How many pages make for a good CV – is there a right or wrong answer? We’re not CV writing experts but we read quite a few! From talking to clients and candidates, interviewing and placing talented HR people, we’ve got some great insights into what works and what clients tend to like. As we always say a CV will get you the interview, it will be you that gets you the job!
CV’s are a personal thing, known to be one of the hardest things to write – people tell us it’s often easier to write someone else’s than their own. Trying to articulate what you do on a daily basis and remembering all the key achievements is pretty hard when faced with a blank sheet of paper! It’s so easy to just add the latest job each time than finesse the earlier stuff, not have too many duplications and reduce the earlier career focusing more on the latest endeavours.
But what does it really say about us if our CV’s are too long or indeed too short? The BIG question for many is: does it matter how long the CV actually is?!
The case of the too short CV
The trouble, potentially, with a “too short” CV is that there will be some hiring managers and recruiters who perceive that a one-page CV implies that an applicant has less to offer or they’ve missed some really crucial information that stops them from getting to interview stage because the specific experience the client is looking hasn’t been detailed sufficiently.
That being said, when a client we were supporting in a senior HR hire recently specified “Only send me CVs that are 2 pages or less” and we polled your thoughts on this, a substantial 29% of you felt that, yes, “the more concise the better!”. So could a one-page CV now be the ticket?
There are undoubtedly scenarios whereby a short CV is just going to be the natural outcome of writing down one’s experience to date – take the example of those just out of education with limited work experience under their belt. There are no two ways about it, that CV is only going to stretch to a page if lucky and that’s to be expected, right? But under what other circumstances is it deemed acceptable to present one page in your application?
Well, how about those instances when an individual is looking to take a different fork in the road with their career, might it be the best option to showcase their skill set in a one-page summary that is relevant to the direction they now want to take?
Let’s not leave out those who may have many years of experience all with the same company in one position. Or those that have worked for several organisations but carried out the same role at each – it would make no sense at all to repeat the same responsibilities over and over again – one page wins!
Whilst there will be many who appreciate a brief, tailored one-pager, others of us won’t realistically be able to condense our experience down to that format. Therefore, if you don’t fall under one of the above categories should you choose not to sell yourself “short”?
The Case of the too long CV
Under what circumstances is it a good idea to utilise multiple pages for a CV and how do we all feel about this?
Well, 27% of you out there who took part in our recent poll asked “What’s wrong with three or four pages?”
Some people would argue that with 20 years plus experience gained in different sectors and a wealth of great knowledge that they are keen to showcase they want the opportunity to tell their story. When we’ve seen JDs extend over 4/5 pages, isn’t it only fair to allow candidates to mirror the same format? How long would you expect someone to spend reviewing a CV? Imagine over one hundred applications and 4 pages to read for each one you can see the benefit of a really well-written, slick tailored resume that hits the mark and closely aligns with the role in question!
As long as the contents of a CV are relevant to an application, and not waffle, are longer CVs really so bad?
So what do we think?
Let’s face it, there are no rules or laws on this topic, only people’s perceptions of what is an ideal length of CV to present. It circles back to the adage – you can’t please all of the people all of the time! Do you go shorter and fear you may miss some key bullet points or do you risk longer and then potentially the scenario that not all of the CV will be read?
For us, we think the best CVs are probably 2-3 pages long. They are concise, share enough detail to tell your story and are a positive reflection of you. Things that have hit the mark previously with our clients include;
- a well written profile positioning your ideal role and what you can bring to the employer
- a skills matrix – 8-10 keywords that reflect your key skills (such as stakeholder management, TUPE etc..)
- a brief intro into the business detailing client group, sector and headcount
- key achievements highlighting a couple of projects you’ve led or been involved with
- a few key metrics that support the aforementioned achievements and projects
- a link to your LinkedIn profile that aligns with your CV and has some recent and relevant recommendations
Here’s a thought though – whilst CVs are still used today – how long before we are all reliant on technology and new recruitment platforms and they become a thing of the past!?