Why keep your CV to two pages?

2 page CV

Why keep your CV to two pages?

There is lots of conflicting CV writing advice out there on the internet. You could hand the same CV to 10 recruitment consultants and get 10 totally different sets of feedback. The thing is people give their own subjective views rather than taking a step back and being objective. However, there is one thing that most people within recruitment do agree on and that is that it is generally better to keep your CV short.

The 30 second rule

Less than 30 seconds is spent on average reading a CV. Various pieces of research attest to this including from The Ladders and National Citizen Service with results coming in at between 6 and 9 seconds respectively. So, there is actually some science behind this headline figure. Why then is so little time spent reading a document you may have spent many days labouring over?

Picture the recruiter

The best way of understanding is to put yourself in the shoes of the time pressed recruiter. They may have a mountain of 50 or more CVs to sift through. The phone goes, it’s the client reminding them they needed someone in place ‘yesterday’. Now, back to those CVs. But what about all the other recruitment assignments? They will just have to wait. You get the picture. There is a limited window of opportunity. You need to make the most of it.

Why the two-page CV format works

In the USA it used to be common for a resume to be one page. In other countries three or more pages were the norm. Over time, a general consensus has converged around the two-page CV as the default length. Not too long as to demand lots of time from the recruiter but not too brief so as to sell the applicant short in terms of providing examples of achievements. It’s about the right balance. There will still be occasions when a longer CV is required – for instance academics with an extensive list of publications. But a two page is ideal for most job seekers.

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ATS systems

The advent of ATS systems means that job seekers now have to get through automatic filtering systems before a human gets to read the CV. ATS systems work by looking for concentrations of key words and phrases in addition to essential qualifications.

Some people now say a longer CV should work better with ATS systems. However, I believe it is wrong to lengthen the CV for two reasons. Firstly, it dismisses the human reader. As far as I am aware no ATS system has reached a stage where it will decide on whom to invite to interview. This decision will be made by a person. Secondly, ATS systems work by analysing concentrations of keywords. Therefore a 10-page CV that mentions a key term five times may not be as effective as a two-page CV that mentions a term three times. In any case, key word ‘stuffing’ (adding a key word multiple times for the sake of it) is a bad idea and can confuse ATS systems and make the CV less intelligible to a human.

So, stick to a two-page CV. It keeps the document short and neatly portable whilst at the same time giving sufficient space to sell your career story.

This article is written by Neville Rose, Director of CV Writers.

CV Writers are the official CV partner to ACCA Careers.

In addition to a CV writing service they can help with LinkedIn profiles, cover letters and interview coaching. You can get things started with a Free CV Review.

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