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I am a second-year associate, and I want to find a new job. I've always read that resumes should not exceed one page. Do you agree? (B.A., Washington, DC)

Should a resume be only one-page long?


Dear B.A.,

Many attorneys place too much emphasis on the length of their resumes. Here's the rule I tell my candidates: Your resume should be as long as it needs to be in order to persuasively and effectively communicate your background without wasting space or providing irrelevant information.

As a general rule, if you can fit all of your relevant experience on one page, this is ideal. But if you are judicious with your descriptions and headings and still need more than one page, don't sweat it.
Remember, effective communication is an integral element of being a good attorney, and your resume is your opportunity to show your communication skills. There's nothing wrong with a two-or even three-page resume if that is the length that is needed to convey your relevant background and experience. For some attorneys-for example, those who have had extensive prior careers or those with impressive lists of publications-several pages can be required to fully communicate their background. On the other hand, if an attorney is just a few years out of law school and has had only one job, relevant experience can likely be communicated in one page.

One problem I often see is that an attorney will have a resume that is a page and a quarter long and has lots of "white space" on the first page. (In other words, there is a lot of unused space on the first page.) This can be problematic because it sends the subtle signal that the attorney did not take the time to simply figure out how to fit all of the information on one page (by adjusting spacing, margins, etc.). This could reflect adversely on the attorney's attention to detail.

A resume is your first opportunity to show your communication skills, so it's critical. There are many excellent articles and resources on resume writing.

In short, be as concise as possible but as detailed as necessary to effectively and persuasively communicate your background and experience. When your resume does this, the number of pages becomes irrelevant.