How long should a CV be for graduate jobs? This and other CV FAQs answered

5 Dec 2023, 13:45

How long should a CV be and what information do you include in it? These are two key questions for graduate job hunters, which, along with others, we answer in this CV FAQ roundup.

Glasses, latptop, notebook: somebody getting ready to write their graduate CV, having their FAQs answered.

CV FAQs introduction | Length of CV | Layout of CV | The information to put on your CV | CV structure | First person or not? | CV font | B&W or colour? | CV format | CV filename | Using bullet points on your CV | Dealing with CV gaps | Mitigating circumstances | References on your CV | CV feedback

We’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions about CVs, covering topics such as ‘How long should a CV be?’, ‘What’s the best font for a CV?’ and ‘Should you add colour to your CV?’. These answers are designed to be used alongside our detailed advice on how to structure and write your CV (and adapt our template to suit you) and our advanced guide to perfecting your CV to get the job and career you want.

How long should your CV be?

The maximum standard length for a graduate CV is two pages of A4. Check any guidance the employer has provided very carefully. If the employer has asked for a one-page CV, that's what you need to provide. But, otherwise, you can go for a two-page CV – remember that a CV is ultimately your ‘sales document’ and, if you have sufficient to fill two pages, you shouldn’t sell yourself short.

Make sure you use either one or two full pages. It looks better. A recruiter will likely take the view that one and a half pages is neither here nor there and will prefer a full second page to one that peters out halfway.

What’s the best layout for your CV?

Our main CV template is a good starting point. You can download the template CV below and our CV format advice article provides tips and advice on how to tackle each section.

Getting ready to apply for a graduate programme or an entry-level job? Check out our example CV.

Graduate CV template

Getting ready to apply for a graduate programme or an entry-level job? Check out our example CV.

You can also check out our technical CV – perfect for any tech-focused graduate roles.

A technical CV for graduates

And take a look at our further range of example CVs and covering letters for more layouts and ways to present your experiences.

What if you want to get creative with your CV… presenting it in the form of a wine bottle label perhaps? Think about the industry and employer you’re applying to before you attempt a novelty CV. Some sectors, such as law, are more traditional than others and will not be impressed by anything that looks gimmicky.

If you're applying for creative or design-oriented roles, a fresh approach might not be held against you, but some recruiters will be put off by an approach that makes it harder for them to scan-read your CV.

After all, recruiters want to be able to discover from a glance whether you have the required or desired skills, qualifications and experiences for the job.

Think about how to make headings and subheadings stand out, but don’t go overboard. Be consistent in the format you use for dates, and where you place them. In our CV template, all dates are on the left-hand side.

Your university careers service will be able to provide you with other CV templates. It should also offer CV clinics or one-to-one CV review sessions; these are likely to be popular so you may have to book well in advance.

What information should you include on your CV?

In a CV, you should always include:

  • Contact details
  • Work experience history
  • Education history.

Do you put your address on your CV?

It is standard practice to include your address on your CV. However, unless the employer specifically asks for it, it isn’t a strict requirement. Not including your full address can help you save space on the page.

If you’re applying for a remote position, then it is advisable to include your full address; many UK-based remote jobs require you to be resident in the UK.

How do you write your degree on a CV?

You should include your degree in your education history stating your university, the dates you attended and your course title. It is your choice as to whether you include the grade you achieved. If you meet or exceed any academic requirements for the role, then it is wise to include it. Hower, you should always follow any instructions.

Should I put my 2.2 result on my CV?

Don’t be put off stating your 2.2 qualification in your CV. A 2.2 is still an achievement that requires effort and many employers now set this as their academic requirement.

If you have a 2.2 but are applying for a role that requires a 2.1 grade, then it’s important that your CV exemplifies the skills and experience sought by the employer to give yourself the best chance of success.

However, in this case, it’s a good idea to contact the employer before you apply to find out whether your application will be considered. It may be stated in the job advert or on the employer’s recruitment web page.

Any further information you include in your CV is up to you and what you include will partly depend on how you structure your CV.

What's the best structure for your CV?

