We put your CV questions to a Recruitment Manager and here's what he said

Charlie Benson
Content Marketing Executive

CV-writing can be a minefield, especially as a recent graduate. 

So we asked CV expert and former Recruitment Manager at GradTouch, Ben Marsland, to clear some things up.  




We asked Ben 20 top questions that come up on the subject of CVs. Here's what he said:


1. How long should the ideal graduate CV be?

Ben says you should aim to get your CV onto one page, "but two pages is better than one-and-a-half. One-and-a-half pages just looks disorganised - like you didn't have enough to fill two pages, but couldn't refine it down to fit on one." 

He also adds that two pages is the absolute maximum your CV should be: "As a recent graduate, nothing could justify your CV spanning three pages."


2. How can you get your CV down to just one page?

Ben recommends "thinking intelligently about formatting" as your best bet for getting your CV down to one page in length. 

"A quick way to cut it down, also, is to think about how you're formatting information on grades and to cut out the names of your GCSE courses - just leave the grades."

He also says you should be asking yourself why you've included each bit of information, and given it valuable space, on your CV: "Think about what's important - if you've listed previous experience working as waitstaff, for example, you don't need to explain what that involved - they know."


3. What font size should you use?

"No smaller than size '9' font, and no bigger than '12'. You can always tell when someone's used a bigger font to try and make it look like they've got more experience than they have." On the flip side, if you're trying to get your CV down to just one page, don't be tempted to do so by making the font significantly smaller - it won't be an appealing read for a prospective employer. 


4. Are unusual fonts, elaborate formatting and typography a good idea?

This entirely depends on the Industry you're looking to work in, Ben says."You can use those things to make you stand out if you're going for something creative. Otherwise, no one cares - stick to making sure all the important information is there, clearly. That's all they'll be judging you on."


5. Should you include a photo of yourself?

"No, never. Let your CV do the talking, rather than worrying about what you should look like." 


6. How should you order and lay it out?

Ben says his preference for the order of a graduate CV is:

About Me/Summary section

Education: degree first, then A-Levels, then GCSEs


Hobbies and Interests


You can download our free CV template, which follows this structure, here.


7. So, you should include a Hobbies and Interests section? 

"Yes, it gives you a bit of personality and a chance to create common ground with the person reading your CV. Interviewers want to have a good interview with you - they don't want an awkward, question-answer-question-answer interaction.

"So, listing some interests they can ask you about helps. It's also a great opportunity to differentiate yourself a bit - everyone applying for the job will have a degree, not everyone is a really good painter or badminton player." 


8. And you recommend a summary, 'About Me', section?

"Yes. Not all jobs need a cover letter - they might not request one and, even if they do, they might not all read them. Everyone reads CVs. Treat a summary statement as a mini cover letter that goes right at the top of a CV. Make it related, reference things you've done without going into too much detail and use it as an opportunity to get a bit of personality into your CV."


9. Should you talk about yourself in the first or third person?

"Always first person. You're the one writing it."


10. How far back should an Education section go on a CV?

Ben says the answer to this one varies on the candidate, but that you should always include your A-Levels. "Then, whether you include your GCSEs is up to you. 

"If you want to be defined by and are proud of your academics, put your GCSEs on. Similarly, A-Levels become particularly important if you did well in them, but then got a 2:2 at uni, for example."


11. How far back should an Experience section go on a CV? 

"Everything should be included, as far back as is relevant. Recruitment roles, for example, will be interested to see you've had a variety of jobs, as it shows you've been motivated and done lots of things. If you're applying to do Accounting, though, and you once worked on a building site - they probably don't need to see that."


12. Should you include a skills section?

"Generally, a skills section works best for hard skills and qualifications that are a requirement or show you will excel at the job - like Photoshop and so on. Really, your cover letter is the place to show you've got things like communication skills - don't create a skills section on your CV and just fill it with buzz words like 'team player'".

Read this article for more information on the most in-demand soft skills employers are looking for and how to talk about them. 


13. Should you link to your social media, online profiles or website?

"If you're good enough to make a relevant, personal website - it'll make you stand out, yes.

"Graduates should definitely get onto LinkedIn and include that. Plus, you can use it to do a bit of background research on your interviewer before you meet - they will be looking you up and you should do the same." 


14. How much should you tell the employer about yourself?

Ben says, though it's illegal for a recruiter to say 'no' to a candidate based on their personal information, you should never include your religion, marital status, gender, race or date of birth: 

"They don't need to know. Only state things that are relevant to the job." 


15. Should you include references?

"No - you can put 'references available on request' if you like, though. It's just a given, most people put it."


16. What type of document should you send and save a CV as?

"A PDF. Word documents highlight any problems," Ben says, even if it's just underlining a word that is accurate but the program recognises as an error.

He adds: "There's something final about a PDF - it communicates you made it just for them, you're confident in it." 

"Save it as: 'First Name, Last Name' - not just 'CV'. They've got millions of them." 


17. What should you do if you have gaps in your CV or you've job-hopped a lot? 

"It's natural, you're young - no one's going to leave uni and get the ultimate job straight away. Plus, there are loads of jobs out there today that didn't even exist 5-10 years ago, it's natural that people are trying a variety of things.

"The best thing to do is be honest - you don't want to seem like you're ashamed of it," Ben says.  

Read this article about how to minimise the impact of CV gaps on your chances of landing that grad job. 


18. Is it OK to send out a generic CV if you've tailored your cover letter?

"If you're applying for the same sort of job in the same sort of Industry, yes.

"These applications take a long time - make it easier for yourself by creating CVs that work for a certain set of jobs. For example, if you're looking at getting into both Sales and HR - you could have a CV for each, highlighting your experiences and skills that link most to the one in question. If you're just applying for Sales and also Recruitment, though, they can both be the same as they're closely linked. The cover letter is where it gets really specific."


19. If you've only just graduated, how can you make your CV stand out from everyone else's? 

Ben advises against "trying to make your CV stand out for the sake of it". He says, "if you're applying for something creative, of course, there are things you can do - make it cool, fun and quirky.

"But otherwise, you just have to hope the information there is good enough and stand by what you've done."

If you're looking to improve your CV, though, Ben says, "if you can, get some short-term internships now and get them on there to help your chances." 

Here's some advice on how you can use data and examples to create a really convincing CV


20. Finally, what if you don't have any experience related to the job you're applying for?

"You might want to consider making it a two-pager and stating under your previous Experience why each job can be deemed relevant and will make you good at the role you're applying for."

Ben's number one piece of advice, for both grads who have experience related to the job they're applying for, and those who don't - is to follow up a couple of days after you send your CV.

"Call the company and say, 'I've applied to this role, I know I don't have all the experience you require on my CV, but I'd love to talk about why I'm a good fit.' It shows a lot of confidence, a grad calling up on the phone. 

"And, you never know, it might turn you from a 'no' to a 'yes'."