The perfect length for a CV has always been a hotly debated topic, but the truth is that there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Generally, one to three pages suits most people, but a lot depends on how your career has progressed so far. This guide explains how long a CV should be for YOU.
How long should a CV be at entry level?
If you’re just
beginning your career journey, a one-page CV is usually sufficient. It’s long enough to show off your education, personality and
skills, whilst avoiding waffle and repetition. Recruiters can spot that a mile off! Don’t drag your CV out to two pages just because you heard that it’s the “right” length for a CV. The right length for a CV is personal to you and your career.
If you’re asking “how long should a CV be” and you’re at school or college, the answer is almost certainly one page. That’s more than enough to get a Saturday job or other such work experience under your belt.
Have you already held a few part-time, voluntary or weekend jobs before starting on the career ladder? That’s great – you have plenty of experience to draw on when writing your CV! Be careful not to go into too much detail though, particularly if these early roles aren’t relevant to your target career. A short summary focused on transferable skills and some achievements is more than enough.
If you’re struggling to fill even one page, take a look at these
extra sections that you could include to give a more rounded view of your skills and abilities.
How long should a CV be mid-career?
Two pages is generally considered the ideal length for a CV once you’re established in your career. That should give you enough space to highlight your experience, achievements and progression, whilst respecting the reader’s time when they’re scanning through it. If it’s well-thought-through, a two-page CV is feasible for most people. If you feel like you can fit it onto one page without selling yourself short, that’s even better!
If you’re struggling to contain your CV to two pages, there are plenty of hacks below to help. You could also ask a trusted friend or colleague to provide input on the overall visual impression and content – a second pair of eyes is invaluable if you’re struggling to see the wood for the trees.
How long should a senior executive CV be?
Can a CV be more than two pages if you’re a senior executive? Ideally not. If you can outline your career in two pages, then you absolutely should – concise beats wordy any day. However, if you really feel like you’d be selling yourself short if you don’t use a third page, then go ahead. This option is generally reserved for Board-level executives.
Remember that more isn’t necessarily better – you need to hold the recruiters attention and take this opportunity to pitch yourself as the perfect candidate. Think about adverts you’ve seen recently – in newspapers, through your letterbox or on billboards – and you’ll notice that they’re rarely crammed with words. They just say the bare minimum necessary to get their point across and sell the product. This should be your aim when you’re advertising yourself.
Too many jobs to fit neatly?
Contractors, serial job hoppers and temps, among others, may feel that the sheer number of roles they’ve held means that they need additional space. However, longer CVs are rarely needed if they’re well-written, and the rules for how long a CV should be still apply. If possible, try to stick to two pages and only spill onto a third if you really feel like you have no alternative – but consider consolidating roles under common headers or focusing on selected highlights first. It’s important that you don’t put off a recruiter by presenting a huge stack of information for them to wade through. Try to take a step back and focus on what really matters. Tailoring the CV to the
job advert can help to make sure that irrelevant details are hacked away.
How can I make my CV longer?
If you’re struggling to fill a page, it’s likely that you don’t have much professional experience. Ask yourself these questions, to make sure you’re telling the recruiter everything they need to know to make an informed decision:
- Have you remembered to add a
profile section? This is a great way to introduce yourself.
- Did you add enough detail to your professional experience? Give an idea of the scope and remit of your roles.
- Did you include your
successes and achievements, as well as your responsibilities, for every job?
- Have you considered
voluntary work that you could add? It may show off new skills
- Have you taken on any responsibilities at college, at university or in
- Is your
education section detailed enough? Did you add university modules, projects, theses and skills acquired?
- Are there any
skills associated with your hobbies that you could add?
- What can you offer, that other applicants potentially can’t? For example, IT applications you can use, languages you speak, security clearances you hold, and so on.
How can I make my CV shorter?
A far more common problem, when you’re wondering how long a CV should be, is having to cram years of experience onto a few pages. When you have a significant amount of experience under your belt, it can seem impossible to fit everything in! Try these hacks to make your CV a more appropriate length:
- Less is more – there’s no need to include every single detail of your career, so be selective
- Save something for interview – just give an overview of the scope and general remit of your jobs
- Avoid repetition by grouping similar jobs together under one heading
- Use bullet points, not paragraphs
- Summarise any roles you held over 10 years ago – it’s your recent career that people are most interested in
- Remove completely any roles held over 20 years ago
- Don’t include a reason for leaving any job, or any salary information
- Include only your highest-level qualification
- Remove optional sections, such as hobbies or volunteering
- Take some of the detail across into your
cover letter, or even your LinkedIn profile
- Tailor the CV to every application, removing irrelevant detail from the master CV each time
What are the exceptions?
The exceptions here are academic and medical CVs. While the same rules apply about keeping it concise and relevant, your list of publications and training courses on their own may well extend over two pages! You could consider adding them as an appendix, or just settle for a longer CV. Readability should be your focus – the normal rules about how long a CV should be don’t apply here.
Your ultimate objective is to grab the recruiter’s attention and influence them to progress your application. Try to
lay out your CV so that you make full use of the space available. You know how long your CV should be now and having a few lines dangling at the top of a new page, or a page that finishes half-way down, doesn’t look great. It also shows a certain lack of attention to detail. Buy yourself some wiggle-room with these tips on making your CV fit the page perfectly:
- Adjust the font size (not so tiny that it’s unreadable or so large that you look like a clown, though!)
- Adjust the page margins
- Incorporate plenty of white space
- Avoid solid walls of text – bullet point instead where appropriate
- Play with the size of the headers