Your CV is the hiring manager’s first insight into your skills, abilities and experience. The CV will (hopefully) lead you to obtain an interview so it is important to get it right. One of the main questions candidates have is about the length of the CV. How long should a CV be and how do you condense it if you have a lot of experience? Other candidates ask, “How long should a good CV be, and if I don’t have much experience, how do I fill it up?”
In this blog, we will look at:
- The most appropriate length for a CV
- Key elements you should have on your CV
- Steps you can take to reduce or increase the length of your CV, while still ensuring you cover the most important elements of your experience
- The do's and don’ts relating to the length of a CV.
Recruiters spend seconds reviewing CVs according to James Reed, chairman of recruitment company Reed. In fact, they spend only 7 seconds per CV! Of course, you should not rush your CV, but if it is too in-depth, chances are the recruiter won’t read all of it anyway! Keep it concise and stick to the facts.
How many pages should a good CV be?
Hiring managers are often inundated with CVs and you are lucky if yours gets a minute-long glance. If your CV looks like a novel, they are likely to be instantly put off and may not even bother reading it at all.
The main thing to consider when you are figuring out how many pages long your CV should be is to take into account the amount of time the hiring manager has to fully absorb and process the information. Your CV should be no more than three pages but two is preferred. If you are worried about not having enough information to fill two pages, as in the case of students or recent graduates, it is acceptable to have a CV that is only one page in length.
When it comes to your CV layout, simple is often better. A clear, easy-to-read design will help the hiring manager find what they are looking for. Make sure to align the look of your CV to the image of the company. A CV template can help.
What should a CV include and not include?
There are various sections you can have on your CV and you may be wondering where the necessities are and what you can leave out. When you are trying to condense your CV, you should only use the main sections. However, if you are trying to increase the length, you can add other sections, such as achievements and hobbies, if you desire.
These are the main sections your CV should contain:
- Header – the header is the section at the top of your CV with your key contact details, including telephone number and email address.
- Summary (or personal profile) – the summary is a brief (usually 3-4 sentences) introduction relating to your key skills and experience.
- Skills – the main skills you possess which are relevant to the role. This can include soft skills (such as communication, teamwork, and leadership), as well as more specialist hard skills (such as project management and Microsoft Office.)
- Experience – a section dedicated to your employment, including dates, locations and main duties.
- Education – your education to date, including degree and any other qualifications.
How to reduce the length of your CV
The ideal length for a CV is around 2-3 pages. So how do you go about trimming the extras when you’ve missed the mark? Here are some tips for reducing the length of your CV.
Reduce the font
The first step may be to consider the size of the font you have used in your CV. A font size between 10 and 12 point is considered appropriate. Any lower and the hiring manager might give up on your CV because it’s too hard to read. If you’re already at the lower limit, try the following tips instead.
Stick to the necessities
Make sure you remove any aspects of the CV that are not relevant like a hobbies section or your high school if you have completed higher education. The personal profile only needs to be a sentence or two so keep it brief if you are struggling for space.
Your CV should be concise. The best way to achieve this is by using bullet points in your experience section. You only need 3-5 bullet points under each job role so there is no need to list every single responsibility. Tailor it to suit the position you are applying to and keep it to the key facts.
Accounts Assistant – Quickly Systems
Aug 2020 – Present
- Responsible for ensuring that invoices are processed in a timely manner and that any invoice-related queries are followed up promptly.
- Organising the filing system for the accounts department and ensuring that this is well maintained.
If you are someone with 20+ years’ experience, it can be challenging to fit a CV into two or three pages. However, there is no need to go any further back than 10 years. If you have a wealth of experience, you can still include it but you can just put the employer and dates to save space. Hiring managers are interested in your most recent, relevant experience.
Director – FCL - Aug 2000- Sep 2009
Assistant Director – BCT Ltd – Sep 2009 – July 2010
If your experience from 10+ years ago is completely irrelevant to the role, for instance, if you have been working as an engineer for 10 years and before that you were a retail assistant, you may just want to omit it completely. The hiring manager is looking to understand your relevant experience. Just make sure there are no gaps within the past 10 years.
Focus on highest achievements
The education section only needs to state your highest achievements, even if you have done a lot of other courses. For example, if you have a degree and an HNC, you may just want to include the degree to save space.
If you have done a lot of courses and don’t have space to add these, make sure you mention these at the interview. Employers love to hear that you are focused on continuous development.
Remove general terms
It is standard to have “good communication skills” and be “proficient in Microsoft Office.” Remove cliches and stick to those that make you unique. It will not only reduce the length of your CV, but it will also give you a better chance of progressing to the next stage.
I don’t have much experience – how do I make my CV longer?
Most articles talk about how to reduce the length of a CV, but what if you don’t have enough to fill up two pages? If you are a student or graduate, for instance, you might not have any work experience, so this can make it challenging to write a CV that is two pages long. How long should a good CV be raises a lot of questions around reducing your CV, but increasing it can also be problematic for candidates without a lot of experience.
These are some ways to increase the length of your CV when you’re struggling with content:
Quantify your skills
Instead of just listing your skills, quantify these. This will help fill up your CV, while also giving the hiring manager some examples of what you can offer their business.
- Strong communicator with experience presenting to an audience of over 100 people.
Many candidates just list their skills and although there is nothing wrong with that, if you want to add some length to your CV and to make your CV more appealing, it is a good idea to quantify them.
Expand your education
If you have no experience and you are trying to fill up your CV to achieve the desired outcome for how many pages should a CV be, you may want to consider expanding your education. You can do this by adding in the modules, rather than just the name of the course, as well as any other useful information relating to the course.
BSc HR Management – University of Sheffield
- Employee Relations
- Recruitment and Retention
- Psychology in the Workplace
- Merit pass in 10 modules
As you can see, this gives the recruiting manager some useful insight into what you have achieved and more information about the content of the degree. This is a great way to lengthen your CV without adding irrelevant information.
Increase the Font Size
You could always increase the font size, but make sure it doesn’t go over size 12, as otherwise, it will look like you’re just trying to fill up space for the sake of it.
Do’s and Don’t of CV length
Now that we’ve covered the key points about the length of the CV, let’s look at the do’s and don’ts when it comes to the length of your CV.
- Focus on the essentials and tailor these to the job spec. Even if you are trying to add length to your CV, make sure you are only adding those aspects of your experience that are relevant to the role.
- Ask for feedback from friends or family about your CV. It is always good to get a new set of eyes to look over your CV, as they may spot things that you haven’t.
- Take out the keywords to cut some space. The keywords can potentially help get you through the ATS , so they are necessary. Use keywords from the job description and tailor these to each role.
- Worry about your CV being too short if it is only one page. Two pages is the ideal length but there’s no need to fill it up with irrelevant information.
- Recruiters spend seconds reviewing each CV, so 2-3 pages is ideal.
- If your CV is too long, you can reduce it using our tips, but make sure you don’t remove the most essential aspects.
- If you feel that your CV is not long enough – perhaps you are a student or graduate without much experience – you can divert from the ‘standard’ sections and add some new ones, such as hobbies and achievements.
- Don’t forget to ask someone else to look over your CV , if you’re not sure you’re capturing the true essence of your skills and expertise. Two heads are always better than one, as they say.