How long should my CV be?

The length of your CV depends on your experience level and your industry.

Why is the length of your CV important?

The most important thing to remember when you are submitting a job application is that the recruiters reviewing your CV are human. Any person tasked with sorting through hundreds of CVs in a single day is likely lose concentration every now and then.

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There is no hard and fast rule that your CV must be restricted to a single page. According to a recent study, recruiters are more than twice as likely to hire someone with a two-page CV than someone whose CV is just one page. Out of the 7712 resumes that were selected for hire, well over half (5375) were two pages. A full 91% of recruiters in this study consider a CV length of two or three pages to be ideal.

This is not to say that your CV should be overly long. It should be concise and to the point. Nearly half of CVs over two pages are discarded, and you don’t want yours to be among them. On average, recruiters don’t spend much more than a minute or two skimming each CV, so it is crucial to focus on what is important and waste no space on irrelevant details.

General Recommendations

An excellent CV does not have to be long. On the contrary: a strong, concise CV that makes an impact is better than a lengthy CV full of unnecessary information.

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If it is specifically requested by an employer, a multi-page CV can usually be made to fit on a single page with the right tweaks. However, there is usually no need to force your CV fit onto fewer pages than it requires. A two-page resume is acceptable if you have enough relevant experience to fill out each page.

You should also avoid half-full pages. If your resume can’t be restricted to one page, try to fill the second page so that your CV doesn’t appear incomplete.

How Many Pages Should a CV Be?

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The length of your CV depends on several factors, including your experience, the industry, the specific job for which you are applying, how large the applicant pool is, and how far into your career you are. Around 90% of applicants have a CV that is one to two pages long. There are a few cases where a three or more page CV is acceptable.

One page is appropriate for you if:

  • You recently graduated from school: This applies to recent high school or college graduates. Since you don’t have much work experience to reference, your CV can feature classwork, school projects, volunteer work, and relevant advanced courses or extracurriculars. More than one page will be difficult to fill, so you’re better off sticking to one page.
  • You have less than two years of work experience: If your work experience is less than two years, and you are applying for a similar position to the one you currently hold, keep your CV to one page. Include relevant work experience or credentials, and exclude anything that is not related.
  • This is a career transition: If you are taking a new career path that doesn’t require previous work experience, then keep your CV to one page. For instance, if you have worked as a clerk for five years, and now you are applying for a job as a waiter, then your clerical experience doesn’t matter as much. In this case, write a solid one-page CV featuring your service experience.

Consider a two-page CV if:

  • You are (or were) an outstanding student: If you have many relevant awards, honors, projects, or work experiences which cannot fit on just one page, then two pages is acceptable.
  • You have more than two years of work experience: If you have been working for two years or more, then it may be appropriate for your CV to be two pages. Experienced professionals with many years of experience may find it difficult to restrict their resume to a single page, so two pages will be needed.

Three pages is ideal for you if:

  • Your profession requires a CV instead of a resume: A CV is always longer than a resume. If you are a researcher, doctor, or professor, or another profession that requires many certificates and licenses, it is appropriate for your CV to be three pages or more. As long as you remember to list only the necessary facts, your CV can be as long as it needs to be in order to cover all of your experience.
  • You are employed by or applying for a job with the government: Governments tend to be rigid and bureaucratic. Include all information you deem necessary to meet the requirements. This will likely require your CV to be three or more pages in length.

Is a 4 page CV too long?

The simplest answer is maybe. Strive for your CV be two pages, or one if you are fresh out of school. However, there are several factors that affect your CV length, so operate with an understanding of your qualifications and the job you are seeking. If you are not a highly experienced professional and your CV exceeds four pages, you likely need to do some editing.

Remember that while your CV is not a shopping list of everything you ever did, it is a detailed account of your credentials. It is appropriate to include all your relevant certifications, licenses, affiliations, etc. This is why there is no hard and fast rule for how long your CV should be. Everyone’s CV will be a bit different, and you ought to include everything that is appropriate.

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How long is too long?

For many years, the rule of thumb was that a CV should not exceed one page. In the typewriter era, when most people spent their careers in just one or two long-term positions, it was easier to keep a CV this short. Furthermore, the less the paper required the better!

Nowadays, however, people may change jobs twelve times in their career. This means that, on average, a worker will spend five or fewer years in a particular position, according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics’ 2018 report.

More positions means more accomplishments and more certifications, and effectively putting everything on a single page becomes more challenging. But does it mean your CV needs to sprawl all over four to five pages? No! Recruiters are largely interested in the most recent ten years of your career.

So, the long answer is that your CV is too long if it contains more information than recruiters can grasp with a first glance. Research has shown that recruiters spend a mere six seconds, on average, with each resume or CV. If a recruiter feels that you padded out a CV for the sake of making it longer, they will not be able to discern what is real and what’s not.

If you are an executive or professional with extensive experience, your CV can be longer. If your career is just getting started, and you find your CV exceeding three pages, it may be wise to examine it to see if you can make it more focused.

How to trim your CV:

  • Change the template: Look to see if your CV takes up too many pages just because of extraneous images, or too much white space. Try using a simpler design that keeps the document’s focus on your text.
  • Edit for focus: Have you included content that is of no interest to the recruiters? Focus on the job description, and exclude any information that won’t help your application. While you should list your achievements, stay away from a full description of previous duties. You can expand on the details in the interview.
  • Play with formatting: Decrease the font size, eliminate extraneous spacing, or widen your margins. However, do none of this at the expense of readability. An extra page is better than an impenetrable wall of text.

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For more examples, check out VisualCV’s CV Examples

The Bottom-Line

Tailor your curriculum vitae to the job you are targeting. Prove your professionalism by presenting the relevant information in a brief and focused manner. If your credentials can fit on a single page, then keep it to one page. If not, there is no harm in more. If you are worried, you can always hire a professional CV writer!

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For more help putting together your CV, or to find examples, check out our CV Templates. You can also get you started with our CV builder and start building your CV today.

Happy interviewing!

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