Common CV Questions Answered

Jul 12, 2022

Job hunting is generally not a fun experience. We’re not here to sugar-coat that! It can be stressful, exhausting and frustrating, with a lot of highs and lows to work through before you finally land that next role.

One of the big things that cause anxiety in job hunting is the ‘dreaded’ CV. There’s so much pressure on that one document, and so much conflicting information about what makes the ‘perfect’ CV that it can feel impossible to get it right! But it doesn’t need to be a hugely stressful experience, and today we’re going to answer some of the most commonly asked CV questions we get, all in one place. Starting with…

How Long Should Your CV Be?

Everyone seems to have a different answer to this one. From ‘it must fit on one side of A4 and absolutely no more’ to ‘ as long as it needs to be to fit in your every achievement since birth’. It’s a bit ridiculous! And neither of those answers is right, by the way.

Ideally, your CV should be about 2 pages. Long enough to include enough detail, but short enough to keep an employer’s attention without getting boring. If you find yourself listing career details and going over 2 pages, try to trim it down a bit. Going down to your latest 3 roles is a good rule, or even just those most significant to your career and what you hope to achieve.

How Far Back Should Your CV Go?

This is the next obvious question because for some people their career could legitimately go on for 4 or 5 pages. But unless you’re very new to the workforce, you don’t need to list every single job you’ve ever had on your CV.

Instead, a good rule of thumb is to go back about 10 years, 15 maximum. If there are roles from your past that are particularly relevant to your job search, make sure you include these over roles that don’t have as much impact. If you find your CV is still too long, cut down the descriptions of each role to a brief summary.

If your history goes back over 15 years and is taking up too much space, a good option is to list your last 10 years’ experience and then add a note saying ‘a variety of different roles prior to YYYY’ to cover the rest. If a prospective employer wants to go back further, they can do that in the interview.

How Do I Explain Gaps?

You’re often told that having gaps in your career is very bad, and you’ll struggle to find a job if you change careers quickly or take a break. Frankly, that’s absolute rubbish. If you have had a career break for a legitimate reason, for example, health problems or having a child, then this should be included as a single sentence in the relevant years. Most employers now understand that not everyone can work continuously for their whole life, and won’t hold that against you.

Appearing to job hop on your CV on the other hand can be perceived badly by some people, and so you need to prepare your CV to handle that. We’ve worked with many candidates who have very legitimate reasons for quick employment changes, from redundancy to company liquidation or even relocation.

The best way to head off assumptions of questions about a patchwork period in your career is to include the reason for the role ending in the role description section. For example:

ABC Tech, Office Manager – June 13 to September 19 – company dissolved.

Globex, Office Supervisor – June 13 to September 19 – Pregnancy

ABC Tech, Office Manager – June 13 to September 19 – Office relocated to Ireland

Should I Customise My CV?

Yes! But within limits. The whole point of a CV is to get you an interview, where you can impress enough to win the job. So you should take some time to tailor it to every role you apply for. This could be as simple as altering the language you use to match the employer, or choosing which jobs in your employment history should be featured more prominently. These small changes can make a big difference, but you shouldn’t feel like you have to re-write your whole CV for each job!

We hope that’s explained some of the most common CV questions, and given you a bit more confidence in your own. If you have more questions that we didn’t answer here, or some help writing your CV from seasoned recruitment professionals, just get in touch and we’ll be happy to help.