How long should a CV be?

How long should a CV be? A common question. It used to be said that a CV should always be two pages. Whilst this is often still the most appropriate length for a CV, the rule may not need to be interpreted so rigidly these days.

Below is a guide to when a CV of different lengths might be appropriate when writing your CV. Do remember though that your individual circumstances might be different. A school leaver with no work experience might still be able to fill two pages if there are lots of community activities, sporting achievements and / or academic prizes to present.

All things being equal though, this is my view on the appropriate number of pages for a CV:

When to use a one page CV

  • When it’s your first job after leaving school (providing all of your relevant achievements can be included)
  • When you are producing a US style Resume (I write these as well). Surprisingly though, US employers will accept a two page Resume if there is a good reason for having one
  • Possibly if you have lots of CVs to present within a tender document

When to use a two page CV

  • This is the standard length, so it is suitable for anyone who has had more than one job
  • If you are a graduate (one page is too short and your experience doesn’t justify any additional space)
  • If you are going through a career change (because an over-long CV would be likely to focus on the wrong things whereas getting your message across in a traditional length is more impactful in this case)

When a three page CV may be appropriate

  • For very senior roles in which you have a lot of relevant experience
  • In any circumstances in which you have lots of relevant content that can be reasonably presented in different sections. A long and repetitive employment history section does not justify an extra page, but an extra section or two that is relevant might.

With a three page CV, one of my favourite techniques is to produce a traditional two page CV plus an additional page that does something new. Examples from my experience are:

  • If you are an experienced academic – your additional page could be a list of publications
  • If you are a creative then you could use this space to showcase your work. Also see my other advice on creative CVs for creative people

The most important thing is that if deviating from the ‘standard’ two page CV, there is a clear justification for doing so.

Graeme Jordan

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CV Writer and Interview Coach. Blogging about ways to improve your CV writing and job searching experience.