The first step in working with someone looking for a new job is to find out about their experience, what they are looking for in their next role and understand their longer-term career aspirations. Following this, I will then review their CV and offer advice as to how they could improve it.
Some already have a CV, some need to update one and for others it is their first time of writing a CV. The one question I always get asked is, how long should their CV be.
Nine times out of ten I get told that they have heard that their CV shouldn’t be any longer than 2 pages. They have usually read this somewhere or have previously been told this.
If you do a quick internet search, you’ll be amazed how many articles/posts on CV writing advise of a 2-page limit.
I believe that this one bit of advice can be severely detrimental to an individual’s job search.
Can your CV be too long? Yes, it can, but I don’t believe that there is a set page limit which if your CV does not conform to you will not be selected for an interview.
Having recruited for Accountancy Practice and Insolvency professionals for over 11 years, I have received tens of thousands of CVs from those with no working experience through to those with over 30 years of professional experience.
It’s been my experience that some job seekers are actually doing themselves a massive disservice because they badly present their experience or omit relevant information that could potentially be the decision breaker as to whether they are invited for an interview or not.
I believe the misconception of having a CV no longer than 2 pages is partly to blame.
What is the purpose of your CV?
- The simplest objective of your CV is to secure you the opportunity to interview for the role you are applying for.
- It’s an advert of who you are.
- It’s your opportunity to demonstrate to the reader your career experience.
- It’s also an opportunity to highlight that you are the right potential hire for them.
Why is it important to get your CV right?
For every job advert, I put out I receive over 20 applications per opportunity. This is also the case for companies who advertise their own roles.
Many applications will not be viable at all, some will instantly stand out as suitable whilst others will not best represent the applicant’s experience, potentially resulting in them missing out on the chance to interview.
With so many applications per role, it is important that you are putting your strongest advert (CV) forward.
How I believe the misguided 2-page limit impacts a CV negatively
Having reviewed thousands of CV’s over the years, I have seen candidates do the following to stick to the 2-page guideline;
- Not including a personal statement. This is your chance to give the hiring manager a short synopsis of who you are and what you are looking for.
- Not including enough information about their current/relevant roles. Your current role is one of the most important parts of your CV. Hiring managers after a quick scan of your CV will then study your current role in more detail as it is a significant indicator of your suitability for the role you have applied for. It is key to ensure that you list your most important responsibilities. There may be some role-specific responsivities that you feel are less important or obvious, you should still include these as a hiring manager may assume incorrectly that you don’t do certain things in your role if they are not listed. I’m by no means suggesting that you list ‘Making coffee on an ad hoc basis’ but you should cover the key elements of your role.
- Leaving previous jobs off their CV. There is an argument that jobs that are not relevant to your current career or next role have little importance. However, I advise that you should include the dates, company and position for all the jobs you have had. You don’t need to add any further information under these roles as to your responsibilities, however, the dates of previous employment will show the reader your career timeline from start to present.
- Not addressing unexplained gaps in the CV. It’s important to cover any employment gaps in your career history. You may have been travelling, taken a sabbatical, had an illness, had children or even cared for a relative. Unexplained gaps could give the impression to a hiring manager that you did nothing during that time period.
- Changing the font to a ridiculously small size to condense the CV down. It is pointless investing your time writing your CV to put yourself across in the best possible way if it is difficult to read. I typically suggest a font size between 10-12 dependent upon the font.
- Not listing software/I.T. skills. There are so many different software packages that are used by different companies. Highlighting the specific software you have experience with can set you apart from other applicants if you have listed a software package that the hiring company uses.
- Not including work achievements. If you have received any special recognition, awards or have worked on a high-profile assignment then they are definitely worth highlighting to a potential employer.
- Leaving off personal interests/hobbies. You are not going to be invited to interview based on what you like doing in your spare time, however, I’ve had clients comment on people not having any interests in their CV. They felt that they wanted to see some personality and get a feel for someone from their CV.
Forget the 2-page limit!
CV’s come in all shapes and sizes. Some people like to display the information in a paragraph/essay format and some use bullet points (which is what I recommend). In reality, there is no one size fits all format for CV’s.
I’ve assisted hundreds of professionals to write and amend 1-page CV’s through to 6-page CV’s. The one thing that they all have in common is that the information included has accurately portrayed their experience.
The length of a CV can be dependent upon different factors like the font, font size, formatting and content. The level of content will also differ greatly from someone with 12 months of experience to someone with 15 years.
So, what’s important?
- The information in your CV needs to be relevant and accurately describe what you currently do and have done in previous related jobs.
- It should be displayed in a way that makes it easy to read. This includes, how the information is broken down as well as the font size and type used.
- You should highlight your relevant experience for the types of opportunities you are looking to move into.
- Don’t be scared to add extra information if you feel it is relevant.
Do not miss the opportunity to sell yourself.
If you are worried that your CV is too long.
- Read through your CV and ask yourself if all the information is relevant.
- Check whether you have duplicated any information.
- Unless relevant to your current career/role you are applying for there is no need to list what you did in your roles before starting your professional career. Just list the dates, the company and your position.
To conclude; it doesn’t matter if your CV is more than 2-pages. Your CV can be as long as is necessary for you to portray your career experience and suitability for the opportunities you are looking for.
My opinion on CV length is based on my 12 years+ of recruiting for Accountancy Practice and Insolvency professionals. The length of a CV may be more important within other industries.
For advice about your career options, speak to Scott Lowes at Levitate Recruitment, specialists in placing practice-trained accountants and insolvency professionals across the UK, and find the right role to suit your ambitions.