An American résumé is one of the most important marketing tools you can use to land your dream job in the United States. Just like a curriculum vitae (CV), a résumé promotes your most important skills and accomplishments, and shows the hiring manager that you are the best candidate for the job.
A great résumé provides the hiring manager with just enough information to make you stand out from the competition and makes them want to know more by contacting you for an interview.
This article will walk you through what an American résumé is, the common components, and how to emphasize your skills to match the position you’re applying for.
How to write an American résumé
The American résumé is usually a one-page document and provides a summary of your work experience.
When you’re writing an American résumé, don’t include any personal information. Although it may be common in your home country, details such as your age, photo, marital status, number of children, immigration status, or social security number are considered unprofessional to include in your résumé in the US.
In fact, it is illegal for US employers to ask for this information during the interview process. This ensures that every applicant is considered solely on their professional skills.
A typical résumé is one page long, and is presented on 8.5” x 11” paper. Dependent on the industry or position you are applying for, you can use color or graphics, but keep the form standardized with 0.5–1” margins on all sides. Avoid abbreviations or acronyms, even if they seem common in the US, because. the hiring manager might be unfamiliar with the term unless it’s used in the description of the job you are applying for.
In this article, we’ll focus on the details of an American résumé, but keep in mind that, in the US, some job applications may require a curriculum vitae (CV). A CV is often used to apply for academic, medical, research, and teaching positions, and requires different formatting and more extensive information than a résumé. Unless the job description specifically asks for a CV, always assume that you will apply with a résumé.
The components of an American résumé
It may seem a bit stressful to condense your entire work history into one page, but as long as you stick to the most important and relevant information specific to the job you’re applying for, you’ll build a great résumé.
A basic American résumé primarily consists of the following information.
Contact information: This section should include your full name, email address, phone number, and links to your online portfolios or your social media profiles—but only if they are professional and relevant to what you are applying for.
Work history: Organize your employment information in chronological order. The most recent job should be at the top of your résumé, and then you should work your way to your earliest work experience. You should include information in each job section about the company you worked for, the dates you were employed, and your job title. You could also include the city, state, or country your job was in, although that is optional.
Each work history section should include a clear and concise summary of your highlights in that position. Keep in mind that your résumé should only be one page long, so stick to the skills and highlights most relevant to the position you are applying for.
For example, if you are applying for a front-end web developer position and the job description mentions that you must have experience with PHP, you could list on your résumé that you utilized PHP to develop the company’s internal database system.
Education history: If you have many degrees and education certificates, stick to what is most recent and relevant to your application. Your primary education is not necessary to include on your résumé. Avoid including any aggregate grades, because most US hiring managers may not be familiar with the concept.
Skills/achievements: This is a good place to draw attention to your skills that directly relate to the position’s job description. The skills section is usually a list of single words or short phrases. For example, you might list “database management” or “customer service” as skills.
Some large companies may use automated software to scan résumés for relevant keywords. For this reason, you could find the most important keywords for your résumé in the job description, and make sure you include those words in your résumé. You can also mention your other skills if you feel they will benefit your application.
Writing a résumé may also be easier if you perform an internet search for résumé templates to find examples of the standard type of information included on résumés that are specific to your position or industry.
Keep in mind that a hiring manager will typically spend about six seconds on a résumé before deciding who to contact for an interview. You need to make those six seconds count by only providing the most important information that will show that you are the most experienced candidate for that particular position. Your résumé will be stronger if you avoid filling up space with work and education history that doesn’t fit the description of the job you are applying for.
How to make the most of those six seconds with attention-grabbing skills
During the first viewing of your résumé, an automated software or a hiring manager will merely scan your résumé to see if you have the most important qualifications that they are looking for.
