (or, in your field, always) distributed electronically, the "one page resume" idea is dead inasmuch as you don't need to adhere to the "page" as some kind of artificial constraint.

2) People tend to have more jobs these days, as well as more identifiable skills/certifications/professional associations. It's simply harder to fit all of those on a single page and keep it meaningful.

As someone who's hired tech people, don't give me an essay. If it's longer than approx. 2 pages of content, I'm less likely to read beyond your latest job. Treat it this way- be thorough (list all of your jobs/skills/etc.), but not verbose (don't go into extensive detail unless there's something particularly interesting/novel/relevant). Your interview is the time to talk about your day-to-day projects.
posted by mkultra at 10:19 AM on October 27, 2010

I'm in the midst of a job hunt and I realized that my previously stellar resume of my almost 15 years as a business analyst/software QA person had bloated to seven pages, so I reworked it. Even though it hurt my English-major self to do it, I used bullet points instead of paragraphs and really tried to keep each bullet to one line of text. I managed to get my 15 years' worth of work - which is mostly contract work, so many, many employers - down to three solid pages of nothing but relevant text.

I'm really not comfortable with less than three pages, so what I'll probably do as I get more jobs is drop off the most distant chronological work as I add more recent work at the top.

I can send you a copy of mine if you want to see what I did, memail me and let me know.
posted by pdb at 10:26 AM on October 27, 2010

I haven't heard of or seen anyone having a one-page resume for a tech job in years. Mine is currently four pages. I'm sure some people don't read all the way to the end, but that's fine, since that old stuff is less relevant anyway.

However, I know for a fact that some people do read it all, because they ask me about older projects that are on page four. I would be absolutely baffled to find out someone threw away my resume because it was too long. That's just insane.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:27 AM on October 27, 2010

In my recent job search I had a one-page and a two-page resume. Both had the same info, but one was just more succinct and less frilly. I got all my call backs from the 1 pager. Yes, anecdotal evidence, but I think that giving just the quick facts and explaining myself during hte interview gave them a better chance at knowing me.
posted by deezil at 10:30 AM on October 27, 2010

(I created my resume this way on the explicit advice of many many recruiters who send out resumes for a living. Under each job I have a paragraph detailing the skills and languages I used, and what I accomplished with them. Just saying, "I worked here as a programmer" tells people little to nothing about you.

And from a more practical POV, the more languages and skills you mention explicitly, the more you get found on search engines like DICE.)
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:32 AM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

I used to interview people for tech jobs. I liked two-page resumes the best; enough detail to give me an idea of what they did at each job and how they progressed, but not so much detail that I started skimming.

It depends a lot on your job experience, though; if you worked your way from the mail room to R&D manager, or if you had a really wide/unusual range of job responsibilities, I'm interested in knowing about that. But if you started as an entry-level programmer and steadily progressed in a straight line to a senior-level programmer, I don't need as many details (unless you have some projects or accomplishments that are particularly impressive).
posted by neushoorn at 10:48 AM on October 27, 2010

Personally, I don't have a hard limit for what I'm looking to see. It is relatively unlikely that any experience older than 7-10 years ago would be relevant to me and some resumes are too bloated with extraneous information for their own good, but it isn't about a page count per se, as just giving me the right data. Sometimes older experience is interesting to give me a more complete picture of how you got to where you are, but I really don't want to see about your experience as a cashier in high school. I've seen resumes 4 pages long that seemed tight and to contain only what they needed and I've seen resumes 2 pages long that should have been 1. If you edit with an eye for what people really need to know, I don't think anyone is too stressed about page count.
posted by Lame_username at 11:08 AM on October 27, 2010

When I'm evaluating if we want to call in someone for an interview, excess length is a negative in my book, but there's no magic cut-off point as to how long is too long. My belief is that the resume should be tailored to the job, and so you should list the existence of all job experiences, but only add bullet points for the job functions that are relevant to the current interview.

Where you should be excessive, but fully truthful, is in the section for technical skills. That section will first be evaluated in HR on a keyword basis; no magic keyword, and I'll never see the resume. Once the resume gets to me, though, if I find a keyword and your fail a test of basic knowledge for that keyword, it's game over.
posted by nomisxid at 11:09 AM on October 27, 2010

Response by poster: Yay.. just as mixed as my input I've had so far.. LOL, JK though, I appreciate each and every one of you responding. Yes, I would think 10 years history is good enough, but I had one recruitweasel ask me where the rest of my career was -- seriously? Hrmnn.

