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Is Your CV the Right Length?

Updated on May 13, 2015
Resume/CV writing tips from cvdiy.com
Resume/CV writing tips from cvdiy.com

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:

© 2010 M Selvey, MSc

Comments

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    • M Selvey, MSc profile imageAUTHOR

      M Selvey, MSc 

      6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Thank you bowlerhat and cgobey for reading and your supportive comments. You are right, bowlerhat in that job-hunters do not always understand this process and think that their CV submission is about what them rather than being truly about the company/industry.

    • cgobey profile image

      cgobey 

      6 years ago

      I agree - and not enough CVs are focussed, as you say, because the CV should hit its target effectively otherwise there is no point.

    • bowlerhat profile image

      bowlerhat 

      6 years ago from Birmingham, UK

      Great hub. I particularly liked the part about recruiters scanning through CVs looking for "fluff". Not enough job-hunters understand this brutal process and the need to make your CV lively with relevant industry keywords. If you don't catch their eye in the first ten seconds, you've lost them.

    • M Selvey, MSc profile imageAUTHOR

      M Selvey, MSc 

      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hello Ferozkhan,

      Thank you for your comment. And, lots of people have been in the same situation you are in about knowing what to keep in and what to leave out, how to condense the information so that it is gives just enough of the right information to gain an interview. That it what a CV is really about - getting the interview. Have you seen my other hub on how to strategically manage the information on your CV? This may be useful for you. Have a look.

      https://hubpages.com/business/The-Professional-CV-...

      Hope this helps. Let me know how it works for you.

      Take care and best wishes,

      Margit

    • profile image

      CV 

      7 years ago

      I heard that Cv length should not exceed 3-4pages., but i have worked in many companies, if i write all experience with job responsibilities i performed there ..THEN my Cv length is Crossing to 6-7 pages.. i m in DiLEMMA .. what to do

      pls give some advice..

      Thanks and Regards

      FEROZKHAN.

    • M Selvey, MSc profile imageAUTHOR

      M Selvey, MSc 

      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Foz,

      Thank you for your comment and glad this information was useful. If you have not done so, you might also try posting your CV on a job board like monster.com/monster.co.uk where employers can also find you. All the best to you!

    • profile image

      Foz 

      8 years ago

      Thanks for the info, I thought I had it right, this just confirms that my CV is spot on! I just need the right vacancy to show up now! Cheers.

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