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Prof. George Magoha is set to be the new Education Cabinet Secretary and one of the major talking points during his vetting was about the size, or rather the length of his CV.

An academic giant in his own right, the good prof is deemed to be highly qualified for the post – owing to his past experience as University of Nairobi Vice chancellor and lately as Chairman of the Kenya National Examination Council.

The Professor of surgery is said to have presented an 81 page CV to the vetting committee. Question is, does size matter? Women might have their preferences when it comes to answering that question (bad joke) but what about HR people? How long should a resume be, and does it matter?

Some recruiters ask job applicants to send ‘detailed’ and ‘updated’ CVs but that doesn’t necessarily imply that you should narrate your entire life history in there. It’s a curriculum vitae, for crying out loud, not an autobiography.

With the high rates of unemployment in the country, a typical job opening attracts a big number applicants and employees have to sieve through the pile to pick ideal candidates. Imagine having to read hundreds of pages of people’s life histories for a living. Would you enjoy perusing 81 pages of every potential candidate’s history?

A half of the first page of Magoha’s CV, for instance, listed the 56 countries he has apparently visited. How is that information relevant to the job you are applying? Does it help your chances of getting the job? It certainly doesn’t because nobody has the time to read through all that, and be impressed, unless it is critical for the job.

Another Prof. comes to mind. Makau Mutua of New York. When the Office of the Chief Justice fell vacant a few years ago, the outspoken academic ambitiously flew into the country to appear before the Judicial Service Commission. His was a 350 page document. Maybe thus is a thing for professors or maybe it was a thing back in the 70’s, something like ‘the longer the better!’

Le Prof. apparently listed in his CV all the hundreds of his opinion articles that had been published in the newspapers and other publications. He didn’t get the job, and my guess is that the board was not impressed by that stunt (and maybe they had other reasons). But the truth is that you really don’t need a lengthy CV to land that job.

Keep it brief and straight to the point. By the way, it is no longer necessary to include your date of birth, nationality, religion, race, tribe, sex, marital status, languages and such details, unless they are expressly required. A modern resume should just contain your name and contact information as your personal details.

This takes me back several more years to when I started tarmacking in Nairobi. This boss sat behind his desk, somewhere on Riverside Drive, waving the two sheets of paper at my face. “Is this your whole CV?” “Yes sir.” He looked at the CV and then looked at me with contempt, clearly not impressed. It was basically a one page CV with the second page’s one half containing my ‘referees’ and the other half blank. “So tell me more about yourself.”

I was young, an amateur, without any experience in the job I was applying for, and had a very unprofessional CV and needless to say, I didn’t get the job. So this is the thing, don’t make it too short either. Let it neither be too brief nor too long. Include only what is important and relevant for the job at hand and save everyone’s time.

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