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Career Advice

How long should your CV be?

How long should your CV be?

For a long time, two pages has been the ideal length for a CV in the UK. But one size does not fit all!

Your CV could be longer or shorter, depending what stage you’re at in your career.

One page

A one-page CV is ideal for school or university leavers just embarking on their working life. With little, if any, career history to document, you’ll mainly need to focus on your education, voluntary experience and extra-curricular interests. If this takes you more than one page, it’s likely that you’re either duplicating information or using an excessively large font!

The one-pager is also ideal if you’ve only had one role, or many very similar roles, in your career. The education section can be condensed when you have some experience behind you and extra-curricular interests become less important, so you should still find you have plenty of room to say everything that needs saying.

If you’ve had multiple roles, but the responsibilities were all pretty much the same, consider condensing these roles under one heading to avoid duplicating information over several pages. A recruiter doesn’t want to read the same information repeated under different employer names – this wastes their time and adds nothing.

Two pages

Often hailed as the perfect length for a CV, the two-pager is the recommended length for someone who has established themselves in their career. Most people will fall into this category. As it gives you enough space to show off your achievements, strengths and skills without boring the reader with waffle.

Make sure that for every job you include a summary of your main responsibilities, an idea of the scope of your role and details of what you achieved.

Don’t feel like you need to pad out your CV to drag it out to two pages, though. If you can concisely summarise your career on a strong one page CV, by all means, do. A short, strong CV is better than a long, wishy-washy one.

Three pages

Not used as often, the three-pager is only for those with a very good reason. In this category are board-level executives who would be selling their achievements short with a two-page CV, or a contractor who has worked in many different short-term roles over the last 5-10 years.

More pages?

No. Despite ATS systems not being as fussy as human recruiters about the length of your CV, your CV will at some point be in the grubby paws of an employer. Don’t put them off reading it before they’ve even picked it up.

If you’re having trouble sticking to the recommended length, try these tips:

Edit it down

If your CV is too long, be ruthless with what you cut out. The point of a CV is to make a recruiter want to meet you to find out more about you. Not to present them with your entire life story. There will be nothing to talk about at the interview!

If it doesn’t sell you, delete it. Over 10 years ago? Summarize it. If it’s not relevant to your target job, remove it. And, if you’ve already said it, don’t duplicate it. This is one document where concise wording is critical.

There is no need to include certificates or references with your CV – if a recruiter wants these, they will ask.

Build it up

If your CV is too short, consider adding some additional sections to give the recruiter a more rounded view of what you can offer. Make sure you’ve covered your main responsibilities in your most recent roles, rather than just giving a headline view. Aim for five to six bullets per role, plus achievements – and think about anything you do outside of work which has developed your skills.

Think about the proportions

As a general rule, the most important information should be at the top of the first page. Remember that a recruiter spends a very short amount of time scanning your CV. That means that on the first half of page you need a high-impact profile, containing the relevant key words for your industry and sector. Plus some information about your current (or most relevant) job or qualification.

If you can’t fit the details into the space, you need to look again at how you’re spacing the document.

Make sure it looks polished

Just because you’re aiming for a CV of a certain length, doesn’t mean you can stop as soon as you have some text on the next page. By pages, we mean full pages – or at least almost full.

If you find you’ve said everything you want to say but you’re left with a few lines, or even half a page on the last sheet, it’s time to work on the layout.

Sometimes just tweaking the margins slightly or altering the font can make the spacing neater. Other times you might need to get a bit more creative. Word has all sorts of functionality that allows you to change the white space on a document. Or you might find it more constructive to play with the wording.

Either way, don’t leave your CV looking half-finished. Just remember to stop before your CV looks over-formatted – you’re aiming for a professional look, not kid-in-a-craft-box style.

So, how long should your CV be?

So, in summary, you probably want a two-page CV but use the rule flexibly to present the recruiter with the best possible first impression.

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