Almost every aspect of a CV is a matter of discussion among recruiters, cv writers, career advisers, HR staff and other experts on everything related to job seeking and hiring. Should you include hobbies, which fonts to use, which formatting style etc.
Amongst all these debates, one stands tall above others as the most asked question by job seekers all around the world, from all kind of professions: how long should my cv be? How many pages?
There are numerous articles and opinions dealing with this question, but rare are those that give you a comprehensive understanding of the problem and which factors should you consider when suiting the length of your cv to your specific experience.
Not too long ago, there was a rule of thumb that your resume should not surpass one page. One page and that’s it. What you managed to scramble into this small space, you did. What you didn’t, had to go. That lead to many cases of font decreasing, margin narrowing, weird formatting and numerous other tricks that did less than a favor to applicants trying to stick to aforementioned rule.
Thankfully, times of the golden rule of one-page-resume are behind us and not many hiring managers would see it as disadvantage if your resume is longer than one page.
However, there are some situations where a one page resume is most appropriate, and I’m going to list them now:
- If you’re a post-grad, one page resume is more than enough to list all accomplishments you made during your education. If you were a go-getter and have been extremely active in your extracurricular activities, sports and leadership, a second page in your resume wouldn’t be a sin, but only if you can fill it with relevant activities, awards and accomplishments and not with void phrases or irrelevant information.
- One page should be enough to list all your educational and work highlights. It’s normal to have a couple of jobs till your thirties but one page should still be enough to list all the relevant information. In this case, the second page is not forbidden (especially if you’re a wunderkind who managed to have an extensive list of awards and accomplishments so early in the career), but beware of prolonging your resume just for the sake of the second page. Remember, the goal is to stay concise and focused, so you could keep attention of the hiring manager.
- If you are changing your career dramatically, from one field to something completely different, one page should be enough. In that case, your previous experience is not all that relevant to a new job you applied for. For example, it’s of little importance what you did as a truck driver if you are applying for the job as an account manager in the Bank.
- If you didn’t change jobs often, even if you are in your forties (even fifties) one page can be the correct format. Three or four different jobs can be put onto a single page.
Three-pagers and Other Rare Behemoth Species
As an extreme opposite, there are three-pagers and longer resumes. Let’s name the most common uses of those mammoth resumes:
- If you are an executive, your path was long and filled with accomplishments. It’s ok to put it on three or more pages.
- If you are a medical doctor, your resume should be long enough to list all your experience. Don’t put limits to the length of your resume as long as your presentation is relevant and concise.
- If your career is an academic one, then feel free to put all your research, publications, conferences attended etc. into your resume. It’s good to know that there is another approach to this. It’s the idea of putting all aforementioned academic specifics into an appendix, as a separate document, and keeping the main resume on two pages.
- Creative careers also can have a huge list of references or a big portfolio. References can be included in the resume, but you should present your portfolio in a separate document or present it on the internet.
So, it seems that everybody omitted from two previous lists are doomed to the two-page resume, right? Well, not really. Make no mistake that all job seekers that don’t fit into these categories should have a resume of exactly two pages. Nothing is set in stone in the subtle art of resume writing. Although the majority of hiring managers, resume writers and other experts in this field would recommend two pages for your optimal resume length, if you have more than ten years of work experience, it’s not a must. Everyone has a different set of professional experience and personal circumstances, so your resume should reflect that.
Of course, a majority of mid-seasoned employees will find that a two-page resume is a perfect measure for their experience and that’s fine. But, if you feel that you should shorten yours to just one page, that’s fine too. The point is, there is no perfect length of a resume for everyone. Instead of focusing yourself on the number of pages, it is much better to focus on the following principles to achieve the best length of your resume:
- Be concise. Be precise. Don’t be redundant and spend more of the precious resume real estate than you have to. Remember, you’ve got only a couple of seconds to grab your future employer’s attention. Don’t waste it on irrelevant information.
- Respectively, always put the most important information in the first third or half of the first page. Make that HR Manager grab a sip of coffee in order to proceed with your stunning achievements.
- Do not, I repeat, do not add some irrelevant info only because you heard that two pages is a standard. Finely tuned one-pager filled with intense, straight to the point info can and will create a much better impression.
- On the other hand, if you find that your resume is becoming too long because you’re detailing your jobs from more than 15 years ago, stop it. For all jobs from more than 15 years ago write just the period of work, company name and job title. Nobody is interested in the details of your experience from 20 years ago.
- If you cannot fill two pages but only one and a half or so, you should reconsider shortening your resume to one page. It’s much more pleasing to the eye.
- Use bullets for lists formatting. It’s eye-catching, scannable and persuasive.
- Never, never, never decrease the font size to under 12 in your resume in order to make it one page shorter. That size of text is hard to read, demands concentration and adjusting of paper position in front of the readers’ eyes and you wouldn’t want to put your hiring manager in an uncomfortable position, would you?
- The same goes for playing with margins. Keep it normal and professional.
- If you find it hard to shrink your resume to desired amount of pages, remember that you can always put omitted parts on your LinkedIn profile and put a link to it in your contact details. Regarding that, never omit education, relevant and recent work experience, achievements and awards bullets from your resume. Things that you can move to LinkedIn are hobbies and other less relevant info.
- Never make a shorter resume which doesn’t represent well your experience and qualities.
- If your resume is longer then one page, be sure to include page numbers and your name in footer/header section. In case pages get separated, this can save the day.
- Never put description of one job to two pages. You should finish the field for one job at the end of a page and then start a description of the next older job on the next page. This way a hiring manager won’t have to flip pages back and forth to grasp what you wanted to say.
In the end, keep in mind that there are no hard, unbreakable rules regarding resume length. I don’t know any hiring manager that would reject an excellent candidate on the basis of resume length. That’s because the quality of a concise and relevant expression of your career highlights is always more important than following some outdated rules on resume length.
Finally, if you still cannot decide how long your resume should be, maybe it’s the right time to call a professional resume writer. Resume writing is in many ways an art and a hard skill to master.