Less is more: a top hiring expert on how to create the best resume

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This question originally appeared on Quora: How can I get an interview with a one page resume? Answer by Gayle Laakmann McDowell, Consultant (tech hiring/interviewing), Author (Cracking the * Interview), Coder.

You don’t put your whole career on one page. You put just the top one page’s worth on one page.

Reducing a resume to one page helps many candidates look stronger, not weaker. Recruiters are not impressed that you had enough content to make a three page resume (anyone can do that). Focusing on the best stuff gives a better impression, since recruiters can’t read everything.

Suppose Bob picks up your three page resume and Mary gets your one page resume. Both spend about twenty seconds skimming your resume, which is about how long it takes to skim one page’s worth. Who is left with a better impression of you? Mary. The average content that Mary read was better than the average content that Bob read. About two thirds of the stuff that Bob read wasn’t even good enough to fit on the one pager.

Put another way: average(top 10% of set) > average(top 50% of set).

When creating a resume, think very carefully about what value each line brings. Every line has an opportunity cost. For example, your experience on the debate team might be useful to show public speaking skills. But if you’ve also been teaching a class in college and have won an award for best undergraduate TA, the debate team experience might not add as much.

So it’s not just about showcasing your best accomplishments. It’s about understanding what the point of every line is.

You’ll need to learn to let go. One reason that a lot of candidates struggle with short resumes is that it’s painful to delete something from their resume. You worked hard to win that award freshman year and it was impressive then. Now—poof!—it’s like it never even happened. At least that’s the way it feels when you delete it from your resume.

Yep. I’ve been there. But, well, deal with it. You need to cut the old to make room for the new.

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