in CV Writing

CV Myth Exposed – Fitting a CV onto 2 Pages

There are a lot of resources out there from outplacement companies, CV advisers, HR consultants and recruitment consultants who all claim to be experts on writing CVs but who advise their clients to fit their CV onto two pages. They explain that if it is on more than this, people do not read it and that this is the recognised length of a CV.

This is absolute nonsense. People with a 25 year career history at partner level with six to seven different roles regularly try to cram the whole lot into two pages and fail abysmally to get across anything about themselves or their skills and experience to a potential employer.

Less than 10% of the CVs that come into us are on two pages and the vast majority of these are only on two pages because an outplacement “expert” has advised them to do this.

In the legal profession, quite a lot of more experienced solicitors often do not realise the importance of having a very detailed CV that reads more like a business development plan than a 1 sentence list of each firm they have worked for. It really can make all the difference.
The evidence to back up a longer CV is as follows…

1. Recruitment Techniques have changed

I have spoken to redundant HR managers who have said that it is quite right that two to three years ago, if a CV was longer than two pages, they would simply rip the back pages off and keep the first two or consign the whole CV to the bin. This is across a whole range of industries and not just in one specific area.

The key point here is that the HR managers were able to rip the back pages off and this is the difference between recruitment even a few years ago and now. Most recruitment is now done online, whether you are applying to large or small companies. If the company is small, it is likely your CV will remain as an email attachment and not get printed off unless somebody wants to interview you. If the company is large, it is likely they will have the same software as recruitment agencies, which involves pressing a button on receipt of the CV and processing the CV straight into a database where it will never actually be seen by anybody unless you have a link to a specific post.

To give a specific example of this, if I am looking to recruit for argument’s sake, a civil litigation solicitor in Lincoln to work in a medium sized practice, I may advertise the vacancy on the job boards such as Chancery Lane, Totaljobs, Jobsite and Reed, but it is more likely I would search my database of candidates as a recruitment consultant first. It may be that I have 700 civil litigation solicitors registered with my agency, but using the keywords indicated, specifically if there was an employer the client wanted us to concentrate on in terms of sourcing quality candidates, I could use additional keywords such as the location, length of experience, type of work covered and any particular company names that might appear on the CV. If you have a CV of two pages, it is possible that you are going to miss off bits of information from the CV that may get it picked out in such a search. This leads me to my next point, which is that if you have a CV that is full of keywords, it is more likely that you will be identified in any database searches, whether these are done through the company’s own database or through a job site.

2. Keywords are the “key”

The number of keywords on your CV dictate how likely it is your CV will get picked up in some circumstances. To give two specific examples of this and the one I like to regale in career coaching sessions is the recruitment a company undertook for a large multinational with plants across the world. We got sent a job specification through for a senior management position, paid for access to Monster and Totaljobs, instructed a third party to sift 7,500 CVs for us to determine who were the most suitable candidates, and highlighted the most relevant five to six to contact further. The candidate who got the job had posted his CV onto Monster two and a half years before we came to search for it and was not currently looking for work. The only reason his CV came out at the top and meant that we contacted him first was because on page seven of his CV he had the word Norway from a post he had held in the early 1980s in a completely unrelated area (a DJ), which was one of the areas that the multi-national had a plant and were expecting, ideally, someone to have experience of working in. If that particular candidate had not had seven or eight pages of detail concerning his CV, there is no way he would have been selected for that position in one of the key positions.

To summarise, there are two main reasons why a CV should be longer than two pages. Firstly because there is no reason to keep a CV to two pages anymore as on the whole, they are not printed out and secondly, because the vast majority of recruitment now is done using keywords and if your CV is keyword light, it is very likely that you are going to get overlooked for positions you otherwise may have been ideally suited for.

Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment does offer a standalone CV writing service for lawyers, although this is a paid for service. You can get the service free of charge if you are on Jobseekers Allowance, or alternatively you can utilise our resources by visiting the Ten-Percent Careers Centre or http://www.legalrecruitment.blogspot.com/

Jonathan Fagan

Jonathan Fagan LLM FIRP is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He has been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 17 years and handles roles from junior fee earners through to partners and law firm sales/purchases. A non-practising solicitor on the Roll since 2000, he is also the author of a number of legal career books, which are available at www.legalcareercoaching.co.uk. You can contact Jonathan at cv@ten-percent.co.uk