Two pages, good!
There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to CV length, because it’s the content that influences whether you get the interview or not. If your CV is in electronic format and likely to be added to a job board or employers’/recruiters’ database, it’ll be your use of appropriate keywords that will determine whether or not your CV gets ‘found’, not its length (and i’ll talk more about ‘keywords/buzzwords and phrases’ in the next instalments).
Having said that, I’d strongly recommend sticking to two pages. You never know how your CV is going to be distributed once you’ve sent it to its primary target. Some CV readers might print a hard copy, in which case a two-page CV is far more user-friendly and likely to be read more quickly. Some employers receive hundreds of applications for each job, and they’re unlikely to enjoy reading a detailed three- or four-page document, because it doubles their workload and is time consuming.
A well-written two-page CV is more likely to hold the reader’s attention. And if you choose a format (i.e chronological or skills-based) that suits your situation then that will enable you to prioritise and highlight the most pertinent information, and summarise points that aren’t as important.
Another great reason to limit content to two pages is that you’re demonstrating to the reader that you are able to summarise the most important and relevant aspects of your career. If you have a career spanning several decades, or have had a variety of jobs, then a general rule of thumb to consider is that you only need to summarise your five or six most recent jobs, for example. You don’t need to list jobs going any further back, so that should help you to condense your content down to two pages, which is ample amount of space to provide a suitable summary that will help the reader to peruse your CV quickly.
Talk about achievements
Writing your CV is not an easy undertaking, and it takes much thought and application to make it stand out from the crowd. Employers aren’t simply interested in seeing a list of things you’ve done in your day-to-day work, nor do they just want a list of your skills. If you simply list your skills and duties, you’re making a huge mistake, because that’s what most job applicants do, and it means that you won’t stand out in any way, shape or form. I can tell you from first-hand experience that it really becomes boring when reading CV after CV if job seekers haven’t made an effort and have presented a CV that is simply a list of things they’ve done. Speaking personally, I used to put such CVs to the bottom of my long list or permanently archive them (if you know what I mean!). Most people involved in CV-sifting are far more ruthless than I am and are likely to confine a ‘duties and skills list’ CV to the bin.
What they really want more than anything is to see and understand positive results and outcomes from the work you’ve put in. This is because results-orientated people and those who have achieved something are likely to help their business progress and develop, and create a positive working climate. One such way to create a positive tone is to emphasise and talk about your achievements. Many people struggle to ‘sell’ – let alone think of – achievements but it’s not as difficult as you might think.
The internet is a source of millions of different types of jobs published globally on a daily basis. It’s the ultimate communication channel and gives you the advantage of being able to interact with recruiters via email, text, instant message and social networks. Many of these channels are free for job-seekers and relatively easy to use. Job boards are a great example of how the internet is being used as a means of storing and distributing job content.
You might be aware that employers and recruiters use specialist databases to manage incoming CVs and other aspects of the recruitment process. Some of these databases are compatible with the internet and some of them are even internet-based so that CV sourcing activity and processing is streamlined. The internet has become recruiters’ main avenue for sourcing CVs, because it offers them choice and a wide reach; it saves them time and enables them to ‘turn things around’ quickly; and importantly – in today’s climate of cost-cutting – it enables them to save money. So who can blame them for wanting to use the internet a lot more? The online job evolution continues with the growing popularity of social media. You should do your best to adapt to these changes and ensure that your CV is accessible to all who read it.
Here are a few immediate adjustments you can make to ensure that your CV is legible online and is compatible with specialist recruitment databases.
Use a basic and universal font such as Verdana or Times New Roman that is available in the default settings of Microsoft Word and can be read by other non-Word products. Clear, universal text can be added to job boards and other databases easily and then transferred to a recruiter’s database.
Pictures and images might make your CV aesthetically pleasing, but they could inhibit your ability to get a job. Images and pictures can sometimes change the appearance of your CV on the recipient’s computer by shifting sentences and paragraphs to different locations. It’s therefore best not to include pictures or images unless it’s a specific requirement or you are applying for a job within the creative industry, i.e. in graphic design, art or modelling. Your skills, personal attributes and achievements are the most important considerations for the recruiter, so focus your efforts on writing great content.
Don’t include any tables or fancy formatting, because some in-house recruitment databases require the recruiter to cut and paste your CV into a section that handles the search for their entire data. The databases are often very sophisticated and can parse your CV for keywords and contact details and automatically populate appropriate areas of your profile. Not all of these systems handle formatted text and tables well, and they can sometimes behave unpredictably. You can limit the chances of this happening to your CV by steering clear of tables and sticking to a plain document with standard formatting.