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How Long Should a CV Be? Does It Even Matter?

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Whether I’m talking to a fresh graduate or a seasoned professional, one question I keep getting is: how long should a CV be?

Some people swear by the traditional two-pager, while others believe hiring managers prefer a concise single-page document.

Well, answering this is tricky because the expected length changes from one case to another. The industry and years of experience are just two factors to consider.

What’s the ideal CV length for you, and when does it matter? That’s what I set out to find in this post.

How Long Should a CV Be?

The Curriculum Vitae, which is different from a resume and a cover letter, is usually around two pages long.

Yet, it can range from a single page to over 15 pages, depending on the situation.

Can You Have a One-Page CV?

If you sum up your CV in a one-page document, it’s going to be more of a resume.

Keeping the document this short is recommended for entry-level applicants or fresh grads who don’t have a lot of work history or academic credentials to cover.

That said, studies indicate that a short CV won’t perform as well as a strong two-pager.

Is a Three-Page CV Too Long?

To an applicant tracking system (ATS), a three-pager is absolutely fine. However, the problems begin once the CV lands in the hands of a hiring manager.

It’s not a deal-breaker, but it can overwhelm a recruiter used to scanning regular two-page CVs. So, if you go for this CV length, make sure that it’s expected in your industry and seniority level.

Here are some situations where a three-page CV is acceptable:

  • Executive roles
  • Academic applications
  • Highly technical roles that require case studies

Can an Academic CV Be Three Pages?

Yes, a three-page CV works best for an academic job seeker with extensive research experience.

The extra space can accommodate a long list of publications, awards, grants, patents, and scholarships.

That’s why research institutes are more flexible about their CV length limits. In fact, some allow seasoned professionals to submit 15 pages or more!

How to Write an Academic CV

Can a CV Be Four Pages Long?

Technically, a CV can be four pages long. However, for most job applicants, a four-pager is overkill.

Go over the CV to see if you have redundant information or formatting errors. This step can shrink the document to two or three pages.

That said, if the recruiter specifically asks for a CV instead of a resume, they might be more willing to go through a four-pager.

How Long Should a CV Be for Internship?

It’s okay to use a one-page CV if you’re a student or a recent graduate applying for an internship. Employers won’t expect lengthy CVs, anyway.

Assuming that you don’t have a lot of work history, we’d recommend adding any volunteer experience or extracurricular activities.

If you do have relevant work experience, the CV can go up to two pages.

You can also boost your chances by attaching a cover letter along with your CV. If this is your first time writing one, some cover letter tips can come in handy!

How Long Should a CV Be for Residency?

Aim for two or three pages when you’re building a CV for a residency application.

You don’t have to worry about the length too much if you’re filling out an ERAS. All the items on the form are necessary, and residency programs can extract a CV from the ERAS application.

As long as you don’t fluff up sections, you don’t have to shorten it if it exceeds three pages.

ERAS tips | feat tips from program directors

You can still choose to send a stand-alone CV with the application, but keep it concise. If the residency program asks for a resume instead of a CV, you’ll be better off using a one-pager.

What Should You Include in a CV?

Since your CV should be more comprehensive than your resume, you have more room to add vital information about your professional experience and work history.

Here’s what you’ll need to cover:

  • Name
  • Contact Information
  • Education
  • Work Experience (organize this section in reverse-chronological order)
  • Skills (soft and hard skills)
  • Areas of Interest (helps the recruiter form a complete picture)

Concise lists are enough for sections like skills sets. However, for areas of interest, it’s better to use descriptive sentences.

Listing down hobbies feels generic and drains the personal touch out of the section.

How Far Back Should a CV Go?

The information on your CV can go back 10-15 years.

For most industries, experiences beyond that limit are no longer relevant.

Some people also believe that the 15-year limit helps combat ageism since it gets the recruiter to focus on your current skill sets instead of your age.

What Should You Leave Out of a CV?

Although a CV can be more than two pages long, you don’t want to waste space on irrelevant information.

1. Personal Information

It’s okay to include interests, but you don’t have to mention personal information like marital status or social security number.

You can mention your place of birth and nationality only if they affect your legal work status or visa requirements.

2. Negative Job Experiences

There’s a fine line between highlighting challenges in your work history and outright criticizing previous employers.

Some people leave out negative job experiences altogether. However, this can leave an ugly gap on the CV.

To avoid this gap, try to keep this item as brief as possible. Listing the job title, organization name, and employment date on one line without any further details will do.

3. Low Scores

Most experts agree that it’s better to leave out the score if your GPA is under 3.5. Instead, you can use this space to cover more relevant degrees.

How to Shorten Your CV

Employers don’t usually set a length limit for CVs, but it’s still a good idea to sum it up if you think there’s wasted space.

Here’s how:

1. Keep Info Relevant

It’s great to add specific tidbits about the company you’re applying for, but there’s no need to do that on the CV.

Instead, direct all the organization-specific info to the cover letter.

Some people find it challenging to format the cover letter correctly on a blank document. Thankfully, some cover letter creators can make things easy.

2. Use Smart Formatting Techniques

If you can’t cut from the information, try to shorten the CV by using formatting tools to your favor.

For instance, the typical CV template will have a 1-inch margin. If you need more space, cut it to 0.75 inches and keep it consistent on all sides.

Although there are a lot of great fonts to use, you need to pick 11-12pt to avoid cramping up the CV.

To save even more space, avoid using full sentences when listing duties in your work history section. Instead, begin with action verbs and get right to the point.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Unprofessional to Have a Two-Page Resume?

Although most resumes are one-page long, it’s fine to use a two-pager as long as all the information is vital.

However, you’ll want to make sure that the hiring manager isn’t expecting a one-page resume instead of a traditional two-page CV.

How Long Should a CV Be for a Senior Position?

Two or three pages is a good range if you’re applying for a senior position. Going beyond three pages can be excessive, even for executives.

You can opt to write a longer version and have it ready in case the interviewer wants more details. Otherwise, use the concise two-pager.

Wrapping Up

The average CV is two pages long. This length hits the right balance between being concise and covering all the relevant info.

Yet, it’s possible to have longer CVs if you’re an academic or an executive with a lot of relevant experience from the past 10-15 years.

Don’t be discouraged if you can only fill up a one-pager. Some employers only ask for a resume, which is supposed to be one page long, anyway.

Leave a comment below if you still have questions about the ideal CV length!

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