One survey of employers found the following mistakes were most common

  • Spelling and grammar 56% of employers found this
  • Not tailored to the job 21%
  • Length not right & poor work history 16%
  • Poor format and no use of bullets 11%
  • No accomplishments 9%
  • Contact & email problems 8%
  • Objective/profile was too vague 5%
  • Lying 2%
  • Having a photo 1%
Choose a sensible email address! One survey found that 76% of CVs with unprofessional email addresses are ignored. Here are some (modified) graduate email addresses that you should NOT emulate! death_metal_kitty@hotmilk.com demented_bovine@gnumail.com so_kiss_me@hotmilk.com platypus_mcdandruff@gnumail.com busty-beth@gnumail.com flockynockyhillipilification@gnumail.com virgin_on_the_ridiculous@hotmilk.com yourmywifenowgraham@gnumail.com original_madcow_jane@gnumail.com circle-of-despair@gnumail.com rage_against_the_trolley_fish@mail.com sexylikewoaaaah@hotmilk.com
  • Others 3% (listing all memberships, listing personal hobbies, using abbreviations)

How long should a CV be?

There are no absolute rules but, in general, a new graduate's CV should cover no more than two sides of A4 paper. In a survey of American employers 35% preferred a one page CV and 19% a two page CV with the others saying it depends upon the position. CVs in the US tend to be shorter than in the UK wher the 2 page CV still dominates for graduates but I do see a trend now towards one page CVs: as employers are getting more and more CVs they tend not to have the time to read long documents!

If you can summarise your career history comfortably on a single side, this is fine and has advantages when you are making speculative applications and need to put yourself across concisely. However, you should not leave out important items, or crowd your text too closely together in order to fit it onto that single side.AcademicandtechnicalCVs may be much longer: up to 4 or 5 sides.

How do I get my CV down to two pages from three?

  • First change your margins in MS Word to Page Layout / Margins/ Narrow - this will set your margins to 1.27 cm which are big enough not to look cramped, but give you extra space. See www.kent.ac.uk/careers/cv/word-cv.htm#margins for how to do this.
  • Secondly change your body font to Lucida Sans in 10 pts size. Lucida Sans is a modern font which has been designed for clarity on a computer screen. For more on fonts see here A good rule of thumb is to have your name in about 18 points, your subheadings such as education and work experience in 14 points and your body font as 10 points.
Bullets make CVs more readable Our brains love lists: they create a reading experience with more easily acquired information. We process lists more efficiently, and retain information with less effort. Bulleted lists appeal to our tendency to categorize things since they divide information into short, distinct items. They also help to alleviate the "Paradox of choice": the problem that the more options we have, the worse we feel. But don't bullet everything on your CV or it will look boring! Bulleted lists are great for lists of skills or interests but are necessarily limited in content and nuance, and so contain less depth than paragraphs. See Maria Konnikova's articlefor more about this.
  • Use tables with two or three columns for your academic results and references. See a CV using tables for modules and references here and an explanation of how to do this here
  • Use bullets for content, rather than long paragraphs of text. (See the box to the right)
  • Finally set line spacings to single space

If after all these tricks you are still on three pages you have to be ruthless with your content: read every single word and remove it if it doesn't add value to your CV!

The one page lean and mean CV!

In certain sectors such as investment banking, management consultancy and top law firms, a one page CV, highly focused, highly objective CV, now seems to be preferred. All of these areas have in common that they are highly competitive to enter and it may be that selectors, faced with so many CVs to work through prefer a shorter CV.

There is no point putting lots of detailed information into a CV which doesn't add any value, and in fact, just dilutes the impact. This is called the presenter's paradox. These CVs normally have lots of single line bullets and no personal statement at the beginning. They are fully of factual, as opposed to subjective, content. You must make every word count. They focus on achievements, initiative and responsibilities more than on tasks and duties. When carefully designed, these can be the very best CVs, but also the hardest to write!

See our page on Zen and the art of CV writing for more about this.

