Even if your CV is full of qualifications, important skills and enviable job experience, it’s important to keep it brief. CVs should stick to a maximum of two A4 pages (unless you are an academic job seeker), mainly because recruiters are busy and likely to skim-read.
A concise CV will always go down better with recruiters and hiring managers. You don’t need to sacrifice any essential information to communicate why you’re a great candidate in the most economical, efficient way. This is how to do it in six simple steps:
1. Keep sentences brief and punchy
Reading your CV should be easy for whoever’s looking at it. The best way to do this is to re-read everything you’ve written and simplify it. Sentences shouldn’t go on too long with multiple clauses and commas – short statements get your point across simply and in less space. You’ll make more impact, but with fewer words.
2. Choose an uncomplicated structure
The structure of your CV is just as important as its content. Big, dense paragraphs that fill every space make your CV look cluttered and hard to read. On the other hand, leaving large blank margins is a waste of space too.
Bullet points, bold headings and small spaces between paragraphs will make the most of every inch without overwhelming your reader’s eyes and brain. Black text on a white background is ideal as the contrast allows for easy reading, while it’s generally best to avoid any fancy designs or graphics. They look great, but they’re style over substance.
3. Make the most of the top quarter
Recruiters are skim-readers, so it’s a good idea to grab their attention as quickly as possible. The top quarter of your CV should include a brief profile that explains who you are and what you do, followed by a list of your top skills. This section needs to be the most persuasive and full of value.
Your employment history will cover the most space, then you can summarise your education and qualifications at the end.
4. Make sure everything is relevant
Whether you’re applying through a job advert or directly to an organisation, it’s important to tailor your CV to the specific role you’re applying for. Your previous job roles, relevant experience, skills and qualifications should focus on what the reader really wants to know, plus any helpful extras if you have room within your two pages.
5. Simplify each job role
Many people go into lots of detail about what they did in their previous roles, but they don’t pay enough attention to the difference they actually made. Your individual responsibilities do matter, but they shouldn’t take space away from your achievements and any targets you’ve exceeded. If it’s something only you can offer, it deserves a mention.
6. Be ruthless with older roles
A long and impressive employment history will fill up your CV quite quickly. It’s really easy to want to show off everything you can do, but too much is going to make the reader switch off.
You should go into more detail about your more recent roles because they’ll matter most to the employer. Older roles should be condensed into a few summary bullet points, so the employer knows the essentials. Depending on how many roles you have to mention, you could reduce everything from 5+ years ago.
A succinct CV with concise detail is much more valuable than writing as much as you can think of. You want the reader to remember you and what you can do, not be overwhelmed with information. The most experienced candidates have all the more reason to edit their CVs carefully – and it will pay off in interview invitations!
Andrew Fennell is the founder of CV writing advice website StandOut CV