How long should a CV be?
It should be around 2 pages of A4 in length.
Because 2 pages is the optimal length to sell your skills and knowledge, without boring readers.
In this post, I’m going to explain why you need to keep your CV to around 2 pages, and what you can do to keep your CV concise – whilst still creating a good impression and landing quality job interviews.
CV length guide
- Why does your CV need to be 2 pages long?
- How to keep your CV under 2 pages (including example CV)
Why does you CV need to be 2 pages long?
Firstly, I want to make it clear that having a CV of 2 pages in length is not some kind of legal requirement or regulation.
It’s just that in my experience, I have found that 2 pages is the perfect CV length to hold the attention of busy recruiters and employers – anything longer and you risk some of it going unread.
Of course, if you spill onto the third page a little, it’s not going to suddenly ruin the CV – but going onto a 4th page will mean it’s unlikely that all of your CV will get read.
On the other hand, having a CV that is only 1 page long, will make it difficult for you to include all of the information needed to prove your suitability for the roles you are applying to.
Essentially, you just need to adapt the length of your CV to accommodate for the notoriously short attention spans of recruiters and hiring managers – whilst giving them enough info to impress them
So, why do recruiters and hiring managers have such short attention spans?
They see LOTS of CVs
When I worked in recruitment I would often have to review over 100 CVs a day, and this is the same for a lot of recruiters. Hiring managers won’t see that many, but they still have to review lots of CVs in between doing their day job.
If you’re hoping to get job interviews, you need to ensure that you give recruiters and hiring managers to read your CV in full.
There’s just no way that a recruiter will want to wade through your entire CV 7 page CV, if they’ve got 70 more in their inbox to review.
They are very busy
Both recruiters and hiring managers are busy working to deadlines and trying meet challenging client demands.
For this reason, they can’t always commit huge amounts of time to reading every CV they read.
So, by keeping your CV short and sweet, you will ensure that more of it gets read, and this should allow you to communicate more of your skills, knowledge, and suitability for the roles you are applying for.
How to keep your CV under 2 pages
Know that you know why it’s important to keep your CV at around 2 pages long, I will walk you through how to write a CV that stays under that length, and gets you the interviews you want
Firstly, it helps to see a real live example of a CV so that you get an idea of how your CV should look and the content it should contain.
Structure and format
In order to create an effective CV, you must make it look professional and incredibly easy to read. Again, this is because you need to grab and hold recruiters’ attention.
This infographic gives you an overview of how your CV should be formatted and structured for best results.
In terms of formatting, you need to cover the following bases;
- Use a clear font that makes it easy for readers to understand what you’ve written – don’t use an elaborate font that will cause headaches
- Use a simple colour scheme – black text on a white background is easiest on the eyes
- Keep the CV to around 2 pages long!
- Break up text as much possible to it easy for people to skim read the document and find the points they are looking for
And this is, is the basic structure you should use to provide a logical order of your offerings (I will cover each in more detail afterwards)
- Name and contact details
- CV profile – an introductory paragraph to summarise your skills
- Career history/work experience – Details of your previous jobs
- Hobbies and interest (optional)
Once you’ve headed your CV with your name and contact details, the first proper content section should be your CV profile.
The profile is an introductory paragraph which gives a high-level overview of your skills, experience and knowledge. It’s aim is to hook recruiters’ attention when they open up your CV, and entice them to stick around and read the rest of it.
Keep your profile short and sharp – as with your CV, if it’s too long, it won’t have as much impact.
Here is an example of a CV profile – you can find more on my CV profile examples post.
What type of information should you include in your CV profile?
This will depend on your profession, and the types of jobs you are applying for – but here are some good factors to start with:
- The types of companies you’ve worked for –Have you worked for investment banks? Retail stores? Local governments?
- Market/product/service knowledge –Maybe you’re an expert in home insurance, or maybe you know financial markets really well etc.
- Important role specific skills – Skills that are crucial to the jobs you’re applying for – so for example if you’re going for sales jobs you need to be talking about lead generation, up selling and cross selling, but if you work in IT support you need to be talking about troubleshooting, diagnosis and performing upgrades etc.
- Qualifications – If there are qualifications that are important to the jobs you’re applying for then make sure you include the most sought-after ones here.
- System knowledge – If you know how to use popular IT systems, software packages, databases or even planning tools, and you know that your target employers value them – get them into your profile
Quick tip: Do not fill your profile with generic cliché phrases such as “strong communicator” or “hardworking team player”. These skills don’t tell recruiters anything factual about you.
Look at the below cliché-based profile for an example – can you tell what this person does?
You can also add a core skills section..
To make your most in-demand skills stand out, include a core skills section like this.
It’s a simple bullet pointed list, but if you tailor these points to reflect your skills that match the requirements of the jobs you are applying for, it will really help readers to see your suitability instantly – thus creating a great first impression.
Your work experience
Your work experience gives you an excellent opportunity to prove how you contribute in the workplace.
Your previous jobs should be listed in reverse chronological order (newest to oldest jobs) and have plenty of detail in current/recent roles to show off your current capabilities.
Recruiters and employers will not be so interested in job you did 5, 10, 20+ years ago, so you only need to include short summaries for them. Only go as far back as you feel is relevant.
Quick tip: If your CV is coming in too long, try cutting off some really old roles, or batching a group of roles up and describing them in one line
To ensure that recruiters and hiring managers can skim read your roles and find the facts they need quickly, you have to give them a robust structure – breaking them up into digestible sections and sentences.
This annotated example of a CV structure should give you a good idea on how to structure your roles.
If you’re an experienced candidate, you should save your full education section for the bottom of your CV (although there should be mentions of any really important qualifications in your CV profile)
If you have little or no experience, then you might want to check out my school leaver CV guide or graduate CV guide to find out how you should add your education to your CV.
For experienced people, a simple list of your qualifications near the bottom of your CV should suffice.
Hobbies and interests?
Hobbies and interests are an optional section and they won’t usually make any impact on a hiring decision.
If you’re struggling to keep your CV under 2 pages, I would recommend getting rid of the hobbies section.
There are exceptions however. If your hobbies are highly relevant to the roles you are applying for, then it can be worth mentioning them. If you want some detail on this, check out my CV hobbies post.
Don’t include references
You don’t need to include your references on your CV.
Employers should not ask for references until offer stage, so there is no need to put references on your CV – they will only waste valuable space.
How long should a CV be – conclusion
Your CV needs to be long enough to prove you are a good candidate, but short enough to keep readers interested.
At present, the sweet sport for doing that is to produce a CV that is 2 pages long.
You also need to focus on breaking the information up on the page and providing a pleasant reading experience for recruiters and hiring managers.
If you can do those things whilst highlighting your most important skills and knowledge, you will land plenty of interviews.
Good luck with your job search.