I am about to make a generation of CV writers scream.
I am about to make a generation of job hunters a little less worried.
I am also going to tell a generation of recruiters something they already know.
A CV CAN be longer than two pages. There are even many, many occasions when it SHOULD be longer. One recruiter I know says she doesn’t take a candidate seriously unless their CV is at least FOUR pages long. It doesn’t have to be of course, but there are no rigid rules, whatever lazy recruiters or career “coaches” may tell you.
How dare I say this? Doesn’t everyone “know” submitting anything longer is job application suicide?
- Whatever you do, your CV must sell you effectively. Consider what it is about you that you wish to sell and then ensure that the CV has a sharp focus on that. Think hard about the professional journey that you wish to make. Ensure the CV will play to the strengths that you need to demonstrate to reach that end goal.
- It’s stating the obvious, but use your space well, by which I mean make sure what you say has substance. Too often CVs are full of anodyne, unsupported statements such as “effective leader with consensual management style”. Says who? And why? Use examples where possible and if you’ve got something to highlight, then do it.
- Make sure that your key duties and key achievements are clearly stated and give preference to those which you think will help you make the vital next step.An example of this could be “successful commercial manager with a proven ability to increase sales, demonstrated by having led a team which, between 2010 and 2012, increased its division’s sales by 20%”.
- If you have impressive academic results and you’re going for an intellectually driven role, there may still be a case for keeping your education near the top. If your education is increasingly lacking relevance, and the potential employer is not asking for your academic credentials, then it may as well move to the bottom.
- Make sure you start the whole thing off with a punchy profile which leaves the reader in no doubt that you mean business and know how you want to progress your career.
- A summary of key skills near the start can also be helpful. Then your career, most recent job first, with a succinct explanation of what you did and what you achieved. The space for each job should get less as you progress through the chronology and whatever you say, it should have relevance.
- Once you’re over 10 years of career history, consider condensing the earlier jobs down to a summary of what you were doing and when – simply so people don’t assume that there is a gap in your CV.
- And can you get that all into two pages? It depends. And is it a disaster if it runs over two pages? Probably not. In fact given the importance of database coding and search ability there is something to be said for packing information in.
Obviously there is a balance to be struck but if you need three or more pages to do the job then do it, don’t reduce your life to ungrammatical phrases in 9pt Arial Narrow. Just make sure you have a really riveting tale to tell.
David Welsh (with apologies to Heidi Nicholson)