Common Questions about CVs


Students often ask Careers Advisers about the following issues with regard to their CV While there may not be pat answers for many of these questions (every CV is different, just as every job applicant is) it is likely to be the case that by following some very straightforward guidelines you can deal with most of your concerns yourself. See also our Example CVs and Covering Letters page.

girl making application

How long should it be?

Generally speaking no more than two sides. One side CVs are perfectly acceptable but most graduates have trouble fitting everything on to one side. Academic CVs from PhDs aiming for research jobs in Universities or Industry can be three sides or even longer with the third side devoted to conferences, publications and a detailed synopsis of the PhD.

Do I need to include references?

Not necessarily unless the employer has specifically asked for them, but it is probably a good idea. If you are running out of space, then you could include them on the covering letter or state that you are happy to supply referees on request. See our Choosing Referees page

Should I include my GCSEs?

Just the main ones like Maths and English unless others will support your application strongly. Do indicate how many you have in total! If however your GCSE grades are mainly A's and your A level results are weak it is probably worth putting in all your GCSEs with grades.

Do I have to include all the jobs I have done, because I have heard employers are suspicious of gaps in employment history?

Some employers are, but if your recent experience is predominantly as a student this is unlikely. In any case you may wish to adopt a skills-based approach in which case you will concentrate on your relevant work experience only. Skills-based CVs are often particularly effective for mature students who have done a variety of jobs before coming to Kent.

What colour paper should I use?

White A4 size paper is perfectly acceptable - you don't need to buy some very expensive paper as the content and layout of the CV are the most important aspects. A pale pastel colour is also acceptable such as pale blue or cream if you want to be a little different, but don't use garish colours!

Should I include my nationality?

On the whole, yes. And certainly if, while you may not be British, you have a permit to work in the UK (assuming the job is in the UK).

What difference does it make what sex I am? Surely there is no need to include this?

If your name may confuse an employer then you may wish to clarify your sex. For example Robin or Alex can be male or female names.

Do I always need a covering letter?

Yes! This should be no more than 1 side of A4. Research by Forum 3 found that applicants who included a covering letter with their CV were 10% more likely to get a reply. See our Covering Letters page

What do I say about the potential Class/result of my degree?

Be optimistic and assume you will get the Class of degree you hope for. Especially if you know the employer will get many applicants.

Who do I send it to?

60% of CVs are mailed to the wrong person: usually the managing director. Applicants who addressed their application to the correct named person were 15% more likely to get a letter of acknowledgement and 5% more likely to get an interview. A vital issue! You must have a name, and that name should be repeated on the covering letter. It is often wise to phone or email the organisation to clarify the name of the person (together with correct spelling of their name and title) before you send your CV.

I don't really have any hobbies?

It is not hobbies which make your CV good or bad, but the way you present all the various and relevant aspects of your achievement and experience. Do not get hung up on this. See our Skills Section for help with this.

I have never held a position of responsibility or been the leader of a group!

As long as the job you hope to get does not require these attributes then there is no problem. If it does then you should make every effort to explore your activities of the past and seek out potentially relevant aspects. You must have had some responsibility. Look at your day-to-day routine and closely examine those areas you might use as evidence, such as paying bills etc. See our skills pages to help you identify your employability skills.

Could you tell me if my CV is okay/acceptable/any good?

There is such a thing as a "good" CV, but it will vary from job to job and industry to industry. For anyone to advise you on the quality of your CV they would need to know a good deal about the specific employer you intend to send it to. Even then their advice is likely to be based on a personal opinion. Only accept advice if the person (or book) giving it can give sound reasoning to back up what they say - there are many "old wives tales" about CVs! You can have your CV checked by the duty careers adviser.

"Think carefully about some of the important experiences in your life and how you can use them to demonstrate your strengths."

Student applying for NHS Management

All I've done is work in bars and restaurants. Employers aren't going to want to know about these jobs are they?

Provided you demonstrate the relevance of these jobs to the job you are applying for there is no problem. Identify key transferable skills such as needing to be tactful when dealing with awkward customers or working under pressure, and emphasise these rather than simply saying you have worked in a bar and restaurant. Tend to avoid routine tasks - for example, if your job involved washing up or shelf filling, don't bother to mention these. Focus on the transferable skills instead. See our CV examples for how to do this.

Should I include my age?

Since age discrimination legislation was implemented, you don't necessarily need to include your date of birth.

I'm not sure where I will be living after the summer, so what do I put down as my address?

Anywhere that you can rely upon. Your parents'/relatives' address is usually a good idea. What you need is somewhere for the employer to be able to contact you at. And quickly. A job may suddenly become available. If it is a relatives' address, will they let you know fast if there is an important phone call? Email addresses are increasingly useful.

Is an academic CV different from one I use to try and get a job?

Yes. They are doing different things. One is trying to get you an interview for a job. The other is for obtaining a place on a course or getting funding for that place. An academic CV is likely to put less emphasis on work experience, and more on subjects studied in your degree, project work and academic results, plus any evidence you can give to suggest an interest in the subject you wish to study.

Do I need a different CV if I am applying for a job in France?

Yes you do. Unless of course it is with a British company requesting a British CV See our links to European Resumes which outlines CV styles for a range of different countries.

How do I include my "salary expectations" on my CV?

You probably should not, unless asked to. The place for it would be in a statement of your career objectives. What you hope to do, where you hope to be in a few years time and how much you expect to earn. Either here or in the covering letter.

My CV is a little old. Is it still okay to use it?

Probably not! Unless it is still entirely relevant to the employers to whom you intend to send it. In any case you are likely to have acquired a few more selling points since then.

When emailing my CV, what format should I send it in?

How do I write a Web CV?

Web CVs use HTML format. You can include the web address in an email or letter to an employer. They have the advantage that you can easily use graphics, colour, hyperlinks and even sound, animation and video. The basic rules still apply however - make it look professional. They can be very effective if you are going for multimedia, web design or computer games jobs where they can demonstrate your technical skills along with your portfolio. For more information on this see our page on on-line applications

I have copied your CV booklet, so is there anything else I should do to my CV?

Yes, cross it out and start again! Any examples you are given should demonstrate that writing a CV is a terribly personal thing. You need to assess your own most attractive features, so that they are consistent with the requirements of the employer to whom you are applying. Just copying another, as if it were some blueprint for success and simply substituting your own personal details just will not do. The same thing applies to MS Word Template CVs. Although they can provide a useful basis, for throwing together a quick CV, employers (and careers advisers) can spot them from a mile away!

See our CV examples for many more tips