Neville Rose, director of CV Writers, answers the fourth in a series of CV career dilemmas.
Question: “I had a CV that was six pages long. I sent it to a recruiter who said that I needed to edit it down to two pages and re-submit it. As you can imagine, this took a fair amount of time to do. I then used my short CV for another application and was told there is not enough detail in it! This contradictory advice is very frustrating. Can you help?!”
I really empathise with you. There is so much contradictory CV advice out there that it must be very confusing and the ‘two-page or not two-page’ question is a great example of this. Part of the challenge is that you are dealing with the opinions of individuals and every person will have their own take on how long a CV should be. Therefore it’s best to take a common sense approach and combine this with a bit of science.
Firstly, the science. Research carried out by Theladders.com using eye scanning technology found that on average, less than six seconds is spent reading a CV. This is despite recruiters self-reporting that they spent four minutes! Other similar surveys have found that less than 30 seconds is spent reading a CV on average. Essentially your CV is being scan read so this must inform your approach to writing it.
So we know that precious little time is spent reading CVs. It therefore makes sense to keep your CV as short as possible. This needs to be balanced by including sufficient information to enable the reader to make a positive decision about calling you to interview. So there is no black and white rule. It is just that two pages is about right in terms of giving yourself a framework to write within and encouraging brevity.
At six pages it sounds as though you have a long career history. But it’s worth remembering that employers are generally interested in what you have been doing most recently. So focus the CV on the last five years of your career. Anything further back can be edited down. You can even leave out some of the earliest jobs if carried out over 15 years ago.
So try to keep your CV to two pages if you can, it’s neater and generally punchier and more impactful. But don’t worry too much if the CV goes over this as long as you are confident you can keep the reader with you.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Haymarket Media Group.