There is no one right answer to this. The section headings you use are up to you. Present the information in the order you feel best reflects your strengths, and that clearly shows how you match the employer's requirements. For example, you might choose to list your employment history and work experience before your education and qualifications if you have several pieces of work experience that are directly relevant to the role. At a later stage in your career, you could create a separate section for professional qualifications.

Aim to group pieces of information together in a way that highlights what you have achieved in general and that draws particular attention to any achievements that are relevant to the job.

Read our explanation of the difference between chronological and skills-based CVs to help you decide on your approach.

Should I use the first person in my CV?

Although grammatically correct, using the first person in your CV is not advisable. Starting each point with ‘I’ can become repetitive for the recruiter and the extra character will cause each line to take up more space on the page.

Often, a CV will be written using the implied first person, whereby you omit the use of the personal pronoun ‘I’. The benefit of this is that you vary the beginnings of sentences and can start each point with an action verb, immediately drawing attention to the impact you had in the position.

Remember that if you are accompanying your CV with a cover letter, then you will write the cover letter in the first person.

What's the best font for a CV?

The best font for your CV is one that is clear and easy to read. Whoever reviews your CV will likely skim read it, so choose a font that makes this easier for the recruiter.

Consider fonts such as Times New Roman, Arial and Verdana. Once you've decided on a layout and style, it is important to be consistent with fonts and formatting, using the same style for headings throughout, for example.

Should you use colour on your CV?

You can, especially if it makes it look more attractive. Bear in mind that it may be printed off in black and white, so check how it will appear then.

Should your CV be a pdf?

Follow the instructions that you are given by the recruiter. A pdf retains its formatting, but if you are sending your CV to a big employer or a recruitment agency, they might prefer a Microsoft Word document or similar, as they may be using software to scan it. If this is likely to be the case, consider whether your CV includes the keywords that might be checked by a CV screening programme (these are likely to be based around the competencies or attributes detailed on the job description or advert).

What filename should you give your CV?

Don’t just call it CV.doc. Include your first name and surname in the filename: JohnSmithCV.doc. As ever, follow any specific instructions you have been given.

Should you use bullet points on your CV?

The key to CV writing is to be succinct, while also conveying some selective details that flesh out the picture you are giving the recruiter of your skills, strengths and suitability for the role.

Bullet points can help you to say what you want to say in the limited space available. Keep them short and sweet – ideally not longer than two lines. Alternatively, you could use short, punchy paragraphs.

How do you deal with gaps in your CV?

Does your CV have an unusual chronology – for example, does it show you took longer than the standard length of time to complete your A levels or degree? The key tip here is not to make anything up. You don’t need to give explanations for this kind of gap on the CV itself and there may well be a way of presenting your experience in a positive light in an accompanying covering letter or at interview. Read our advice on explaining gaps on CVs for more tips. If you are worried about the coronavirus showing up as a gap, read our advice on how to make the most of lockdown on your CV .

Depending on the reasons for the gap on your CV, it could be that there are mitigating or extenuating circumstances that you might want to tell the employer about.

Should you disclose mitigating circumstances on your CV?

You need to double-check with the employer to find out how they prefer candidates to notify them of mitigating or extenuating circumstances. For example, there may be a section on an online application form for you to fill in with the relevant information. You would not normally need to tackle this on your CV. Use our advice on mitigating circumstances and how to disclose them to help you.

Do you put references on a CV?

Unless instructed otherwise, it’s okay to leave referee contact details off your CV. Instead, you can include a sentence such as ‘References available upon request’. This will save space in the document. What’s more important is that you have a suitable referee who has agreed to act as your referee before you give their contact details to an employer.

Can you get feedback on your CV?

Yes. Having another pair of eyes glance over your CV is helpful. They can tell you what kind of first impression your CV makes and whether they think you should put greater emphasis on something or delete something from it. A good first port of call is a careers adviser or a placement tutor at your university; many careers services provide CV reviews even after you’ve graduated.

If you have applied for a job and been rejected, you can email the recruiter if they had any advice on how you could improve your applications in the future. Recruiters will usually state on their website if they have a policy of not providing feedback to candidates; if they don’t state a policy, it is always worth asking. Find out more about how to ask for feedback and how to deal with job rejection and act upon feedback .

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