Discover the perfect length for a CV with this comprehensive guide

Industry standards state that two pages is the optimal length for a CV. However, unlike a beanie hat or a scarf, one size doesn't fit all. Therefore, the length of your CV will depend on your level of experience and the skills you have in your arsenal.

In this article, we'll cover all eventualities, from when using a one page CV is the best option to why a five-page CV is a no-no.

For most professionals, a CV should be two pages

If you have established yourself in your career, your CV should generally be two pages. Most job seekers fall into this category. Recruiters and HR Managers are almost always short on time and they only spend an average of six seconds reviewing a CV before deciding if a candidate should move forward or not.

This standard length of two pages allows experienced professionals to communicate their value and experience without overwhelming someone already faced with the daunting task of sorting through countless CVs.

Tips on reducing your CV down to two pages

If you find that your CV is far longer, but can't see where to cut it, check out the tips below on how to get your CV down to the optimum length of two pages.

  1. Craft a concise and tightly written Professional Profile - it's a bit like an elevator pitch, so keep it short and sweet while highlighting your added value and what you can contribute to the company. Three or four lines in a paragraph will suffice.

  2. Only detail work experience from the last 10 years if relevant, and discard any experience that isn't relevant. For older roles, all you need is the company name and job title, all on one line.

  3. When considering how long a CV should be, limit education to your highest qualification i.e. a degree, Master's or PhD, which can be on one line, including the educational establishment you attended.

  4. Something you might not have thought of is to decrease the font size, make the margins narrower, and reduce spacing between the lines. But don't do this to such an extent that the recruiter needs a magnifying glass to read it!

  5. If you find there is information you're desperate for the reader to know, but there's no section on your CV for it, include further detail in the covering letter. Here, you have the space to expand on accomplishments, though keep in mind that a cover letter should ideally be just one page in length.

  6. Carefully proofread your CV before submitting, to make sure you haven't repeated yourself or made any errors. Reading it aloud or reading it back to front helps to weed out any mistakes.

How long should a CV be for a graduate or school leaver?

When considering how long should a CV be, we've seen the usual length is two pages. But there are always going to be exceptions, aren't there?

And so, for a graduate, school leaver, or someone with little or no work experience, a one page CV is ideal. In fact, entry-level professionals should have a one-page CV - recruiters will view two pages or more as disingenuous and artificially inflated.

Top tip: Don't try to stretch out your CV with waffle and irrelevant detail to get it to the required two pages. A comprehensive and error-free CV that's one page is still seen as a valid length.

Can an academic CV be 3 pages?

When it comes to academic CVs, or medical CVs, the length of a CV is not so rigid, as often these can include publications, peer-reviewed articles, and many other sections that don't appear on other CVs.

The three-page CV should also be used by those at directorship-level with a significant number of achievements. It can also occasionally be used by freelancers and contractors who need the space to cover a range of projects and assignments.

If you're a decade or two into your career and have written a three-page CV filled with relevant information, the chances are you could cut out some of the details. Remember that prospective employers want to see the skills that you've obtained and developed most recently. Therefore, your current position of employment should contain the most detail, as it's the height of your career so far.

Is a 5 page CV too much?

In short, yes. In most cases.

What recruiting manager in their right mind, with precious little time each day, wants to trawl through five pages of your life story? Yes, it might be very interesting to you and your mum. Not so much to someone who's focused on filling role after role. So keep that in mind.

The takeaway

When asking, “how long should a CV be?”, remember that it isn't a document of your entire career history. Rather, it's just the best, most recent bits, that show you're able to perform the job that the employer is hiring for. If you omit jobs from a decade or more ago, recruiters won't assume that you were unemployed - they're more likely to think that you're smart for focusing on the details that are important to the job in hand.

Struggling to fit all your achievements and accomplishments into your CV while keeping it to two pages? Let TopCV guide you by opting for a free CV review, and we'll steer you in the right direction to achieve this.

This article was originally written by Laura Slingo and has been updated by Elizabeth Openshaw.

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