19

I opened up my CV earlier today for a brush up and noticed that it had crept into the four page realm. Granted, I've been an engineer for over 10 years now and I've moved state-to-state 3 times so I do have a lot of baggage. How-ever, being in the position of hiring myself a couple time during my career I've always kind of raised an eyebrow to resumes which are that long. It's never kept me from actually reading them, but there's definitely a little bias set from the start of reading.

Couldn't find many other good threads on this topic as it pertains to a programmer's resume. Here's an so-so thread...

What do you guys think is the max?

If less then four, anyone have any good tips on trimming it down?

-Matt

20

The CV I have to send out is a single page. It's ruthlessly concise.

This gives the recruiting person all the facts they need without any chance of them getting bored. I personally hate trawling through a CV and needing to use a highlighter to filter out the waffle from the useful information.

I'd start by limiting your jobs to your 2 or 3 most recent with a single paragraph description of what they involved. I'd then keep the rest to a single line (company, position, dates) unless they are directly relevant to the job you are applying for.

Similarly my skills are bullet points, separated into current and familiar skills.

Your CV is there to get you over the first hurdle, getting an interview. All your CV needs to do is answer the questions the reader will have and no more.

  • Does this person have the relevant skills? Your skills bullet points should answer this
  • Does this person have the level of experience we are looking for? Your most recent jobs should answer this
  • Does this person have the qualifications needed? Most people's qualifications sections are brief and will answer this already

Just to cover all bases I then note on the bottom of my CV or the application that a more verbose version and references are available on request just in case (I've never been asked for the verbose version).

16

I'm talking from the other side of the fence, as someone who reads CVs.

When I get a CV, I look at:

  1. The # of pages (1-2 is ideal, 3 could be ok), if it's much longer, I may only skim it.
  2. Answers to the main questions: What did you do? What do you know? What did you study?
  3. Then I look for all the fluff, the less the better. I hate CVs which claim to know everything, like a programmer taking 4 pages to say he knows: Basic, Cobol, Pascal, Modula-2, Scheme, C, C#, C++, Java, Delphi, Php, Python, Perl, Objective-C, ..., TCP/IP, Netware, Windows NT3.5/NT4/2000/2003/2008 Server, Windows 3.0/3.1/95/98/ME/2000Pro/XP/Vista/7, Cisco CCNA, MCSE, Linux, Ubuntu, Redhat, ..., ASP.net, Visual Basic 6, VB.net, Ajax, XML, Hardware maintenance, ..., ...

Believe me, the more you put in your CV, the more obscure questions I would ask you, if you put in Linux because you played with it for a few days, I'd ask about your favorite distribution and why, your favorite shell, what does NIS do?, what is NFS? I find most people would not know the answers.

I also had people claiming they did some things, and in the interview I find out, they were a small part of a big team, and all they did was "bring the donuts".

If you don't know it well, don't put it on your CV.

The perfect CV:

  1. Has 2 pages max, with the most important info (to the person you're sending this to) on the first page.
  2. Contains things you know from A-Z, if you haven't really used it yourself in a real project, don't include it.
  3. Contains where you worked, and for how long, as well as your accomplishments there.
  4. Contains information about your education and certifications (yawn)

A CV's objective is to get past the first filter, and to get to an interview (most likely a phone interview first).

14

Mine is 4 pages, for over 10 years; but, the first page of it can "stand alone":

  • The first page contains the high-level/summary information, which someone might want to see when they're scanning resumes (or, even, matching against key-words)
  • The pages beyond the first one contain details, of past positions, how I've used technologies, achievements, and all that kind of thing, which someone who is technically-minded (e.g. a team leader more than an HR person) might want to read if they're actually seriously reading the resume before an interview

My resume used to be shorter (squeezed onto 2 pages), perhaps too short: when a few years ago I was applying to companies where I had no "in", I found that the longer resume got me more interviews than the shorter one.

Presumably a "rock star" can get by with a much shorter resume (or just a business card) which simply, briefly lists their enormous achievements ... but for me, applying for a technical job, if the resume is too condensed then there's little left but buzz-words or sound-bites, and I prefer details.

