Writing an irresistible CV is a challenging endeavor. On the one hand, you want to include as much valuable information about your qualifications and accomplishments as possible. On the other hand, you don’t want to bore the reader with pages of extraneous information. That begs the question: how long should a CV be?
A simple but boring answer is: it depends. There are many factors to consider, including the candidate’s qualifications and the region they are in. Some swear by one-page CVs, while others follow the “as long as it takes” line. Let’s find out what the definitive answer is!
CV is short for curriculum vitae (Latin for “course of life”) and, similar to a resume, represents a synopsis of your academic and professional careers.
A US CV is written and submitted for roles in academia, while a European CV is analogous to a US resume and is used for corporate jobs.
A US CV should feature your entire academic career and be as long as it needs to be.
A European CV should be one page long and tailored to the specific job that you’re applying to.
What Is a CV?
A CV stands for curriculum vitae, which is Latin for “course of life.” In today’s world, it represents a brief summary of a person’s professional and academic career and accomplishments. In general, the document is used when applying for a job or a position in academia.
However, the exact purpose, format, length, and use case of a CV vary based on the region that you’re in. There are stark differences between the US and European CVs, so let’s explore what they are.
The Difference Between US vs. European CV
A US CV is an academic-oriented document written to encompass an individual’s entire career. It’s meant to include every notable accomplishment, award, honor, publication, employment, and any other effort that contributes to their professional development.
That means that a US CV isn’t purpose-built for a specific role that you’re after. Moreover, you should be continuously updating it as your career advances to include all the latest results, awards, and accomplishments. Finally, a CV in the US is generally used when applying for academic and research roles.
On the other hand, a European CV is equal to a US resume. Simply put, these two are the same documents with the same purpose; they are just called differently in their regions. As such, a CV in Europe is tailored to the specific job that you’re applying for.
It should feature only those skills and accomplishments that are relevant to the work that you are going to be doing. European CVs are used in business settings when applying for corporate jobs and positions outside academia. Lastly, it’s recommended to update a CV whenever applying for a new job, as the requirements will likely be different.
How Long Should a CV Be?
The length of a CV depends on whether we’re talking about the US or the European one.
In the US, your CV should be as long as it needs to be in order to fit all your accomplishments and qualifications. It’s not uncommon for candidates with substantial academic and professional careers to have more than ten pages of valuable information to show.
On the other hand, recent graduates and new researchers usually end up with a 2- to 3-page document, which is generally how long an entry-level CV should be.
So, if you’re asking, “Is a 4-page CV too long?” chances are you’re in the clear. Still, the indeterminate length of the US CV doesn’t mean you should make it as long as possible. Your goal shouldn’t be to inflate the document artificially but to create a concise, professional summary that conveys as much as possible in a simple and straightforward manner.
In Europe, a CV should be as brief as possible. Since a CV is essentially the same as a US resume, most candidates should make theirs one page long. In rare instances, a CV can be two pages, and, in extreme cases, when you truly have decades of experience and are applying for a particularly demanding role, your CV can be up to three pages long.
The reason behind this is that European CVs are job-specific, and the candidate’s featured skills and experiences should be strictly related to the position they are applying for. The hiring managers who review these are busy professionals and often don’t have the time to go through several pages of irrelevant information about applicants.
Finally, European CVs are used when applying for jobs in the corporate sector. If you want a role in academia, you should write an academic CV, which is identical to a US CV.
Key Sections to Include in a CV
One of the best ways to understand how long a CV should be is to learn what sections it needs to feature. Of course, these are vastly different between US and European CVs, so we’re going to explore both.
US CV Sections
Let’s start with the key sections that you should include in a US CV:
US CV Mandatory Sections
Contact Information. This is a staple section in every CV or resume, regardless of the location or role that you’re after. It should feature your name, professional title, address, email, and phone number. You can also add the address of the institution you’re currently working at and a link to your LinkedIn profile.
Research Objective/Personal Profile. The first one is written for research roles, while the second represents a summary of your best achievements and is tailored toward permanent academic positions.
Education. Since a CV is an academic document, this is one of its most important sections. It should feature all your postsecondary degrees in reverse-chronological order, starting with the latest one. You should also include your thesis title and supervisor.
Professional Appointments. This is your work history, but it should only include academic positions that you held under contracts. You shouldn’t list part-time activities. Make sure to include your roles, institutions, dates of employment, and brief descriptions of each position.
Publications. There are two types of publications. You should first list peer-reviewed publications in the order of importance, which means books first, then book chapters, journal articles, and article contributions. After that, you should separately include other publications. Make sure to use a proven citation style.
Awards and Honors. These show that your exceptional efforts were recognized by your peers. You should list these in reverse-chronological order, too, along with their names, years, and institutions that issued them.
