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How many pages should a CV be?

(A highly unscientific experiment to discover the optimum length of your Resume if you have loads of experience)

Introduction

I am often asked what is the ideal length of a CV / Resume? Many people looking for jobs have heard that 2 pages is the maximum length a CV should be, whereas other more experienced candidates who may have 20 years work experience wonder how they can squeeze all that knowledge and experience into a two page document.

Believe me, I’ve seen many epic documents that would put War and Peace to shame, I’ve also seen fresh graduate CVs which manage to fill two pages with paper rounds and boy scouting achievements. Unsurprisingly the answer lies somewhere in the middle. I’ll tackle the issue of having more than enough experience in this article and deal with the ideal length of a Graduate CV in another post.

Methodology

In the course of my studies I was taught that nothing can be true unless it is empirically proven. This thinking prompted me to conduct a (not very scientific) study to solve this very conundrum. In the pursuit of truth, and a bit of inside knowledge to solve the mystery of the perfect CV length, I issued questionnaires to a random sample of HR and hiring managers to find out what their thoughts are on the subject. Now it should be noted in the interest of pure science that my experimental sample comprised all engineering recruitment people. However, I reckon that my findings apply whatever your sector.

Results

A 2 or 3 page CV will help prevent your reader nodding off and maybe stop your Resume being filed in the bin.

Summary

Most of my respondents were kind enough to provide comments and inside info on their personal thoughts on the matter. The feeling was overwhelmingly that CVs of 2 or 3 pages were about as much as most recruiters would want to read before passing quickly on to the next candidate. In truth the decision is probably made in the first half page, and certainly that all important first paragraph will determine whether or not your reader drops you like a hot cake, or curls up for a good read… at least until the end of the second page.

Those of you with many years of experience and perhaps multiple jobs, don’t despair at this point. You can still fit your relevant work experience into 3 pages. Relevant being the keyword here.

Let’s imagine you started work as an electrical fitter at a petrochemical company, progressed to working offshore as an electrical technician. You picked up your tickets and diligently did your homework, studied part time for your 16th Edition, progressed through all the flaming hoops, and ended up with an engineering degree working as an electrical and instrumentation engineer designing integrated systems for offshore oil rigs. Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of about 6 pages of CV which your next employer will not be interested in.

Here’s why. Your next employer is looking for someone who can hit the ground running, who has the knowledge and qualifications to do a specific job for them. Harsh as it may be , they just aren’t interested in your boy scout badges and worthy heritage of hoop jumping to get where you are now. For most roles which require prior experience, employers are looking for that experience to be in the last couple of years.

Also worth remembering that there may be other random factors affecting your chances here, like your reader having a bad day, and really not being interested in your prowess at growing prize winning turnips in 1981. If you haven’t grabbed them in the first two pages, your certainly won’t have much allure after the sixth.

Conclusion

Make your CV / Resume no longer than 3 pages, bin anything over 10 years ago, or summarise it in a series of one liners, date, company and job title. Most importantly make the most of the past 3 to 5 years of relevant experience that you have, if you really want to give yourself a fighting chance of landing your next job.

For any proper scientists reading this blog, before you write in telling me my methodology is floored, and my report writing skills are poor… I know!

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  • Jeyakumar

    This can be suitable for USA and European countries, but many other companies still asks for a detailed resume.

  • desmond

    thanks for the info

  • Peter

    Hi Rowena:
    Thanks.
    They say no one has done so much that it can not fit on one page; (Hmm, my flaming hoop experience… at the beginning or end…whot?)

  • http://www.oilcareers.com Rowena Simpson

    Hi Peter,

    With reference to your flaming hoop experience I reckon you should save this for the hobbies and interests section. Unless of course you were trained in jumping through such hoops in the course of your career?

    Rowena

  • http://www.logicalps.com Jason Lockley

    I think that whilst the length of the CV can be a bit off putting if it is too short or too long it is “Page 1″ that seals the deal…If you have a good punchy profile and a good concise set of “key skills” and the first couple of most recent jobs are aligned to what the client is looking for then they will read on (or not). Get page 1 squared away and as long as the rest of it is not too ridiculous (Short or lengthy), then you have got the fish nibbling at the bait and interested in taking the hook!!

  • Dale Kenny

    You can’t apply a rule to this…I kind of wish people would stop trying. Everyone is different, and everyone is looking for something different. But you know what always confuses me? If someone loses interest after the first page or two, so what? It really just means they’ve made their mind up already. It’s better to have a 6 page CV and not need it than to need a 6 page CV and not have it. Nobody is forcing anyone to turn the 3rd page and bore themselves, but some people want to know what a candidate did from the beginning.
    Have a synopsis on the first page. If someone wants a 1 page CV they can stop there.

  • http://www.oilcareers.com Rowena Simpson

    Dale,

    Thanks for your comment and different perspective. The feedback I have had from the HR and recruiters I have asked indicates that there are initially put off by finding a 6 page CV. You and Jason are both right, it’s page one that really is the most important part, and can make or break the decision.

    Unfortunately it is a fact that most CVs are read very quickly in the first instance to guage whether the candidate is a potential fit. So first impressions are very important here.

    Here is a link to another blog I wrote about how to create and effective opening statement on your CV.

    Rowena

  • Dave

    All good advice worth following. Make sure that your speling is correct too.

  • Hafez Mahrous

    A Covering letter First, followed by the CV personal details in short, Services and Company name as a Heading Service date (a short briefing of your services) that more than enough.

  • Babuaraj

    The CV with proper reflection of the proffessional and the other experience may be long but the employer must go through by taking little time, for the better option and long term benefit

  • http://www.oilcareers.com joseph kojo williams

    Thanks for your comment and the details of your oil&gas company.
    I wish i could hear better news.

  • joseph kojo williams

    I have send my CV WITH MY DETAILS OF THE TYPE OF JOB I AM REQUESTING FOR.THANKS A LOT OF ENCOURAGE ME A BETTER NEWS.

  • Kerry

    Very accurate and helpful! I have a template CV with all of my career past on it and I just copy and paste a new one when applying for a new job. This allows me to edit the CV to highlight my most relevant experience and removing anything that would bore the recruiter!

Disclaimer: Any views here do not necessarily reflect the views of OilCareers Ltd. As such we cannot be held responsible for the views expressed here or any actions taken as a consequence.

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