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Top 6 first-time CV concerns

When you're a student or recent graduate wondering how to write a CV, especially your first one, you'll face questions you typically won't find addressed in the current blizzard of CV books. That doesn't mean your questions aren't valid; it simply means the CV experts often overlook them, because they generally target mid-career audiences.

Here's a list of CV-related questions that often surface.

1. Should my CV be one page or two?

If you read enough books or talk to enough people who "know" about CVs, you'll come across a rule about CV length stating your CV should be only one page long. It's time to let this myth go, along with the CV 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 CV. Some readers demand your CV 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 CV, since you're a student or recent graduate. 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 CV 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 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.

4. What can I put on my CV 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.

5. Should my CV 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.

6. Should I include precollege information on my CV?

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: CV 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.


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