What to do when you have a long career history

Worried you have too much experience?

Having a long career history is a great way to build an extensive set of skills and experience over time. However, it also means you’ll have to do a bit of extra legwork when it comes to ensuring your CV fits within the two page limit most recruiters prefer.

To make sure you’re only sharing the most relevant information, here’s what to do when you have a long career history:


How many pages should a CV be?

A CV should be around two pages in length, no matter how long your employment history is.

Whilst having a long career history can make keeping your CV short and succinct particularly challenging, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

In fact, if you’re ruthless with what you include, and ensure the contents of your CV are 100% relevant to the job you’re applying for, it might be easier than you think.

How long should a CV be?

Does your CV pass the seven second test?


What should I do if I have a long career history?


If you have too much work experience

Top tip: only include what’s relevant/recent.

If you’ve been working for a number of years, it’s no surprise that your employment history alone has the potential to exceed two pages. The solution? Don’t include everything you’ve ever done.

For example, work you’ve carried out decades ago is unlikely to be an essential part of your CV – especially if you have more recent experience that ticks the same boxes. But if you really want to include it, the job title alone is more than enough.

Alternatively, stating something such as ‘various retail positons (date – date)’ will also suffice.

The same goes for roles that don’t demonstrate the skills needed for the job you’re applying for, whether it’s a totally different line of work, or you have more senior positions that better fit with the vacancy’s requirements.

If in doubt – always refer back to the job description. And whatever work experience doesn’t prove your suitability for this particular role, omit it.


If you’ve got gaps in your employment

Top tip: always explain any employment gaps in your cover letter.

A long career history doesn’t necessarily mean your employment was non-stop.

Whether it’s that you’ve taken gap years, sabbaticals, or career breaks, or you stopped working all together to raise a family or go back to university – there are a number of reasons there could be gaps in your employment. Even if your work experience spans across twenty years.

The good news is, scaling back the detail is perfectly acceptable if you’ve had a lot of jobs, and this is also a great way to draw attention away from any gaps.

You should also show you’ve been proactive with your time off by mentioning any volunteer work, courses, or even hobbies that kept you busy.

Use dates to your advantage. Omitting months from the dates (and simply stating years) that you’ve worked at a company is a great way to make short gaps less obvious.

And if none of the above works? Your cover letter is the perfect place to elaborate on any unexplained gaps without sacrificing space in your CV – providing your reasoning is honest and positive.

How to explain a gap in your CV


If you’ve frequently job-hopped

Top tip: condense any similar jobs into one title (e.g. various temp roles).

Whilst in some fields, job hopping is expected (e.g. contract/freelance/temp work), employers in other industries might not see it in such a positive light.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t turn it around. Lumping similar roles together is a great way to keep your CV concise, whilst still being able to highlight the most relevant skills and accomplishments from each one.

For example, ‘Marketing Assistant, [X] and [Y] (dates)’ or ‘Various IT temp roles (dates)’.

It’s also a good idea to explain job hops in your cover letter, particularly if they were involuntary (e.g. due to redundancy, downsizing etc.), or based on a natural progression of your career – something which will prove your ambition, determination, and willingness to learn and grow.

And, if you’ve had a number of short stints of work that don’t add much to your application, it’s perfectly acceptable to omit them all together.

How to: Find work as an older jobseeker

Jobs for older people


Final thoughts

Is your CV still over the two page mark? Keep making cuts.

Cutting down on your responsibilities for each role, for example, will help keep things more streamlined – not to mention make your main accomplishments stand out.

Remember: your CV is your own personal sales tool. It’s not a list of everything you’ve ever done.

So take out any unnecessary phrases, clichéd phrases or sections that don’t add value. Trust us. Your future employer will thank you for it later.


Need more CV advice?

It takes an employer just seven seconds to save or reject a job applicant’s CV. This means creating a succinct CV is absolutely vital if you want to land that all-important interview.

To find out how to make your CV stand out from the crowd, buy James Reed’s new book: The 7 Second CV: How to Land the Interview.



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