Is Your CV the Right Length?
How do you know when your CV is the correct length? Should it be one page, two pages or more?
Your CV is a marketing tool, not a job application.
Some of the clients I have worked with have said they felt as if they were not being totally honest if their CV did not contain every possible piece of information about their work history. Unfortunately, this can often translate to 4-5 pages or more of what prospective employers might call "rambling." Wordiness doesn't do much for anyone on either side of the paper screening element of employee selection.
Job seekers often underestimate the number of responses an advertised job will yield, even to the point of believing that their CV will be among only a few received by the employer. They might go so far as to even think that it is up to the prospective employer to sift out the meaningful substance from the irrelevant details in their CV. However, reality gives a different picture.
First, for many advertised jobs, there can be hundreds, sometimes thousands (depending on job and the employer), of CVs sent in by hopeful candidates. Second, the employer does not usually have the time or interest to extract the substance from the extraneous filler in a CV. So, what do they do instead? If the CV is too full of what they consider to be filler or "fluff," they will move on to the next and the next until they find the substance they are looking for.
Only very rarely should a CV ever exceed two pages. But it isn't necessarily about length. In some circumstances, two pages will not be enough. Yet, a one-page CV that contains more information than is needed, or one which emphasises the wrong information, will put a damper on your prospects of being invited to an interview for at least two important reasons:
- It gives the impression that you are assuming that it is the prospective employer's job to dig for the relevant details rather than your job to make these clear from the start.
- And, most importantly, even if you were the ideal candidate for a job, a rambling and disorganised CV can cause you to appear unsuitable.
The following are some key points to remember when thinking about the length of your CV:
- Paper screening is one of the most important processes employers use to select which candidates to interview for a company vacancy. It involves reviewing candidate CVs to determine whether there is a match between the job requirements and the candidates' experience and qualifications. Getting past the paper screen is crucial for making it to the next phases in the selection process.
- Employers often allow only a 10-30 second scan to review CVs for the fluff versus substance ratio. "Fluff" is anything that is unclear, irrelevant, disorganised and poorly presented. "Substance" is information that matches, or at least closely resembles, what they are looking for, and should be readily apparent in the first scan. Ensuring that your CV clearly directs the reader to the substance, rather than being confused with an abundance of fluff, is the only way to ensure your CV is not rejected out of hand.
A focused and concise CV tells the employer that you have a good understanding of what they are looking for (a certain plus in your favor) and that you respect their time (another plus for you).
What a CV Should Aim to Do
Before considering length, it is important to think about what a CV is intended to accomplish.
It is meant to provide enough of the right information that will result with you being invited to an interview. Listed below are the three objectives that your CV must always aim to achieve in every situation, regardless of the job in question:
1. Ensure your intentions are clear and concise
2. Ensure your suitability for the targeted position is visible in a quick scan
3. Ensure that your relevant experience and knowledge is highlighted
Factors Contributing to Long-Winded CVs
Some of the most common factors that can cause CVs to be (or appear to be) too long-winded – and which can distract the reader and weaken the CV’s impact – include:
1. Inclusion of unnecessary personal details
2. Repetition of the same employer or job details
3. Employment history is in the wrong order, starting with the first employer instead of the most recent
4. The CV goes back too far in employment history
5. Inclusion of unnecessary or irrelevant details of education
6. Too many specific details and not enough summaries
7. Inefficient layout, spacing and overall CV structure
8. The wrong information is presented at the start of the CV
9. Too many generic skills are listed without a context
In conclusion, the right length for a CV depends on what is required and appropriate to accommodate the relevant information.
For more advice on writing your resume/CV, please see the links below:
If you have a lot of information to manage on your CV, this hub will help you to strategically use the space on your CV to keep it concise and effective:
- The Professional CV Writer's Viewpoint: Structuring your Employment History for Efficient Spacing
Copyright 2005-2010. Margit Selvey, MSc If you are worried that your CV may be too long, I have some strategies I use in my work with clients that I find as a helpful guideline to ensure that the use of...
Sometimes you realise afterwards that the CV you sent may not have said what it needed to. Should you revise and resubmit? Here are some guidelines:
- Should You Resubmit After Revising Your CV?
Someone asked me a question about what do to when you have sent out generic CVs to companies in a broadcast fashion and then realised afterwards that perhaps this was the wrong approach. If you are in...
Should your Resume/CV be chronological or functional or both? This hub will help you decide:
- The Professional CV Writers Viewpoint: Chronological, Functional or Combined CV How do you choose?
Copyright 2005-2010. Margit Selvey, MSc Writing a CV is difficult enough. The abundance and availability of information and advice for how to go about it can actually make writing a CV more challenging....
Is your resume/CV selling you as well as it could do? Learn about Personal Value and what it means to your prospective employer(s):
You’ve sent out your resume/CV but are not getting the results you think you should be getting. This hub will help you to diagnose the problem:
- Help! Why isn't my CV working?
You're looking for a new job and have sent out countless CVs. Your qualifications are in order. You have loads of experience and excellent references. You believe you should be getting a much better...
© 2010 M Selvey, MSc
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