Careers advice

How long can my CV be?

Here are some rules your CV needs to play by.

How long should my CV be? How many jobs should I include? What level of detail should I provide?

These are some of the most common questions Kiwi job hunters have when it comes to writing a great NZ CV. So, here are some answers.

How long can my CV be?

This one’s easy, the correct length for a New Zealand CV is between one and two pages.

If yours is currently over this limit, you’re either trying to include too much info, or you're not formatting your CV efficiently enough.

How can I make my CV shorter?

  • Use space wisely: try using downloadable templates that will help you order the details you include into logical sections.
  • Use bullet points: you also need to use bullet points, not full sentences. Also, save full sentences for your cover letter, where you can expand on the points you make in your CV.
  • Combine periods within one organisation: if you were promoted, or changed jobs within an organisation, don’t make separate sections for each.
  • Cut out irrelevant or older roles: more on this below, but your CV should always be tailored to the specific job you’re going for.
  • Lose filler words: emphasising words like “really”, “very” and “highly” are unnecessary, and can actually have the opposite effect to what you desire.
  • Experiment: try different ways of saying the same thing using fewer words.

It's time to cut the waffle.

How far back should you go on a CV?

This will depend on how long you’ve been working, but the general rule is no longer than 10-15 years. However, as we’ll see, there are some exceptions to this.

Why is this the rule?

There are two key reasons why, generally, it’s advisable to cap how far back you go on your CV:

  1. Relevance – your CV should be tailored uniquely to the specific role you’re applying for, so only retain experiences that really show the reader how you can benefit their organisation.
  2. Readability – recruiters and hiring managers are famously busy people, so you don’t want to overwhelm them with your entire employment life history.

Some people also worry about age discrimination when listing many years’ worth of experience on a CV. It’s worth noting that discriminating against candidates based on age is illegal in NZ, however it does still happen.

If you’re worried about ageism when applying for jobs, this is another potential reason for capping your list of experience. However, it’s worth noting that a simple background check from employers will likely reveal this info anyway, so if one of the below exceptions applies to you, we say go ahead and list what you want to list!

The exceptions

The key exceptions to the 10-15 year rule are:

  • If you’re changing careers: on career change CVs, if you’re returning to a field you haven’t worked in for a while, this old experience will play in your favour.
  • If you’ve worked for a big name: if you’ve got experience working with a well-known or industry-leading brand, you’ll probably want to leave this on your CV even if it was a while ago.
  • If you had an awesome achievement: provided it’s still relevant (and still awesome) employers love to see solid examples of success on CVs, so feel free to keep this in.

How many jobs should you list on a CV?

For some, 10-15 years might represent one or two roles, for others it could be many more.

Due to this disparity, there’s no hard and fast rules here (well, except that you can’t go over two pages).

You need to really drill down into the detail of the job description, and decide what elements of your past experience are most directly relevant to what the employer or recruiter wants to see.

A good tip to remember is that if you’ve had several jobs with similar titles, choose different aspects of each to list on your CV – this will show the reader the true breadth of experience you have to offer them.