First-time resume concerns
Are you worried about how to put your entry-level resume together? Get answers to seven of the most common questions.
When you're a college student or recent grad wondering how to write a resume, especially your first one, you'll face questions you typically won't find addressed in the current blizzard of resume books. That doesn't mean your questions aren't valid; it simply means the resume experts often overlook them, because they generally target mid-career audiences.
I've seen many versions of the following resume-related questions. It's time for some answers.
1. Should my resume be one page or two?
If you read enough books or talk to enough people who "know" about resumes, you'll come across a rule about resume length stating your resume should be only one page long. It's time to let this myth go, along with the resume handcuffing it spawns.
It's great if you can do this. But if you end up leaving out so much good material that you destroy your interview chances, what good have you done?
Remember: A human will read your resume. Some readers demand your resume be one page. Others will read a two-pager without hesitation. You don't know who's who, but the point still remains—a one-page rule simply doesn't exist.
2. Should the education section go first or last?
In most cases, it makes sense to put the education section at the beginning of your resume, since you're a college student or recent grad. But if you've got a lot of great internship, co-op or work experience closely related to your chosen field, position your experience section ahead of education.
Here's another resume area where there's no rule: Put it where it makes the most sense for you and your particular skills and experiences.
3. Should I include my GPA on my resume?
Yes, include your GPA—if it's above a 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale). If not, try to make it look better by highlighting your major GPA instead of your cumulative one or calculating your GPA for the last three or four semesters, for example.
4. Should I list my school address, permanent address or both?
If in doubt, list both—as long as you can actually be reached at both. If not, use the address where an employer will actually be able to reach you for the next few months.
5. What can I put on my resume if I don't have much experience?
For starters, don't overlook or ignore the skills you've gained from jobs you've taken simply to get through school. You've also gained valuable experience from:
- Your foreign-language study.
- Alternative learning experiences, like studying abroad or conducting research.
- Your computer skills and other tech knowledge.
- Extracurricular activities.
6. Should my resume include only paid experience?
Employers are interested in your skills, not whether or not you've been paid to learn them. So don't hesitate to highlight nonpaying work and volunteer experiences if they've given you bragging rights.
7. Should I include precollege information on my resume?
Generally, no—employers aren't likely to care about your high school years much. There are exceptions, of course. Suppose you won a national award in high school, or you accomplished something extraordinary. Then you should highlight it, especially if it's connected to your chosen field.
Remember: Resume writing is much more art than science, so just as you would with an art project, express yourself the way that works best for you and the information you're trying to portray.