I am often asked what is the ideal length of a CV / Resume? Many people looking for jobs have heard that 2 pages is the maximum length a CV should be, whereas other more experienced candidates who may have 20 years work experience wonder how they can squeeze all that knowledge and experience into a two page document. Believe me, I’ve seen many epic documents that would put War and Peace to shame, I’ve also seen fresh graduate CVs which manage to fill two pages with paper rounds and boy scouting achievements. Unsurprisingly the answer lies somewhere in the middle. I’ll tackle the issue of having more than enough experience in this article and deal with the ideal length of a Graduate CV in another post.
In the course of my studies I was taught that nothing can be true unless it is empirically proven. This thinking prompted me to conduct a (not very scientific) study to solve this very conundrum. In the pursuit of truth, and a bit of inside knowledge to solve the mystery of the perfect CV length, I issued questionnaires to a random sample of HR and hiring managers to find out what their thoughts are on the subject. Now it should be noted in the interest of pure science that my experimental sample comprised all engineering recruitment people. However, I reckon that my findings apply whatever your sector.
A 2 or 3 page CV will help prevent your reader nodding off and maybe stop your Resume being filed in the bin.
Most of my respondents were kind enough to provide comments and inside info on their personal thoughts on the matter. The feeling was overwhelmingly that CVs of 2 or 3 pages were about as much as most recruiters would want to read before passing quickly on to the next candidate. In truth the decision is probably made in the first half page, and certainly that all important first paragraph will determine whether or not your reader drops you like a hot cake, or curls up for a good read… at least until the end of the second page.
Those of you with many years of experience and perhaps multiple jobs; don’t despair at this point. You can still fit your relevant work experience into 3 pages. Relevant being the keyword here.
Let’s imagine you started work as an electrical fitter at a petrochemical company, progressed to working offshore as an electrical technician. You picked up your tickets and diligently did your homework, studied part time for your 16th Edition, progressed through all the flaming hoops, and ended up with an engineering degree working as an electrical and instrumentation engineer designing integrated systems for offshore oil rigs.
Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of about 6 pages of CV which your next employer will not be interested in.
Here’s why. Your next employer is looking for someone who can hit the ground running, who has the knowledge and qualifications to do a specific job for them. Harsh as it may be, they just aren’t interested in your Boy Scout badges and worthy heritage of hoop jumping to get where you are now. For most roles which require prior experience, employers are looking for that experience to be in the last couple of years.
Also worth remembering that there may be other random factors affecting your chances here, like your reader having a bad day, and really not being interested in your prowess at growing prize winning turnips in 1981. If you haven’t grabbed them in the first two pages, your certainly won’t have much allure after the sixth.
Make your CV / Resume no longer than 3 pages, bin anything over 10 years ago, or summarise it in a series of one liners, date, company and job title. Most importantly make the most of the past 3 to 5 years of relevant experience that you have, if you really want to give yourself a fighting chance of landing your next job.
For any proper scientists reading this blog, before you write in telling me my methodology is floored, and my report writing skills are poor… I know!