What Is Better: A One Or Two Page CV / Resume?
There is no single “right” answer to this question, at least not in a generic sense. It really depends: on what the applicant has to say, how the organization likes to receive the information, and what they may view as “standing out from the crowd” in a positive way, among other things. And even then, each person reading the CV within the organization may have a different view and reaction. I suppose that's why the world can support so many brands of shampoo, cereal and other consumer branded products (and hopefully more job applicants as well).
As a recipient of many many CVs over a 24-year career in banking, I would say that while “less is more” is definitely good advice as the CV is a “hook”, I have no problem reading further than one page if the content is worthwhile. In that light, I do find it compelling to differentiate between a senior manager with decades of experience who can get away with more than one page, versus a more recent graduate where it would be unusual to need added space (although nowadays, some of our young people have done amazing things by the time they are 18!).I also liked to be able to piece together how the individual spent their time, and whether there were any unexplained gaps. In that light, I found the traditional chronological CV helpful, although I can see how others could view this as boring and too restrictive. It seems that the new thinking is to use more of a functional and/or marketing-oriented approach. Whatever the presentation style, I liked to know that all the time was accounted for in a productive way, and I liked to see the person's journey and the logic behind what they did and when they did it. It would worry me to have the timeline so obfuscated that I felt the applicant was trying to hide something.
The other thing to consider is the cover note: this is an integral part of the “hook” if you can be sure that the note and the CV will remain attached together. The cover note is particularly important in my book if the CV is emailed as an attachment since the note is the first thing I will read, and I may or may not get around to opening the attachment (now that I think of it, maybe it's good to cut and paste the CV into the body of the email as well).
Finally, it mattered to me how the CV came to be on my desk in the first place. The amount of time I was willing to spend on an unsolicited CV was far less than one referred by a retained search firm or by someone in my network. In fact, I might even have asked my very effective and longstanding PA for her opinion as to whether it was worth my time to look at the unsolicited CV, and who it should be forwarded onto if anyone (sorry!). If you are sending yours unsolicited, then it is even more important that the cover note and the CV itself are grabbing my attention and impressing me within the first paragraph.
Basically, the CV is just one tool to get someone to see you, meet with you, give you a chance. Having the turbo charge effect of one's network really helps tremendously on this front. And remember, the person doing the reading is most likely trying to capture the essence of you into a mental sound bite, so if you can help them form that accurate digestible opinion, all the better.
A very interesting article. The amount of ‘bad’ CVs I have seen; people need to read more articles like this, and actually take note.
I’ve been reading a great little blog on CVs recently that I thought I would share. It covers many of the issues brought up in this article. It is posted weekly and is currently on part 3 (I think).
This is the link for all those interested: http://blog.gradfutures.com/the-gradfutures-blog/tag/jazz-up-your-cv
These are all very excellent points May. Like many other business owners I receive 100’s of CV’s, they tend to all come in the same format with very little distinction between them. The CV’s that get noticed, read and responded to are the ones which standout. Either they are hand delivered by the applicant, insistent that they hand me the CV in person, or they are delivered by special delivery.
Most business owners receive 100’s of letters each week, which are all the same-ish shape, size and colour, so taking the time to make yours standout will help. Send it in a silver envelope, send it in a box, after all who wouldn’t open a parcel? Simple things to ensure you make a impact before your CV even gets read.
Another great point you made was about gaps, if there is a large gap between jobs and no explanation its very easy to make assumptions.
May, Sammy and Paul, thank you for the great insights. In particular, I would like to know your opinions on the issue of “gaps” in career history with regards to women who have taken time off to raise their children.
I was Vice President and Head of Marketing at a top Fortune 50 bank when I made the lifestyle choice to stay at home. Now, 10 years later, it is time to refocus on my career. During the gap years, I held community leadership positions at the school my children attended and kept a low key independent consultant’s profile. I am currently pursuing an MBA and seeking internship or employment opportunities. I ponder about whether to address the reason for my gap years in the cover letter. A career counselor advice’s was no. What are your thoughts on this? In my cover letter, what should I focus on – my accomplishments in my previous employments which are more than 1o years ago, or continuous productive use of my time while off the corporate track? Or both?
Thank you in advance for sharing your perspectives.
Well done to you to take these steps toward the third phase of your career life: banking, community leadership/consulting, and now your new frontier. How exciting.
The cover letter issue is a tricky one: it is hard to convey nuances in a letter that by definition needs to be short and punchy, and that will be glanced at in perhaps as little as 10-20 seconds. Where I come out is that you will be better off tailoring the letter and the approach depending on the specific person/organization you are targeting.
You can take some of the pressure off of the traditional cover letter by pursuing a “six degrees of separation” strategy (ie, using your/the school’s contacts to network your way into an opportunity), which may serve you better. You are not the typical MBA graduate (which you can and should turn into a good thing), so the usual post-MBA job search strategies may be less effective and you may be best served by carving your own path to the next stage of your career.
If the introduction has already been made and you are simply following up with your resume, then it will be easier for you to write the cover note, and it will be a little less pivotal than if it is the only litmus test for gaining an interview. If it is a blind letter to a stranger, then that is a different story. You (and any other MBA graduate) will be better off getting yourself into the former category whenever possible.
Specifically on the cover letter, I would tend to agree with your career counselor. You certainly don’t want to hide anything, but you also don’t need to highlight your perception of a “gap” when you have been keeping your skillset current through community leadership and consulting roles. And if you have been paid for your value added as a consultant, then that is a bonafide entrepreneurial job that should go in your work experience section. In your cover letter, you can talk about how the leadership/management experiences you have had in a variety of settings (corporate and community) are ideally suited to the area you now want to get into (or return to, as the case may be); focus on your new goal and how the variety of things you have done will enable you to add value right away.
While the world is still in economic recovery mode, your timing is nonetheless good in the sense that organizations are increasingly open to utilizing the skills of people who have life experience, and you are not alone in returning to the more traditional work environment. But, the best way to find a reentry position is likely to be through people who know the people you know.
Most importantly, you are not alone. There is a whole movement out there for women returning to their careers. Former classmates of mine have written a book and started a website and other services specifically to help women relaunch their careers. Their business is called “iRelaunch”and here is their website:
There is a really good piece that you can download on resume advice – the link is on their homepage.
Hope this helps. Best of luck, and just keep going!