Two page CVs – yay or nay?

“I can’t possibly cut my CV down to two pages, I have too much experience and won’t fit everything in.”

A client recently said this to me but, surprisingly, they only had eight years of work history. I’m used to hearing this reaction, in fact, I hear it almost every week but usually from those with 20+ years’ experience who are concerned about the brevity of two pages. Still, however many years of experience clients have, the two page “rule” can seem an insurmountable barrier or unwanted restriction.

Let’s break that barrier down by addressing three misconceptions

1) A CV should list all current and prior job responsibilities.

It shouldn’t. You need the details of each role to show your path and chronology but stick to key points and select relevant highlights that showcase (with evidence) the scale and scope of the role, the impact you had and the value you generated for a business.

2) People read CVs end to end.

They don’t. Sorry, but they really don’t. They scan them, looking for key skills, experience and traits in order to yay or nay your application and move on to the next candidate. Most won’t read the second page in detail as it’s there to set out your career history and verify you meet the education and professional development criteria.

3) You have to explain what you do in detail.

You don’t. A hiring manager or recruiter in the field of activity you are working in will know the nuts and bolts of what you do in your role, so you don’t need to explain all the facets or include the obvious. It’s really not necessary to list ‘going to meetings’ on your CV!

So, how do you move beyond these misconceptions?

The two page “rule” is best practice that has become an expectation rather than a rule set out anywhere, but it is a good rule to stick to, for the three reasons above – showcase, ease of information access and conciseness – and its good discipline to avoid the temptation to keep adding and adding.

But, more importantly in a time of online job adverts and submissions, applicant scanning software (ATS) employed by most recruiters and companies has a word limit, usually between 1,000 – 1,200 words, which is approximately two pages if you keep to a readable 10 or 11-point font. More than that and it gets cut off.

As for cutting down your activities, think about it. You don’t just keep talking and talking in an interview (or shouldn’t unless your aim is to bore your listener), so why keep writing and adding to your CV.

For both interview responses and CVs, the success factor is CCR – clear, concise, relevant.

There is also the question of one page or two? If you have more than eight years’ experience, then I’d say two pages, but it does depend on what you’ve done and what you’re applying to do. In addition, don’t focus too much attention on anything more than 10 – 12 years ago.

Show all of your roles so your professional history is all there and include the basics of company, dates and role but think about condensing your earlier roles to give focus to your more recent and relevant achievements and outcomes.

Recently, a senior client I’m coaching who had a very engaging and well-crafted CV from one of my colleagues saw a peer of his flashing about a jaunty one-pager and wanted our advice on whether he should have one too. The answer – no.

Text boxes, charts and icons don’t get read by most ATS software so it’s better to go for simple formatting and clear content. Plus, with some information in a side margin and some in the centre the narrative is difficult to follow.

A clear, concise accessible CV makes it very easy for the reader to scan and puts you in the ‘must know more’ pile of candidates – don’t make them hunt for the info they need or they’ll move on!

Top tips

  • Cut out skills and experience that isn’t relevant to the role you are applying for and focus on the good stuff
  • Use crisp phrases and short sentences, and cut the fluff and fillers
  • Keep personal details to a minimum – brief location (i.e., London, SW2), email, phone and a link to your LinkedIn profile, ideally using a vanity URL
  • Avoid cliches. Who isn’t going to say they have excellent time management and are a great team player?
  • Date of birth, gender, marital status…all a NO

If you’d like some help wrangling your experience, skills and knowledge into a smart, concise CV that showcases your value, then why not get in touch for a quick chat about what we do and how we can help you?

Linkedin Louise Newton
Photo by Padrinan on Pixabay

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