CVs - Two sides, three sides, four sides more?

Published: 8 October 2015

The senior recruitment market is often a bell-weather for the state of the wider economy. The smart money starts recruiting, with confidence, ahead of the demand curve and this is all based upon sound economic indicators. We see many other hints and nudges that suggest at the health of the economy.  One of the more obscure is the general state of CV’s we are presented with.  In lean times, people take time to get their personal marketing messages polished up from the get go. Recognising that in a flat market there are fewer opportunities out there, people act with greater purpose either out of necessity or absolute ambition and drive.

Conversely in more buoyant times, people seem to spend less time in preparing an initial CV submission. Maybe it’s because they are too busy, or feel more secure in their roles, or can see ‘other’ roles on the horizon. We are firmly in this phase now, and the most common excuse is; “ I was trying to keep it to two sides”. And do you know what, there is some (slightly twisted) logic in it.

I have written lots about how CV’s ought to be concise, outcomes orientated and measurable.  The best thing I have read on CV content is the ‘Accomplished (X) measured by (Y) in doing (Z)’ formula.  While it urges you to get to the point, it doesn’t specify an ideal page limit. And with good reason, there is no absolute rule here. Take the time (and space on the written page) to bring to life the key achievements; the stuff you really want to tell people about. Clearly a multi-chapter opus is overkill.  But often less is just less. Which can create a lesser impression of you.

None of us really enjoys writing a CV. It challenges us to balance what feels a bit like ‘bragging’ with reporting of the facts. If you can do a good job with the right content in two pages, good for you. Just don’t use the mythical two page rule as an excuse to get your CV writing over and done with! If it spills over to three pages of quality content, it’s not a big issue. Four sides, now that is beginning to get tedious!

Matt Cockbill is a Partner, and Head of IT Leadership and Technology Leadership Practices for Berwick Partners.

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