After all that, there are several optional sections that you can add to your CV to enhance it. These sections include:
US CV Optional Sections
European CV Sections
European CV sections match the US resume ones. That means there are five mandatory sections, which are:
European CV Mandatory Sections
Contact Information. Your contact details go in the header of the document and should feature your name, job title, email address, and phone number. Location is optional, and so are relevant social media networks, personal websites, portfolios, etc.
Resume Objective/Summary. This is an introductory, attention-grabbing paragraph written to impress recruiters in 2–4 sentences. Entry-level candidates should highlight their skills and goals with an objective, while experienced individuals should write a summary with a couple of key accomplishments.
Work Experience. This is the centerpiece of most resumes, and it should feature your past jobs in reverse chronological order. For every previous role, you should include your title, the company’s name, dates of employment, and a list of notable results and accomplishments obtained.
Education. Since a European resume is of a corporate nature, this is usually a brief section. You should list your degree, the institution that issued it, and your years of attendance. Optionally, you can include exceptional results and achievements in a bullet point list.
Skills. A skills list should feature both hard and soft skills separately. Hard skills are job-specific and mandatory for the job that you’re applying for, while soft skills are interpersonal and transferable between jobs or careers.
After all the mandatory sections, you can include some of the optional ones, like:
European CV Optional Sections
Hobbies and Interests
On a final note, the academic CV length and its sections in Europe are identical to those of the US CV.
4 Tips on How to Shorten Your CV
While a lengthy CV is a sign of an extensive academic history with lots of valuable deeds, it should be shortened as much as possible without removing beneficial information. The general rule is to go quality over quantity and to not inflate the length of your CV more than it should be. Let’s examine some CV tips and tricks that can help you shorten it.
#1. Check the Font Size and Margins
The font size and margin values aren’t fixed. For instance, the accepted font sizes are between 10 and 12 pt. If you have a modest CV, setting the size of a typeface to 12 pt can stretch the document’s length a bit. Conversely, reducing the size to 10 pt with a lengthy CV can shorten it by a whole page or more, based on how much writing there is.
By reducing the margins, you can fit more content on fewer pages. However, your margins shouldn’t be lower than 1 inch on all sides, as that would make every page look cramped and unprofessional.
#2. List Only the Information Relevant to the Job
This tip is specific to a European CV since a US CV needs to feature as much valuable data about your academic and professional history as possible. However, since a European CV matches a US resume, it needs to be tailored to the job that you’re applying for.
That means that every bit of information needs to be relevant to the work that you’ll be doing in the company. Research shows that the majority of recruiters look at CVs for less than ten seconds before making a decision. That’s not enough time for them to go through pages upon pages of your CV.
As we already mentioned, most European CVs should be one page long. That means you should cut all excess information that doesn’t contribute to your application. This includes skills and past experiences irrelevant to the job, unrelated optional sections, multiple degrees that don’t matter for the role, etc.
#3. Use Resume Builder
Resume and CV builders are online software solutions that automate the process of creating these documents. They can guide you and help you avoid adding unnecessary information. That is particularly helpful to entry-level candidates. For example, if you’re wondering how long a CV should be for graduate school, these builders are perfect for you.
Our resume and CV builder features ready-made CV examples that you can examine for inspiration and modify to suit your needs. The main perk of these tools is that they take away all the heavy lifting that you’d otherwise need to do. This includes figuring out which sections to add and formatting the document to look clean and professional.
With an online builder, you can simply pick a CV template that’s tailored to your liking, adjust the formatting (such as font type and size, colors, margins, section arrangement, etc.), input your details in blank spaces, and download a finished CV.
#4. Leverage Numbers and Bullet Points
Numbers and bullet points are great writing tools for shortening the text while providing the same amount of information. Not only that, but they make your CV easier to read and remember, and they make certain details more impactful.
Numbers are perfect for quantifying results and achievements. Adding them next to a relevant accomplishment adds measurable value to it, making it concrete in the eyes of the reader. Plus, writing actual digits instead of words vastly reduces the amount of text. Saying “100+” is much more effective and legible than writing “more than a hundred.”
Bullet points serve a similar purpose of shortening the writing and making it more legible while preserving valuable details. However, you shouldn’t overuse bullet points in US CVs. For instance, the professional appointments section should feature concise paragraphs. On the flip side, most of the European CV’s sections can be in bullet points.
That concludes today’s lesson on corporate and academic CV lengths and their contents. You now have a general idea about how long a CV should be for a senior position, an entry-level role, and everything in between.
If you find the topic still complex, you’re welcome to use our resume and CV builder. That way, you’ll avoid doing all the menial work and be able to focus on what’s important.
Ultimately, your main goal is to be brief and concise and put the most impressive and prestigious accomplishments first. As for the formatting, layouts, sections, and intricate details, you’ll find them all in this article, so feel free to save it and come back whenever you need a refresher!