How long should my CV be?

When we first start learning how to compile a CV at school, we are inevitably told that it must not exceed two pages.  At least that’s what I was told, although our careers advisor was assuming that we would either write our CV by hand or use a typewriter!  Two pages is a good place to start, but you have to be realistic – it isn’t always appropriate for IT CVs.

Within an IT CV, the technical summary is very important and can take up half a page all on its own, and additionally it is tricky to fit a 30 year contracting history into two pages!  Below are some tips to help you to select what you absolutely must include on your CV and what you can leave out, whatever your career level is.

  • Include an opening statement about yourself.  This is a good opportunity to adjust your CV according to the role you are actually applying for.
  • Keep your technical summary relevant and to the point.  Provide details of the technologies you have worked with, which versions you have used, and what level your skills are at.
  • List your achievements in each role, rather than a mundane list of your responsibilities.  ‘I was rewarded for my excellent customer service skills on the telephone’ is a lot more interesting than ‘I was responsible for answering the phone and helping customers.’
  • If you have a 30 year history and a lot of information to cram in, stick to what is relevant for the role you are applying to.  Rather than having an 8 page CV it is better to provide a shorter CV with details of your relevant roles from the last few years, with ‘previous history available on request’ is better than going into detail about jobs you did in the distant past wherein the technologies you used are outdated.
  • It is nice to have a snapshot of your hobbies and interests on your CV, but make sure it is just that, a snapshot.  Again, achievements are more interesting – ‘I have a brown belt in Karate’ says more about you than listing the names of your pets!

Please note these tips are based on our experience as IT recruitment consultants, and what our clients seem to prefer – obviously if a company you are applying to specify no more than 2 pages, then that’s what you should provide.