CVs: How to fit decades of experience without taking up pages

By Kate Warren 20 March 2017

Here are seven tips for incorporating multiple projects, consultancies and work experience into your CV while still keeping it brief. Photo by: Flazingo Photos / CC BY-SA

Whether you are an independent consultant moving from assignment to assignment or in a full-time position where your time is divided between multiple initiatives, a common career history of a global development professional includes a long list of projects.

While the one-page resume rule does not apply in global development, most recruiters advise keeping your CV to two to three pages, no more than five. So many seasoned professionals grapple with showcasing their extensive experience while keeping their CVs to a manageable length.

So how do you show the depth of your work history in a traditional CV format without overwhelming the reader?

Here are six tips for incorporating multiple projects and/or consultancies into your CV while still keeping it brief.

1. Create a long version of your CV

Include all of your projects and assignments big and small, no matter the length. This could be 20-plus pages, which is okay. This won’t be a CV you use to apply for positions. Instead, use it as your own database of assignments to pick and choose from to tailor a more concise version of the most relevant positions when applying to jobs. The up-front work will save you loads of time down the line.

You will also have this in case a recruiter actually does want to see all of your work history. In international development, recruiters often like to see a lot of detail, but overwhelming them with too much at once could scare them off. However, if they like what they see in the shorter version, they may want to follow up with the full list. This can sometimes be the case when your CV is included in a bid. The bidding organization may want to rewrite your resume to tailor it to the requirements of a request for proposal and will want to know everything they could possibly include.

2. Create a shorter, “highlights reel” version of your CV

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This will be the CV you share when applying to jobs. Instead of including every single assignment, select those that most closely match the requirements of the position. Include a header noting that these are “selected assignments” so the recruiter knows this is not the full list. Recruiters like to read employment history in reverse chronological format, so avoid grouping by sector or function. This will make them think you have something to hide — such as a long employment gap. So while you want to show the most relevant work, also be sure to avoid any date gaps in the assignments you choose.

You can include as a small line at the bottom of your shorter version by saying something like, “long version of CV including all previous projects available upon request.”

Pro tip: You can upload both a short and long version of your CV to your Devex profile (and up to five versions in total). Be sure to give each an easily understandable name so recruiters searching our people database will know which CV may be most relevant to them.

3. Refine your employment history section

If you held a full-time position but worked on many different projects, describe the number and kinds of projects you did for each position in your employment history section. Pick out those most relevant to the job you are applying for as illustrative examples, rather than listing each one.

Recruiters like to see achievements and results, so rather than listing the impact of each project, describe the overall impact you created during your tenure. It is also okay to list multiple entries under one employer if your time with one organization was spent working on vastly different initiatives.

4. Curate your consulting assignments

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For experienced global development professionals, striking out on your own can be a practical, and even lucrative, option if you’re seeking a flexible schedule or technical concentration. If you’re considering leaving a steady paycheck for the life of a consultant, here are four tips both recruiters and seasoned consultants advise.

If you work as an independent consultant, list “independent consultant” (or your small business name if you have one) as you would a traditional full-time position. Be sure to include the date range.

Below, you can list “selected projects” and only include those most relevant to the jobs you seek. Be sure to balance this with projects across a date range that show you have been consistently working. Including consulting assignments can also help smooth over any gaps in employment.

5. Give the right details

When describing your various projects, recruiters will want to know the following: How big was the budget? How long was the project? Who was the donor? Who were your partners? What country? What was the project name? Spend your word count on the details that will matter most to recruiters.

6. Put a “summary of experience” or “key qualifications” section at the top of your resume

Here, you can highlight your most relevant work plus give a quantitative and qualitative summary of your employment experience without listing every single assignment. For example, you could say, “led the creation of 78 new workforce development projects providing employment for at-risk youth.” You can also summarize your work experience by function or sector in this section as long as you detail this experience in reverse chronological format below.

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About the author

Warren kate 1
Kate Warren@DevexCareers

Kate Warren is the senior director and editor of careers and recruiting content at Devex. With more than a decade of international development recruitment experience working with international NGOs, consulting firms and donor agencies, she has a finger on the pulse of hiring trends across the industry and insider knowledge on what it takes to break in.


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