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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

December 11, 2017

Should a resume be one page?

Julie Q. Brush

No. There seem to be so many “rules” about resumes that take lawyers sideways and compromise their ability to create an effective document. The One Page Rule is one of them.

I frequently see resumes that attempt to squeeze too much information onto one page in order to conform to this “rule” – and it really isn’t effective, or pretty. It’s like trying to squeeze into pants two sizes too small. Technically you might be able to do it, but at the end of the day…it just won’t look good.

Arguably, the resume is the most important career document a professional can create. It not only provides the facts of your work history, it details your expertise, your value and all the other great things about you. In other words: Your Sell. So it’s got to be good.

In order to write an effective resume, you should not approach the exercise in terms of page numbers, but rather I recommend you think about how this document will best reflect and market your background. Accurately, Persuasively and Concisely.

For lawyers who are more seasoned (longer work history and more experience), their resumes will tend to be longer – ie 1 ½ – 2 ½ pages (but can be shorter as well). For newbies and junior lawyers, the resume leans towards one page. As an FYI, I have yet to see a resume four or more pages that legitimately needs to be that long. In addition, stay away from margins less than .5 and fonts smaller than 10pt (I think 11pt is the smallest people should go). If your resume falls into these categories, you’re stuffing too much information in it, which I promise will lose the reader. And increase the chance that your candidacy will be DOA. The key is to create an effective document without being too high level, too detailed or verbose. It’s a delicate balance.

If you feel compelled to list all of your accomplishments, deals, matters, specialties or other kitchen sink items, create a document separate from the resume that can be read independently. These Transaction Sheets, Representative Transactions, List of Accomplishments, Deal Sheets etc. can be quite effective. Not only in allowing your resume to be more concise, but by providing more detailed information about your background in an acceptable format. A great way to gain a competitive advantage in the market.

There are no hard and fast rules around the resume page length. So if you need an extra page or two to articulate all about you that is truly dazzling, by all means take it. It is a myth that an employer will not venture beyond the first page of a resume. If it’s well crafted and they like what they see on the first page, they will be inclined to read on. So press forward past Page One if need be – with confidence. Because The One Page Rule was made to be broken.

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