How long should a CV be?

There is a lot of nonsense on the internet about CV length.  We know from experience that there are strongly held opinions but that it’s probably a minority of applicants who get it right. We canvassed colleagues recently regarding their CV “hobby horses” and overlong  CVs were towards the top of the list.

The worst we have seen recently was 30 pages!

Self evidently an applicant needs to include enough information to demonstrate both their relevant experience and their background and career. Too short and vital information might be omitted: too long and such information will be hard to spot and the reviewer may not even try. Remember the oft-quoted 7-second rule and all the tips and tricks to incorporate when writing your C.V. 

What does a long CV tell the reader about the candidate?

CV length is seen as a clue to the character and long CVs can be thought to indicate an insensitive or verbose candidate. Certainly, such a CV makes it much more difficult for the reviewer to pick out the key points amongst a mass of other applicants.

In the US CVs are very short. However, in other countries, excruciating detail seems to be the norm so it’s important to factor in the prevailing preferences where you reside.

It also partly depends on where you are in your career. In the first few years, one or two pages should suffice.

Also important is what sort of career you’re in: in mainstream line roles even people far on in their careers might be fine with two pages, or at most three.

For management consultants or people in project-based and /or client-facing roles it is acceptable, indeed essential, to have slightly longer CVs to enable the reader to get the measure of your experience. This needs to enable the reviewer to assess clients, projects and capabilities. A good way of doing so is to include examples of projects: indeed a chronology of recent assignments can be an excellent idea.

The “Goldilocks CV”: not too little, not too much!

Report writing skills and the ability to make an impression on time-poor board members are rather important in management consultants! So listing assignments is not an invitation to copy and paste every project you’ve ever done.

Often problems arise because a candidate updates a CV with the latest job or assignment but fails to edit earlier roles and projects so the CV gets longer and longer.

Sometimes an applicant seems to view the CV as a definitive statement of everything they have ever done: there may be a place for such a document but this is not in a job application.

Occasionally I’ve seen a CV where it’s apparent that the person has pasted their job description!

Summary.

For experienced consultants a CV length of two pages might be too short, three pages is probably spot on and four pages are just about OK. No longer.

We have more help and advice on writing a great CV elsewhere on our website, as well as all aspects of preparing for your job search and interviews tips.

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