By having the first page stand alone, as well as giving details on the subsequent pages, I'm hoping to give both kinds of reader what they need.

12 accepted

It depends on the end use of the CV. For instance, if your company is using employees' CVs during a tender for work, they would be quite detailed in terms of previous projects and responsibilities.

For a general CV, used for applying for a new job as an individual, keep it concise. I think 2 pages is ideal.

  • Make the text as terse as possible, without sacrificing essential details.

  • Use a smaller font size (but still readable) for the detail sections.

  • Use a layout that minimises any repeated information (such as headings)

6

I'm also a decade+, with many different roles in one company. My resume is about 2/3rds of a page, and my font is comfortable to read.

I took out all the fluff.

4

I think my printed resume is around 3 pages, with a fair amount of whitespace. My target is 10 years and some "interesting" items, although I haven't yet deleted the management position I held in the early 90s.

A couple of things that I do to keep my resume short:

1) I focus on what I've done, not how I've done it; where possible, I point out the benefit to the company. Nobody cares that you used JUnit to unit test program classes, particularly if it's repeated for every position (and yes, I've seen resumes like this). Unfortunately, many recruiters want the buzzwords; I try to stay away from them.

2) I would feel comfortable being quizzed by an expert in any technology that I list. I may not be an expert, but I can talk intelligently about anything I claim to have used. I can't count the number of people who come in with a laundry list of technologies. When I get them, I always pick the most obscure listed technology that I've used, and start quizzing.

2

I have a single page resume. If I were looking for a new job I would probably create at least two versions highlighting different my experience in coding and systems admin, to better represent myself for each particular job description. Having recently hired a few people at work, there's nothing worse than having to read through a two or three page resume to dig up the parts that are actually relevant to what I'm looking for. Especially when I start to ask them questions about a research project they spent a paragraph talking about, only to find out they did some minor work years ago and don't even remember anything about the technology.

2

I recommend keeping two documents at least.

  • One is the 'all information' CV, which can grow as long as you want, recording anything and everything that's of relevance. You should periodically weed it out (removing less important information from earlier in your career). This document is never, ever, sent to anyone. It is simply a repository of information about your career to remind you about what you've done.

  • The other is your current one page CV, which is a distillation of what you'd present to people.

What you actually send for any given job application is, of course, custom tailored to that job opening. It is the one page CV amended to emphasize the relevant strengths.

See also what Joel says about CVs, though he calls them resumes.

2

Have a big CV you keep just for yourself that you can draw upon for details when applying for a specific job. When you submit it for a job you want, submit a CV tuned just for that job that is one or at most two pages. Chances are any details from more than 5 years ago are not too interesting to the HR department doing the screening or the hiring manager

2

Over 30 years experience and my resume is two pages long. I've done a lot of hiring in the past and many places won't even look past the first two pages even if you send them. Many managers don't go past page one unless they are super interested. If you are faced with a stack of over a couple hundred resumes, how long do you spend on each one? How annoyed are you if someone wastes your time with something long and drawn out (We did laugh hysterically at the guy with less than two years experience and a ten-page resume though). However long your resume is, don't waste the first page with nonsense like an objective (people don't get hired from objectives, only screened out). Make sure the most important information about you is on the first page as close to the top as possible. I start with a list of accomplishments (what the manager usually wants to see), then qualifications (needed to get past HR or keyword screening), then work into work history (very short bullet points, accomplishments are the critical parts) and then education.

2

I have had success with a 1 page resume. It follows this format: http://www.manager-tools.com/sample-resume

1

I have always believed you should customize the resume/cv for the audience you are attracting.

Know your target audience.

A resume/cv is like a printed ad. It has to catch your eye and it should not hold your attention for more than a few seconds.... just long enough to get your message across and pique further interest. However you have to do this with text and maybe a few tastefully placed pieces of word art or logos.

If you are going for a particular position... customize the resume for just that position. If its more general.... customize it for the general area of positions you are looking for but you still have to try and focus it down.

The resume is not meant to tell your life story.. its meant to raise you above the noise and get you an interview..... then you can sell yourself as the best person for the job. For example when I walk into a store and pick a commodity product I am often faced with multiple choices. Each will do what I need... so I try and pick the product that gives me the best feature list/value. You want to try and do the same.