Tips on presentation

  • Your CV should be carefully and clearly laid out - not too cramped but not with large empty spaces either. Use bold and italic typefaces for headings and important information
  • Never back a CV - each page should be on a separate sheet of paper. It's a good idea to put your name in the footer area so that it appears on each sheet.
  • Be concise: a CV is an appetiser and should not give the reader indigestion. Don't feel that you have to list every exam you have ever taken, or every activity you have ever been involved in - consider which are the most relevant and/or impressive. The best CVs tend to be fairly economical with words, selecting the most important information and leaving a little something for the interview: they are an appetiser rather than the main course. Good business communications tend to be short and to the point, focusing on key facts and your CV should to some extent emulate this. The longer and more dense your CV is, the harder it is for an employer to comprehend your achievements. As Mark Twain said: If only I had more time, I would write thee a shorter letter.
HireRight, a candidate due diligence company, found that 63% of applicants provide incorrect information to potential employers. Steve Girdler of t HireRight, commented:The challenging employment market created by the economic downturn has increased the number of inaccuracies in CVs and job applications, yet most businesses dont check the claims of those they are about to employ." 38% exaggerated or lied about their education 35% included incorrect details in their employment history 31% made false statements about professional qualifications and memberships. Also see CV lies could lead to 10 years in jail and Students threatened with jail for telling 'white lies' on CVs
  • Be positive- put yourself over confidently and highlight your strong points. For example, when listing your A-levels, put your highest grade first.
  • Be honest: although a CV does allow you to omit details (such as exam resits) which you would prefer the employer not to know about, you should never give inaccurate or misleading information. CVs are not legal documentsand you can't be held liable for anything within, but if a recruiter picks up a suggestion of falsehoods you will be rapidly rejected. An application formwhich you have signed to confirm that the contents are true is however a legal document and forms part of your contract of employment if you are recruited.
  • The sweet spot of a CV is the area selectors tend to pay most attention to: this is typically around the upper middle of the first page, so make sure that this area contains essential information.
  • If you are posting your CV, don't fold it- put it in a full-size A4 envelope so that it doesn't arrive creased.

Research by forum3 (recruitment and volunteering for the not-for-profit sector) suggested:

  • Graduates sent out 25 letters per interview gained.
  • The average graduate will send out about 70 CVs when looking for their first graduate job. Of these, the average number of responses will be 7 including 3 to 4 polite rejections and the remainder inviting the graduate to interview or further contact.
  • There was a direct link between the number of CVs sent out and the number of interviews gained: the more CVs you send out the more interviews you will get.
  • Applicants who included a covering letter with their CV were 10% more likely to get a reply.
  • 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
To say things like I get on well with people is meaningless unless it is backed up by example Selector for a retail bank
  • Applicants sending CVs and letters without spelling mistakes are 61% more likely to get a reply and 26% more likely to get an interview. "In the age of the spell checker, there is no excuse for spelling mistakes". The most common mistakes to not show up in a spell check were: fro instead of for, grate instead of great, liased instead of liaised and stationary instead of stationery.
  • Set your spell checker to UK English (assuming you are British) or you will get center
    instead of centre, and color instead of colour.
  • Other turnoffs include:
    • misspelling the name of the company or the addressee,
    • not having a reply address on the CV
    • trying to be amusing.
    • Using lower case i for the personal pronoun: "i have excellent attention to detail"
Why you need to use a spell checker
  • I would like a job in the servillian police
  • I am applying for a mini-pupiledge
  • i am a prefectionist and rarely if if ever forget details.
  • Proven ability to track down and correct erors.
  • I have good writen comunication skills.
  • Lurnt Word Perfect computor and spreadsheet pogroms.
  • Develop an annual operating expense fudget.
  • Good custermer service skills.
  • I am death in my left ear.
  • In my 3rd year of BA houners English.
And why you must read it carefully as well
  • I was a prefect and pier mentor
  • I would like to do a law conversion cause
  • Extra Circular Activities
  • But I was not aloud to be captain
  • At secondary school I was a prefix
  • In my spare time I enjoy hiding my horse
  • I hope to hear from you shorty
  • I have a desire to work with commuters
  • Dear Madman (instead of Madam)
  • My hobbits include - instead of 'hobbies'
  • I am sicking and entry-level position
  • I have a friendly manor
  • Oversight of an entire department
  • Restaurant skills: Severing customers
  • In charge of sock control - instead of 'stock control'
  • Im an accurate and rabid typist
  • Over summer I worked for an examinations bored.
  • Abilty to meet deadlines while maintaining my composer
  • Cleaning bathrooms and hovering hallways.
  • Have made speech's at Open Days
  • I can make models using a verity of different materials
  • Working Kills. (This may very well be true in the long term but Working Skills might just be a better heading.)
  • Reason for Living: Relocation
  • Instrumental in ruining an entire operation for a chain operator
  • I was an administrator in a busty office.
  • Suspected to graduate early next year
  • For a PR job: I have a long term interest in pubic relations
  • I want experience in a big sex practice
  • Vox pox for BBC Radio enhanced my ability to analyse information
  • A ' full shit system instead of a full shift system
  • Enthusiasm was needed to communicate in an interesting manor.
  • As indicted, I have over 5 years of analysing investments.
  • On an application to work with teenagers: I am experienced in teaching marital arts
  • Relevant work experience: followed by Irrelevant work experience
  • My role included typing in details of accounts, customer liaison and money-laundering duties.
  • I am a genital person (instead of gentle!)
  • I would be happy to work in any part of England or Whales.
  • I am still under sided on my career.
  • That will test my abilitys and give me the ability to work on something may can have a real impact.
  • I'm from the European Onion.
  • I own and maintain a volts wagon beetle.
  • I have a full/clean driving license and own a cat (Kent graduate)
  • Language skills: German: intimidate (instead of intermediate!)
  • Sense I was young.
Thesaurusitis (using the wrong synonym!)
  • I demand a salary commiserate with my extensive experience
  • I am a strenuous student.
  • Reason for leaving last job: maturity leave
  • i am a conscious individual with good attention to detail (Kent grad.)
  • Received a plague for salesman of the year.
  • I was formally in a music group in which I performed in three conservative years.
  • I have a degree in orgasmic chemistry.
  • I have a doable award in science


