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Home  > Article

What about the 1-page Rule?

By Erdin Beshimov

Students writing their resumes for nonprofit positions usually face a dilemma. Should they stick to the one-page-resume rule standard in business recruiting, or do they have an option to bridge the one-page barrier, which is common for academic resumes?

Do nonprofit recruiters use the same resume-assessment lenses as their business counterparts or not?

Unfortunately, it's getting harder and harder to tell what the answer to that question is.  There are hundreds of thousands of nonprofit organizations today, and they are becoming increasingly diverse in their hiring patterns.  People who make up the nonprofit sector come from a wide variety of backgrounds - academia, business, government, science, arts, healthcare, etc - and so it is only natural for nonprofits to differ in how they recruit their people.  Therefore, one should be cautioned against assuming that the same format resume would be appropriate for applications to different nonprofit organizations. 

The nonprofit sector today is an attractive career destination for thousands of college graduates.  As such, competition for nonprofit jobs is growing increasingly intense.  Nonprofit human resources managers receive many more applications than the positions they offer, which limits the time and detail which a nonprofit hiring manager can devote to examining an application.  When applying for a nonprofit position it is important to bear that in mind, and develop a resume that would be easy to examine in the limited time that a recruiter has. 

To craft an appropriate resume, look carefully at the job description.  If you notice that the proposed job would entail research activities, it is important that you list all the relevant research projects that you have done.  Similarly, if the job description indicates involvement in community work, fundraising, or similar communication-oriented activities, be sure to show on the resume your preparedness for that.  If you cannot fit that all onto a single page, feel free to hop over the 1-page barrier.  When in doubt, call the nonprofit and ask what its requirements are, or raise this question during an informational interview. 

Beyond the one-page-or-not dilemma, your resume for a nonprofit position should communicate three crucial messages:

  • You have a skill set poised for success at that specific position and organization;
  • You have relevant education;
  • You have a real passion for and interest in the cause promoted by that nonprofit.

Nonprofit organizations often lack the resources to train you for a specific position.  As a result, they often seek to hire individuals with the capacity to make an instant impact.  Outline your relevant extracurricular activities and the skills that you have gained in doing them.    

Similarly, you need to show that your education positions you, whether directly or indirectly, for success on your job.  If you're looking for an entry-level nonprofit position, it is a good idea to show the relevant courses that you have taken in college.  Furthermore, you may want to indicate not only your courses but also the specific issues areas for which you developed a good level of understanding and interest.  As an example, in addition to stating that you have taken a class in human rights, you can say that you have written an 'A' paper in human rights law and have a specific interest in the application of human rights agreements. 

Finally, because working for a nonprofit often entails somewhat of a financial trade-off, you need to demonstrate that you have ample enthusiasm, passion and interest in the field.  This emotional aspect of the matter will help you weather through the difficult moments that are bound to arise on any job and give you plenty of motivation for success.    

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