How long a CV should be remains a dilemma to most applicants, and this generally comes from not knowing which standards to follow. If you’re wondering how long your technical CV should be or looking for tips to present your experience in a clear, concise format, read on to find out more.
The subjective nature of the ideal CV length is due to varying practices unique to different professions and sectors along with the hiring preferences of certain organisations. Some hiring managers may want comprehensive CVs, whereas some HR professionals want a concise, “highlights only” format. With the exception of academic or medical CVs, in the UK, unless you’re applying for an entry-level position, two pages is widely considered to be the perfect length.
That said, there are also differences between the length of CVs in the public and private sectors. Understandably, because of these varied standards, people are left confused and even intimidated by the idea of writing a successful technical or engineering CV.
Here are some things to consider when deciding on CV length and level of detail:
QUALITY OVER QUANTITY. Quality over quantity is always paramount, meaning that only the most relevant information is to be included. Too much information can lead to key messages being overlooked and too little risks coming across as unqualified. Watch out for repetition and overly wordy sentences and move any first-person content across to the Cover Letter.
MANAGE YOUR CONTENT. Deciding what goes on in the CV is just as important as choosing what not to include. Managing your CV content entails selecting relevant information and presenting it clearly and logically, demonstrating your skills, competencies and achievements. Regardless of your career history, the focus should be on the most relevant experience. For many people, this simply means building upon their most recent work experience or educational attainment. Without careful attention, this method can result in an excessively long CV. Be careful not to repeatedly add roles on top of another without editing what’s there already. The same goes for outdated training courses.
For those who have followed a less traditional career path, made a career change or taken a career break, sometimes the most relevant experience happens to be in two or three roles prior. Don’t let this bother you, be sure to allocate more space and content in this area and summarise everything else. This makes it as easy as possible for the reader to match your suitability.
SEPARATE CONTENT: Generally speaking, engineering and technical professionals have more information than the standard education and employment history. Content such as training and certifications, software skills, special projects and technological tools can be added. Other professions such as those in R&D also tend to have content relating to research papers, publications and patents. As a result, a standard 2-page CV can quickly become a 17-page beast! If you have a lengthy career or are a contractor with many positions, consider adding a Technical Addendum, Contract Summary or Training Record to separate listed content. This is completely acceptable and is a great way to showcase valuable information without cluttering up the CV.
ATS COMPATIBILITY. To sort through the volume of applications generated from online platforms, companies nowadays use an Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) of some sort. There are hundreds of these used to track and process applications, some of which may be unique to the individual organisation or job-seeking website. An estimated 95% of companies employ their own internal ATS, which can be programmed to rank online job applications based on their suitability and match to the job posting. As a rule of thumb, to beat the ATS, your CV must be of an acceptable length, free of grammatical errors and follow a simple, clutter-free format. Creative, stylish and innovative CV formats with a lot of white space may not be the best for ATS. Instead, opt for clean and impactful designs with simple fonts and layouts.
KEYWORD RICHNESS. Some ATS rely on a set of pre-programmed keywords, and in some cases, the density of these keywords in your CV is your ticket to the shortlist. Due to the nature of ATS programs and tools, short and truncated CVs with barely any information will not be optimised to pass the scanners.
CV writing is all about presenting the best version of yourself to your prospective employer. Unless there is a page or word count specified in the job notice, aim for a more detailed and comprehensive CV based on the general 2-page standard. This will not only optimise the document for ATS scanners but also act as an opportunity to market yourself to prospective employers as quickly and succinctly as possible.
At ABCV Solutions, we take our cue from experts in the field of human resources and recruitment, ensuring we give you a point of difference and help you stand out against other applicants. Having written hundreds of CVs, we are confident that the focal point should always be the quality of the information, giving you a competitive edge rather than the page count itself.