How many words should your CV be?
When you write your CV, think of Goldilocks. You know, the little girl who broke into the three bears’ house sat in their chairs, ate their porridge, and slept in their beds, but was only satisfied with the chair, the porridge and the bed that was “just right?” She probably has a good CV.
Why? Because she wouldn’t have one that’s too long or too short. Goldilocks would only be satisfied with a CV whose length is “just right.”
That “just right” length falls between 400 and 800 words. If your CV is less than 400 words, it is probably too short for you to show you’ve got the right skills for the position. If it’s over 800 words, your potential employer likely won’t have the time to read through all of them to find the highlights.
## How to Achieve “Just-Right” with Your Resume
#1: Include Only Meaningful Content in Your CV
All CVs must include certain essential elements, such as your contact information, a personal profile/summary statement, education, and professional experience. However, the details of those elements may change depending on the job for which you are applying.
For example, the personal summary, which is a brief statement right below your name, should be “custom made” for the position you are pursuing. It should be concise, so the employer can read it quickly, and substantive, telling them the rest of your CV is worth reading! Use this section to establish
- who you are (an experienced graphic designer, for example)
- how you will bring value to this company (perhaps through your creativity, innovation, and exceptional technological skills)
- your goals as they relate to the position (be a positive team leader for the graphic design department; use your skills to expand the company’s digital footprint).
You also don’t need to list all of your professional experience. Instead, include the parts of your professional history that apply to the job you are pursuing and that highlight relevant qualifications and skills.
As for your special achievements and awards, presentations or publications, or professional memberships, be selective. Include them if they provide further evidence that you possess the skills and qualifications for the job.
#2: Avoid Unnecessary Words and Phrases
Once you’ve selected meaningful content for your CV, make sure every word matters. You don’t need to
- title your CV as “CV” or “Resume.” Your name is the only title needed.
- say “I’m seeking a job as a…” the CV is proof that you’re seeking!
- include “responsible for” as you list your prior jobs. It’s a given that you were responsible for fulfilling the tasks of your employment.
- use fancy adjectives in the attempt to make prior experience seem more exciting.
Additionally, you can lower your work count by omitting qualifiers, words such as very, extremely, really, a great deal, which add specificity to other words. For example, you don’t need the “very” here: “...very experienced in digital marketing.”
Often, you can remove helping verbs and articles as well.
Helping verbs such as “am” “can,” “may,” “have” (among others) are important in many contexts, but not your CV. There’s no need to include the “am” in this statement: “am proficient in Spanish, French, Mandarin” or the “have” in this one: “have generated consistent sales increases” (and if you can give a percentage of that increase, that’s a good specific detail to include—if it’s relevant!)
The same goes for articles. There’s no need for the “the” in this statement: “managed the graphic design team” or the “a” in this one: “designed a software system to track sales.”
#3: Review and Streamline
Review your CV with an eye and ear for streamlining. If something sounds wordy, rephrase it. For example, streamline this
“served as project manager for a high-profile marketing campaign that led to increased sales,”
“Project manager for marketing campaign that generated 80% sales increase.”
Fewer words and more substance—that sounds “just right.”