The question of how many pages a CV or resume should be? arises frequently, so I’ve had a google around at advice on length of CV on the web and found that opinions differ. In order to try to provide you with some sensible advice I thought I’d ask the very people who should know how long a CV should be, whose opinions really matter, and those who will be making a judgement on you based on your Curriculum Vitae – the end employers and Human Resource managers. So in order to write this article and give you the best possible advice, I’ve asked all my HR contacts to complete a short survey regarding how many pages a CV should be, and in this article I will share my findings with you. I’d like to point out that the opinions are solely those of UK employers, and so the optimum length of a CV in other countries may differ, however the general advice may well apply, and for those job seekers applying from overseas for jobs in the UK it will also be useful information.

When asked the question “What is the ideal length of a CV (number of pages) in your opinion and experience?”, the overwhelming response was 2 – 3 pages. I have seen articles saying a CV should be no more than 1 page long, which I consider too short. So I asked the question “What is your reaction to a CV of only one page?” Again the response was overwhelming in saying that this would be too short. Employers considered a CV of only one page to be vague, lacking in information, crammed, not enough experience to make a judgement on, and even graduate CVs were expected to contain more than one page demonstrating why they would make the ideal potential employee. I thought I would go the other way, as many people ask me if their CV is too many pages. I asked “What is your reaction to a CV of 5 or more pages?” Again the response was almost unanimous in the perception that a CV longer than 4 pages was waffling, contained too much information, irrelevant detail, was too long and that they would lose interest and perhaps even stop reading it before then end.

This led me to thinking what about the more experienced candidate who has been working for say 30 years, how should they detail their work experience and do justice to the vast knowledge they have amassed while not exceeding the 2 – 3 page rule? I asked the question “If you are reading a CV of someone with 10 years plus experience, how important is the detail about experience which is more than 10 – 15 years ago in your assessment of the candidate?” Most employers responded to this by saying that over 10 to 15 years you should only put dates, employer name and job title, they thought that you should omit the detail of the role. The information on jobs more than 10 – 15 years ago gives them insight into how your career has progressed but the detail was not at all important. This advice should help those with more work experience to shorten their CV without feeling that they are compromising their experience. Employers are most interested in what you have been doing recently, remember that as an applicant you are probably being assessed against a large number of other skilled and qualified candidates, so it will be those who most closely recently match the job requirements who will be shortlisted. This may be depressing news for some who feel that they have substantial and relevant experience albeit from 15 years ago, but I’m sharing inside information here about how it will be perceived. Incidentally for those looking for a change of career, perhaps back to something they did several years ago, you may be interested in another article I have written on this subject. Click here for career change advice.

The quality of CVs that come across my desk daily varies enormously, so as an afterthought I asked “How important is spelling and grammar to you when assessing a CV?” Again the overwhelming response of the people who will typically be reading your CV or resume, and making a judgement on your suitability, responded that poor spelling and grammar reflected an applicant who couldn’t be bothered, lacked effort. They replied that poor spelling and grammar on a CV generally gave the impression of someone who hadn’t put any real care or time into making their application. I realise that spelling and grammar is not a strong point for many people, but you probably have spell check on your computer, you can buy a dictionary and you can ask someone else to proof read your CV for you…. I expect this last point will prompt a flood of eagle eyed Giraffe blog readers to respond with numerous errors on this very blog! I really must get round to reading Eat Shoots and Leaves one day!

For more advice on writing a winning CV you might like to watch the 4 short videos I have prepared offering further advice based on inside information on reactions from hiring managers and my own experience of spending the majority of my working day reading applicant’s CVs.

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Comment by Andy Lucas on March 5, 2010 at 1:10pm
YES!! I literally just got off the phone with a candidate who applied last night with a single-page resume. I was intrigued enough to call him, so in one sense I guess the single-page worked, but the main purpose of my phone call was to ask, "do you have a longer version I can see?" There's no way an experienced professional can do themselves justice on a single page.

I like to see details on their past 10 years of experience, I've recommended preparing an addendum with work history prior to that (have copies ready at the interview), but there's absolutely no reason to inflict more than 3-4 pages on anyone.
Comment by Rowena Simpson on March 25, 2010 at 10:04am
Yes quality is always better than quantity I reckon, and if the quality was there in one page it was enough to get you hooked, but as you say you still needed more information to get a true idea about your candidate.


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