I'm keeping to the three (at a stretch 4) bullet point description per item, and I have just neatly arrived at one page. I'm looking at what lesser important or dominant things I could include, extra buzzwords, etcetera, but I will keep reading here... very much appreciated.
posted by cavalier at 11:20 AM on October 27, 2010

It'll very much depend on the place to where you're sending the resume. Sometimes you will have to go with your gut feeling for a place and tailor it to fit what you think they'd want. Keep in mind that some HR departments screen job applications prior to the resumes even reaching the potential interviewers, so making sure you cover the key points listed in the job advertisement per company is fairly those could be quick judgments they'll use to weed down a pile of papers to a manageable list of applicants. A generic "resume for everyone" is the easier route obviously, but probably not as successful.
posted by samsara at 11:39 AM on October 27, 2010

I limit mine to 2 pages. Enough to give a good idea of what I've done, but not so much as to be TOO MUCH INFO. I've got a "relevant skills" sort of high points section at the beginning that's full of a buzzword bingo list of technologies and vendors and such, then a history of what i've been doing with myself.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:14 PM on October 27, 2010

Even if the bulk of screening is done on digital copies, a paper copy of the resume is still sitting in the hands of interviewer(s) at some point. Making it overly prosaic or unnecessarily padded will have effects at the worst possible time - when you're being evaluated. Lose any extra length you can.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 1:53 PM on October 27, 2010

It really varies widely - depending on the interviewer, the role and employer organization. Generally speaking, here is what I believe:

For the vast majority contract programming jobs in large corporations, large resumes don't hart. People look for recent exposure to the skills that they need, but they also look for depth acquired over time. I have sometimes seen development leads/project managers conducting the interview feel somewhat more reassured by a bigger resume than a succinct one. I do agree though, that experience older than 10 years are typically not relevant for IT contract jobs (even if you mention them for the sake of completeness).

For full time IT "management" hires in end user organizations, the kind of clarity of thoughts that a one or two page resume presents can be rewarding.
posted by justlooking at 2:44 PM on October 27, 2010

My partner is an IT recruiter for IBM. I have just asked her. She said:

"Depends on the role. But as a general rule techies have longer cvs, 3 pages is good to include all certifications etc".

She hires like 10-20 technical people a week, and works with a huge variety of managers with different needs, wants, personalities, candidate preferences etc, so I'm inclined to trust her.
posted by smoke at 4:29 PM on October 27, 2010

The format that I use for my resume has helped me keep it down to one page (thus far). Basically, it goes like this:

Name n'shit

Bulleted list of skills (excellent communication, blah, blah), achievements and duties performed. This list is generic in that it does not apply to any one job I've had, but it covers all relevant skills the hiring firm is looking for. The majority of my resume is this section.

A list of employers, backwards chronological. Only details are Company Name, Location, My Title, Dates of Employment. All other relevant details are in the bulleted list above.

A list of skills (such as C++, Java, Word, Visio, Linux, Oracle) And these are formated just like you see here (comma separated instead of bulleted to save room).

/end resume

This allows me to avoid redundancy when I've done basically the same thing for multiple employers, since each duty/skill is a single item in the main bulleted list.

I've had great luck in obtaining interviews with this format as compared to others I've used in the past. Perhaps it will work for you :)
posted by wwartorff at 6:51 PM on October 27, 2010

As a hiring manager, I don't want 4 pages or resume. One is good. Two is getting on my nerves. You better be applying for CEO if you're 3+.

I'm sure there are other hiring managers with different preferences, but for me, a solid 1-pager is getting an interview over a 2-pager every time.

I've been told that recruiters (who are compensated based on placement) like long resumes because there are more keywords to match.
posted by desl at 7:31 PM on October 27, 2010

For the UK, I'd say 3 pages is standard.

Longer will get looked at but may annoy.
posted by curious_yellow at 3:49 AM on October 28, 2010

Mine (which got me my two last jobs) is modeled after this one (albeit on the advice of its author).

Basically, like wwartorff's but with the Big List o' Qualifications tuned to match the specific job (e.g. each of my individual Perl skills for the Perl jobs, plus I know C++; each of my C++ skills for the C++ jobs, plus I know Perl). After that, a selected list of employers (labeled as such) until I've filled one page and a one-line "other interests" entry at the bottom to make me look like a more rounded individual.

For what it's worth, I keep mine trimmed down to a single page but I make sure it's all relevant to the job I'm applying for.
posted by suetanvil at 7:29 AM on November 1, 2010

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