Your CV is the key to the interview room door.
But there are only a few seconds to create the right impression.
A CV is like Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
Too long it won’t be read. Too short it won’t provide enough information.
You need a perfect size CV.
One that is read by the employer. Impresses them. And, gets you the interview.
How Long is a Perfect Size CV?
In general, a CV should be 2-3 pages long.
But, it will depend on where you are in your career.
A 1 page CV is too short except if you’re a school leaver without work experience.
A student or graduate should have 2 pages at the most in their CV.
Whilst someone with a longer career should ideally have 2 pages, but with a maximum of 3 pages if there is a lot of relevant experience.
A CV that’s more than 3 pages long simply won’t get read.
So, what are the steps to create a CV with the ideal length?
1. Choose an Effective Template
Why reinvent the CV wheel?
The start point for your CV should be a template that you can easily add your information to.
CVs have been around a long time. As a result, there are lots of good templates as well as some really bad ones.
What makes an effective template?
1.1 Distinct Sections
Check that the template has spaces for the following information:
- Name and contact details
- Personal Profile / Statement
- Key Skills
- Work History / Career Experience / Professional Experience
- Education / Qualifications / Skills
1.2 Clear and Readable Font
Your CV is your sales document, so you want it to be easily read.
Remember that it will be read both online and on paper.
I avoid using Serif fonts that are too ‘scripty’ as they distract the reader from the content.
Also, it’s important that you keep the size of the font at least 11 pt.
There are times I’ve been tempted to squeeze extra words into a CV with a smaller font. But, that makes the CV less readable.
So, it’s always best to stick firmly to a font size for the whole document. If there is not enough space in the document, reword it to remove redundant words.
1.3 White Space in the Right Place
Strange as it may sound, white space is key to a great CV.
This doesn’t mean a blank page!
Instead, the correct use of white space is to break up the wording and allow your details to shine.
Bullet points are a great way to use white space. They help the eye to focus on bite-sized pieces of information.
Long paragraphs of unbroken text look ‘hard’ and are difficult for the reader to skim read.
Also, remember to choose a template that does not have lots of redundant space in.
Attractive formats look lovely but I have to think whether it limits the space that I’ll be able to write in.
2. Add Your Most Important Content
2.1 Personal and Contact Details
When you’re buying a house, a roof is essential. But by itself, it won’t determine whether you buy the house.
The same goes for your personal and contact details.
They won’t make the difference between getting an interview or not. But you need to include them and check that they’re accurate.
As well as your name, these should include your email address, postal address and phone number.
2.2 Key Skills
Each CV should include a skills section.
However, if you choose to create a skills-based CV these become even more important.
When you create your CV for the first time or if you’re changing careers it’s better to focus on your transferable skills.
A key question to ask is, what skills do the job description list as a requirement?
Once you know the skills that the job requires, you should identify situations where you’ve shown those skills before.
These could be in a different job, voluntary work or from one of your interests.
Focus on the ‘Essential’ skills in the job description. These are the most important ones to add to your CV and should be at the top of your skills list.
Other skills which are ‘Required’ can also be included. However, most employers are more flexible with these skills, so you don’t have to provide examples for each one.
2.3 Career Experience
Career experience is the meat of your CV.
Employers will spend most of their time reading this section.
So, this is where most of your time should be spent too.
Start with a list of your employment history in reverse chronological order i.e. start with your current or most recent role and then add the previous roles below it.
Against each role describe your responsibilities and achievements.
Good rules of thumb to decide how much to write are:
- Write more about roles that are more relevant to the job you’re applying for.
- Write more about later roles and less about older ones.
- Write more about longer roles and less about shorter ones.
Even if your CV is focused on transferable skills, recruiters will still want to see your record of work experience. You should include a basic description of each job without lots of detail.
2.4 Clear, Concise and Unique
When you’re writing about your experience, achievements or skills, sum each one up into a single ‘soundbite’.
Try to capture each individual point into a single sentence, without making the sentence too long.
For example, rather than writing:
“When I worked as a customer sales advisor I achieved a high-performance rating for the referral sales that I made for the store’s new range of summer clothing. My sales were higher than what was expected of the customer sales advisors in the store.”
You can rewrite this as:
“Exceeded sales targets with a 20% increase in referrals of summer clothing.”
Also, the more unique you can make the statements the greater chance your CV has to stand out.
3. Review and Edit Your CV
3.1 Remove Repetition
Once you’ve drafted your CV it’s time to review it.
One of the common problems I find during CV reviews is repetition.
This makes a CV longer than it needs to be and does not read well.
Repetition can happen with the use of the same words in quick succession. Or when a particular achievement or responsibility sounds the same as another one.
Even if they relate to different events at different times, it is best to remove one or reword it so it sounds different to the other.
3.2 Avoid One-Word Lines
When you’re trying to save space in your CV, a great technique I use is to hunt for one-word lines.
Look for sentences that wrap onto two lines and highlight any where there is only a single word on the second line.
This is using up a whole line just with that one word.
If you can rewrite the sentence to use fewer words, and avoid the wrap onto the second line, you can save yourself a whole line!
3.3 Ask a Friend to Review it
By this point, you probably feel that you know your CV off by heart.
That’s why the final step should be to ask to ask a friend to review it.
Someone who has not written the CV themselves will be able to review it an objective way and spot any remaining errors or unclear sentences.
Listen to their feedback and amend your CV to take on board their comments.
Your CV is the most important tool to help you get an interview. When we make a CV too long or too short it damages our chances of getting an interview.
Create your CV using a format that will make your experience stand out. Choose an easy to read font, include the required sections and give yourself enough space.
When you add your skills and career experience, focus on the most important and most relevant information to the job you’re applying for.
Finally, take the time to review and polish your CV. Ask someone else to read it before you submit it.
How long is your CV? What steps have you used to create the perfect size CV?