  • TIMES NEW ROMANis the standard windows "serif" font. A safe bet - law firms seem to like it but it isn't easy to read on the screen, especially in the small font size you may need to use to get your CV on one or two pages.If you do prefer to use a serif font, try CAMBRIA which has been designed for screen readability. See the example fonts to the right to see how much clearer Cambria looks than Times New Roman.
  • I personally prefer sans fonts - sans fonts don't have the curly bits (called serifs) on letters. ARIAL is a standard Windows "sans" font and is now used by the BBC web site which used to use Verdana. As you can see sans fonts are cleaner and more modern than Times or Cambria and also look larger in the same "point" size (the point size is simply how big the letters are on the page). However Arial and Times New Roman are so common that they're a little boring to the eye.
Unnecessary use of complex words or hard to read fonts gives a bad impression: people who use simple, clear language are rated as more intelligent.
  • Classier choices might be VERDANA or LUCIDA SANSwhich have wider letters than most fonts but if you are running out of space then Arial is more space saving, as is TAHOMA which is a narrower version of Verdana. Notice how, in the example to the right, Verdana looks bigger and easier to read than Times New Roman. CALIBRI is now the standard MS Word font but is smaller and perhaps less clear than Arial, Verdana or Lucida Sans (see the examples to the right again). Never use COMIC SANS of course!
  • FONT SIZE is normally 12 points for the normal font with larger sizes for subheadings and headings.

Or 10 points. My favourite CV body text font is 10 point Verdana orLucida Sans with 12 or 14 points for sub headings.

  • 14 points is too big for the normal body font - wastes space and looks crude.
  • and 8 or 9 points too small to be easily readable by everyone, especially in Times New Roman which should not be used in sizes less than 11 points
  • Although many people use 12 points, some research on this suggested that smaller point size CVs (within reason) were perceived as more intellectual!
The Recruitment and Employment Commission says that about half of all CVs received by recruitment consultants contain spelling or grammatical errors. Candidates aged between 21 and 25 are most likely to make these mistakes and graduates in this age group are twice as likely to make mistakes as those who did not go on to university. Seehttp://careers.guardian.co.uk/cv-mistakes
  • Most CVs are now read on screen rather than on paper. It's no coincidence that Serif fonts are rarely used on the web - they are much less readable on screen (Times Romanwas first used on Trajan's column, 2,000 years ago!), and some fonts, such as Verdana, were designed with screen readability in mind. This web site is set in Verdana which, as you can see, is clear and easy to read.
  • If you find fonts interesting see
  • BBC article and this "Periodic Table" of Typefaces
  • Helvetica: How did one typeface conquer the world?
  • video: The History of Typography www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOgIkxAfJsk



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