Incidentally I believe the formal definition/description of a CV (such as an academic CV) calls for you putting as much information as possible in the document. It is meant as a background checking tool.... but I could be wrong.

0

Ask yourself this question. What information is so important that a potential recruiter may need to know it to decide whether to invite you for an interview, and so unimportant that it doesn't need to be said until page 4, which many recruiters will never bother reading anyway.

I only review resumes very occasionally, rare enough for it to still be a novelty when I do, and yet long before page 4 I've decided whether someone is worth asking for an interview or not. I suspect that those who are doing it regularly make up their mind within the first half page. The rest is cruft.

0

Give detailed accounts of a few of your most important projects/positions. Save the extra "nice-to-knows" for the interview. Personally I'd say to aim for 2 pages max.

0

A CV is an exercise in information design. I don't think there's a hard and fast limit, but you definitely want to do two things:

  • As Edward Tufte says, maximize data ink.

  • Get all the sex and violence on page one.

(The sex and violence is of course the most important stuff for the job you want.)

I recently worked with a friend to get his 4-page resume cut down to 2 pages. The 2-page version contained all the same information, but it packed a lot more impact.

If each page carries high impact, and if the first page has all the important stuff and can stand alone in an emergency, then I think the overall length doesn't matter.

(Hint: when I'm hiring I usually don't need to read past the first two pages of a CV. Unless it's a keeper; then I might read four.)

P.S. For software and interface designers, Tufte's course is quite inspiring.

0

Mine's 2 pages long and I try really hard to stick to that limit. I've been on the other side of the fence when somebody has submitted an 11-page CV that I am supposed to read.

However, when I've used my 2-page CV, some recruiters have requested more information. So I have another version which is about 3 pages that provides a bit more detail.

To keep your CV/resumé concise, when you are updating it don't add new information without taking something old out. Some things on there will become less important over time so can be reduced to a few words or removed completely.

For example, when I first graduated I had a couple of paragraphs about what projects and courses I had done at university. As I got more real world experience that section was reduced to a few sentences. Now I just have a single line that says what degree I earned.

Also, you don't have to include everything. I've done work with CORBA in the past, but I don't want to do it again, so I've decided it's not relevant and don't mention it.

0

I treat the first page of my resume as the intro and table of contents. This communicates that I value the screener's or manager's time. It also allows me to provide a three page resume without feeling like it is too weighty.

The problem with providing a really long resume is that it stops feeling like a good piece of marketing literature and more like a technical manual or a biography. The employer wants to know why they should have a conversation with you or if you are worthy of moving to the next stage of pre-conversation screening.

Once the employer has a conversation with you, they are taking the risk that they like you, even if you are not the best candidate on paper. Ultimately, I feel that people who do a lot of hiring want to meet candidates who are good communicators. I believe that is a basic human instinct.

Therefore, over the 13 years of my career, I have spent many hours and sometimes sleepless nights pouring over the layout, design and content of my resume. The combination of your career history, your career goals and your value proposition is the most important story you tell. Your resume is a framework that should be evolving to continue to meet your needs.

0

1 Page

Always has been, as my achievements grow, I'm just using smaller fonts :)

Currently I'm at font size 9 with extra wide margins lots of bullet points. I ruthlessly kill anything that is irrelevent and not to the point.

0

I've understood a CV and a resume to be completely different.

A CV is a detailed listing of everything you've done. It can be many pages, and fairly technical. As an American, I tend to think of it as a European thing, or possibly something for higher academia. I've never written one, and probably never will. You definitely don't need one to get a job in America.

A resume is a brief overview of who you are and what you've done, for the purposes of getting a job. It can be one page, or maybe two, but never longer. It will be skimmed by recruiters and CTOs, and when you go to an interview session you should bring extra copies to hand out. Interviewers will find something interesting on it and say, "So, tell me about this time you ... wrote a pigeon sonata in Haskell", and then keep drilling on the technical details to see what I actually did.

0

I would just use a 1 page resume, but include a Url on your resume linking to a more detailed version. This is clever, innovative, and gives the reader a chance read more.

-1

2 pages. Oops.