As a recruiter, you see more CVs than just about any other professional and have a pretty good idea about what works and what doesn’t. However, one thing many managers find surprising when they are hiring for a new role is the low quality of the writing and layout of the CVs of even quite senior and experienced people. As one manager in the IT industry once told me, ‘Don’t people get taught how to do this in school anymore?’.
Well, whether they do or not, there is plenty of advice online from professional writers and employers about how to write a good CV, but they always tend to include the same few points. Could it be that actually working to ‘old school’ CV writing rules, like never going over two sides of A4 for the whole CV, actually makes people do a worse job of representing themselves?
In reality, the two pages rule comes from a time when a CV would be a paper document that wound up on a boss’ desk. Because that’s just not how we do things anymore, and because most agencies put candidate CVs into their own templates that could change the layout and page number anyway, it is actually not really important how many physical pages a CV takes up when printed. Instead, what we care about is how long it takes to read, and this is where people still use two pages as a good rule of thumb. However, there are some situations where going longer or shorter is absolutely acceptable, and in fact better for representing a potential hire’s skills and experience.
Back when they came up with the traditional formats for CVs, people tended to have far fewer jobs in their lifetimes. In some industries like IT, people change jobs on average every couple of years, and then you have people like contractors who may only work for a company for one project over a few months. Just because a period of employment isn’t long, doesn’t mean it doesn’t offer important additions to the CV – employers usually want to know who else someone has worked for so they can get a feel for the sectors and sizes of corporation the person is experienced with, and every new project a contractor does probably introduces them to something new, even if it’s just a new piece of software, tool, or working to a different methodology. For people who have changed jobs a lot then, for positive reasons, listing every job and the responsibilities they had in it is worthwhile, even if it makes the CV long.
When hiring for senior roles, companies really care about making the right choice, and so an extra ten minutes spent reading a more detailed CV is considered a good use of time. As with contractors, senior people have generally done a lot, and it is all stuff that the employer will be interested in knowing about.
Some people with a lot they want to write on their CVs try and cut space to keep them short by leaving off certain sections, for instance not including any hobbies or interests or leaving out some of their jobs. It is actually better for them to produce longer CVs than not give the amount of information that will best sell them to the employer.
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