How To Determine The Ideal CV Length For You
How many pages should a CV be, you ask?
Our general guideline is that less is more.
A one-page CV is ideal, but two pages should be the absolute maximum.
Most importantly, no matter the length, it needs to provide enough evidence to prove that you’re a strong candidate for the role.
In this article, we explain:
- How to determine the ideal CV length for you
- Why you should keep your CV as short as possible
- How to condense your content
- How to adjust your formatting to maximise skim value
How To Determine The Ideal CV Length For You
In our opinion, even the Prime Minister should be able to put together a strong one-page document.
Think of your CV as a movie preview.
It should be a 30-second clip of what the reader can expect to learn more about when they meet you during the hour-long interview.
We never recommend submitting a CV that is over two pages in length.
There are a few exceptions to the rule, however!
If you work in academia, medicine, or a research-related role, you may need to craft an academic CV instead of a traditional CV.
When deciding whether to opt for one or two pages, consider the following:
1) How much experience do you have?
Your CV length should be dictated by how much experience you possess.
- If you have under ten years of experience, you’re allowed one page.
- If you have over ten years of experience, it’s usually fine to stretch your CV to two pages.
- If you held multiple contract roles that were shorter in length, you may need two pages to effectively explain all your projects and what you accomplished in each role.
The most important thing to remember is that even on a longer document, all of the information should still be helping you build your credibility and expand on your story.
Never force your CV to two or three pages just to make yourself seem more qualified by adding additional “fluff.”
2) Is each bullet point adding value?
Your overarching goal should be to create a CV that is as concise as possible, neatly formatted and easy to read.
Each bullet point needs to add value.
You should focus on quantifying your achievements and providing concrete examples of the contributions you made in each role.
You'll still need to weave in your day-to-day responsibilities, but you should be able to cover those in one or two bullet points.
Why you should keep your CV as short as possible
Put yourself in a recruiter’s shoes.
Imagine you’re a corporate recruiter and get a stack of 250 CVs to review.
That's actually the average number of applications recruiters receive for a corporate role, according to Inc. Magazine!
You need to narrow it down to 4-6 candidates to interview.
In an ideal world, you would grab a cup of coffee and carefully read through each one.
In reality, that's often not the case.
At large companies, many CVs are automatically eliminated by applicant tracking systems.
For CVs that make it into the hands of a recruiter, first impressions matter!
Perfectly valid grounds for a recruiter to throw your document into the “no” pile include:
- You provided too much information and your CV was deemed too long
- Your formatting was unprofessional or overly elaborate (think cute colors, photos, or graphics)
- Your writing style is rambling
- You had typos or spelling errors
- You made grammar mistakes
You only have a few seconds to make a good impression.
Research from the Ladders reveals that recruiters spend an average of 7.4 seconds looking at a CV before deciding whether it makes the initial cut.
Your CV is a personal marketing document - not an autobiography.
Be sure to stick to the highlights.
When putting together a CV, your goal should be to pique the interest of recruiters.
By leveraging your CV's content and formatting effectively, you'll get recruiters to want to learn more about you by inviting you for an interview.
What You Should Eliminate Or Condense
If you’re having trouble fitting your CV onto one or two pages, focus on condensing your content and formatting:
1) Condense Your CV's Content
After you put together your draft, you should seek to condense your information as much as possible:
- Instead of listing every single job duty, succinctly describe your tasks and ensure you’re not repeating information.
- For your most recent 2-3 roles, you will need around 4-6 bullet points that are no longer than two lines each. For earlier roles, focus on outlining your major achievements and responsibilities using 2-4 bullet points.
- For roles over 10 years old, consider only including your position, company name and dates in an early career section.
- Consider eliminating work experience that is not relevant to the role you’re targeting – especially if it was a summer job from university or an entry-level role.
2) Adjust Your CV's Formatting
You want your content to fill up the entire page.
Be sure to incorporate some "breathing room" as well, though, so that page doesn’t look cluttered.
White space is not a bad thing!
By incorporating white space, you add visual appeal and skim-value to your document.
Play around with the following elements of your CV's formatting to ensure your content neatly fits onto the page.
If your CV just about fits onto a single page but ran a few lines over, you can adjust your margins to create additional space.
We recommend keeping your margins between 0.5 – 1.0 inch.
You can also adjust the spacing before and after each section to help you condense your content or fill up the page.
However, make sure that your spacing is consistent and that you are incorporating enough of it.
It’ll look less cluttered and overwhelming to read at first glance.
You can reduce your font size if needed, but we don’t recommend going below size 10 font.
About CV Pilots
CV Pilots is an award-winning executive CV writing, career coaching and outplacement firm. Our previous clients include CEOs and senior executives at the world's leading companies.
Here's how we can help you:
CV, Cover Letter and LinkedIn Writing: After a one-hour phone consultation, one of our expert writers will prepare your top-quality personal marketing materials from scratch.
Career Transitions: A powerful combination of our document writing and career coaching services helps position you to secure a new role.
We're a proud member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches. All of our writers have studied at top-tier universities and have solid industry experience.