One-Page Resume Too Short For Impressive Career

One corporate and business counsel updates his resume with help from a certified professional resume writer.


David Pearl’s one-page resume was deceptively stark.

Pearl, 56, was a successful lawyer; he was a professor of business law and aviation law, he had been Navy fighter pilot, he managed more than 300 people as a Navy officer, he had experience in publishing and public speaking and for five years, he was a senior executive at the Boy Scouts of America.

The basics were tightly represented on his single-page resume, but the impact of his accomplishments was not. For instance, his experience managing an international staff was no where to be found, said Elizabeth Macfarlane, a certified professional resume writer who works with Ladders and helped Pearl craft a new resume.

Pearl said he was following ancient and sacred advice: A resume must fit on a single page.

“I had been taught that resumes were supposed to be one page,” Pearl says. “If you can’t put it on one page, go back to the drawing board.”

Many job seekers follow this advice, which goes back to the days when resume were stored in filing cabinets and space was a concern, Macfarlane said. But resumes are transmitted and stored as computer files and space is no longer a concern.

The one-page rule no longer applies and will actually harm a jobseeker like Pearl, who has a long and distinguished career, Macfarlane said.

Don’t be shy

This type of reticence can be common in senior-level executives, and even in the case of an individual like Pearl, who prides himself on his editing skills.

“He said that even with his vast experience in editing and writing [as a lawyer], the resume that came out of his rewrite was something he couldn’t have gone ahead and done for himself,” Macfarlane said. “Even with experience, you’re sometimes not able to brand yourself appropriately as one of our experts would.”

Pearl is self-effacing in conversation, making it easy to see where his modesty at branding himself comes from.

“There was a lot of terminology Elizabeth [Macfarlane] used in my resume that was foreign to me,” he says. “I didn’t put in words like ‘C-level executive’ or things like that. I’m still not sure I know what a C-level executive is.”

But while he might feel that, in his own words, he’s a “sow’s ear” being made to look like a silk purse, there are in fact no untruths in his new resume. The resume he and Macfarlane worked out doesn’t stretch the truth of his vast accomplishments and qualities — it simply unearths diamonds that were hidden. “It would never occur to me in 1,000 years to do some of the things she had done,” he says.

Brand yourself

What exactly did Macfarlane do? With a varied career in business and law, Pearl had difficulty focusing his resume. So Macfarlane started the rewrite by focusing. She delved into the law area of Pearl’s career, then into his international and business development experience, including his ability to work with and manage people. Because Pearl is open to opportunities beyond law, Macfarlane wanted to emphasize these additional capabilities.

Macfarlane also created a personal brand statement, hoping to brand Pearl by narrowing his career down to three areas:

1. Successful litigation experience

2. Business performance improvement, streamlining and ensuring process improvements, and achieving unparalleled, record-breaking business results

3. Business and fundraising experience, reflected in his work with the Boy Scouts

The importance of this branding piece of the puzzle can’t be overstated. Macfarlane believes that branding is key to success in today’s challenging work- search environment. And in such an environment, it’s crucial that individuals “dig deeper to identify accomplishments,” she says, in order to build their own brand and to “bring value” to employers by being clear about exactly what they’re bringing to the table.

Pearl’s revamped resume is now more than one page, but it’s also much easier for a potential employer to grasp who this corporate and business counsel professional is and where he’s been, with a title that clearly says just that: “Corporate & Business Counsel.”

Pearl’s new resume also contains a list of keywords that will ensure that electronic resume processing software picks his resume out of the slush pile, a summary statement that fleshes out those keywords with the context that both sophisticated resume-parsing software and human eyes require, and a branding section that leaves no question as to what Pearl is all about.

After looking at the new resume, it’s plain to Pearl that he is now presenting himself to employers in a much more coherent way. “( After reading the new resume,) I said ‘Boy, I sound a lot better when I read through this now,’” he says.