We get asked about CV length for non-academic, UK-based roles a lot in Application Advice appointments, so I thought it was worth tackling here.
There are all sorts of rumours about which types of employers prefer a one, or a two page CV…and very few hard and fast rules. A quick internet search will give you all sorts of contradictory messages.
I do recommend using a one-page CV for roles within an investment bank – it’s generally accepted that this is preferred.
Other than that, most employers will accept a 2-page CV (and if you're not sure, check!). Many employers believe that a one-page CV doesn’t give an applicant enough opportunity to expand on their experience and skills. More important is how the CV is structured and written. It needs to look neat and tidy, and your first page should quickly demonstrate your suitability for the role.
First impressions count
Your CV should look professional and be easy to read. Use a more modern font such as Arial, and try not to go below font size 11. Space out your different sections, and make main headings stand out by using bold text.
It’s also a good idea to check that your 2-page CV doesn’t look too empty. Too much white space will make your CV look a bit threadbare, and it might be better for you to move to a one-page format. See how everything looks on one page before deciding on your final version.
Get that first page right
The first page on your CV must be strong enough to hold the recruiter’s attention, especially if you're applying to a sought-after role (such as management consulting). It must include as much essential experience and skills as possible. Suggestions include:
- Using a “Relevant Experience” section instead of “Work Experience” if you have a wide variety of experience. This can really help you to prioritise what the employer will be most interested in.
- Summarising any critical technical skills towards the top of your CV.
- Using plenty of the keywords from the job / person description in your evidence so that the recruiter can quickly see your suitability for the role
- In each work experience, think about highlighting an achievement or say how you made an impact in that role.
Top tips for one-page CVs
Editing a one-page CV can be really tough. Here are my top tips for writing an effective one-page CV:
- Stick to a bullet point format. You’ll probably only have room for a couple of bullet points per work or voluntary experience.
- Practice writing effective bullet points which make your achievements and skills clear. Often it is just a case of adding in a few well-chosen words. Read these blogs on writing effective bullet points and using effective language.
- Know the job / person description inside out. Then be really critical. Is anything on your CV a “nice to know” rather than a “need to know”? Have you described something that doesn’t demonstrate a key skill?
- Avoid lists of scholarly awards, and lists of modules and grades (although check with your Faculty / School’s placement team if you’re applying for a placement).
- Write your CV in font size 8 so that everything can fit on the page! If a recruiter is printing it out it will be hard to read; it also looks like you haven’t done a good editing job.
- Don't leave out your Interests / Hobbies section. This might not feel important, but this section can be a key differentiator, particularly in sought-after roles. Pick the one interest you have that can demonstrate relevant skills and ideally show an achievement.
- Waste space writing a personal profile that doesn’t tell the employer anything useful. See this blog on profiles.
- Feel like you have to write your references out in full. Simply saying “References are available upon request” at the bottom of the CV is acceptable.