Make it easy for them to see that you are the best candidate for the job by formatting your résuméwith the most relevant information in an eye-catching way. When possible, use data and numbers to help quantify your contributions. For example, you could include the number of people you’ve supervised, the percentage of sales attributed to a program you developed, dollar amounts of sales you made, or money you saved. Try to condense your descriptions with verbs and adjectives such as organized, coordinated, independently managed, calculated, trained, expanded, etc. Consider bolding or changing the font color of key skills and information if this fits with the aesthetic of your résumé.
LinkedIn is a great resource to provide you with skills and words that are commonly used in the industry you are applying for. Look up the profiles of other people who have the same job title as the position you are applying for and check out the skills or keywords they use in their profile.
In general, there are six highly desired skills for most employees. If you can prove that you have some or all of these skills, your résumé will be stronger for it.
Analytical thinking: Proven strategic thinking to solve problems and adapt to different situations.
Effective communication: Effective communication skills, whether written or verbal, are incredibly necessary in any field. Employers want to know that you’re able to convey messages in a clear and respectful way.
Curiosity: You are not afraid to ask the important questions that can innovate and bring future success.
Ability to work as part of a team: Knowing how to handle different personalities and be a contributing member of a team is a valuable skill in any business.
Leadership: Highlight how you can think independently and successfully take control of a project or manage a team that produces results.
Résumés with little or no work experience
A résumé can still stand out even if you do not have any formal work experience. The secret is to relate all of your non-traditional work skills back to the position you are applying for.
Focus your résumé on the following major parts.
Résumé objective: This is a short paragraph at the top of your résumé that draws attention to your most relevant skills for the position you are applying for and your career goal. Keep in mind that you will have to prove these skills in the content of your résumé.
For example: I am a dedicated team player with proven leadership skills seeking an opportunity to enhance my skills as a project manager at XYZ company. Ambitious and hardworking, I will prove to be an asset in the ever-changing industry of telecom.
Education history: Your education history should consist of the year you graduated (or the date you expect to graduate), what type of degree you received, and the name of the school or university you attended. If it isn’t a local university, it may be helpful to list the location. It is optional to include your grade point average (GPA).
If you do not have much or any education experience, it’s easy to find classes online for little or no money that can help you in the skills you need for the job you are pursuing. For example, if you are aiming for a career in the web development industry, you can find many online learning resources on websites such as Lynda, Treehouse, or Skillshare.
Volunteer work: This is an excellent opportunity for you to highlight any transferable skills you’ve acquired without having any traditional work experience. Volunteering can show the hiring manager that you can fit into the company culture and that you are willing to go above and beyond what is asked of you.
Use discretion on the volunteer experiences that you choose to include. Research the company first to ensure that the experience you include lines up with the type of business you are applying for.
Languages: Being proficient in more than one language could be an asset to your potential employer. It could also provide you with an advantage over other candidates.
Hobbies: Before adding any hobbies or interests to your résumé, ask yourself, “Does this information make me stand out for this position at this company?” Hobbies should only be included if they are noteworthy, such as an accomplishment, a leadership role, or relevant to the position you are applying for. Be specific with brief descriptions that you can translate into job skills.
Don’t pack your résumé with useless information for the sole purpose of filling up a page. All the information you include should take advantage of your skill set and be relevant to the job you are applying for.
For more help on creating the perfect résumé with little or no work experience, check out Uptowork.com.
Putting the final touches on your résumé
Using free online résumé templates can help you to create a more professional résumé. Research your options and look for résumé templates that are specific to the job or industry you are applying for.
Don’t forget to proofread and let someone else look over your résumé. It’s so important to make the right first impression. One simple misspelling can put your résumé into the “No” pile, no matter how impressive it is.
Once you’ve put the finishing touches on your résumé, save it as a PDF document if possible. This will prevent any unwanted formatting issues that may occur. PDFs will make your résumé look great on any computer software system.
Don’t forget to check out our other articles to help in your job search:
- Ace The Job Interview (Even If You’re Not Fluent In English)
- How To Land A Job That Will Sponsor Your H-1B Visa
- What To Expect At An American Job Interview
Do you have questions about employment-based visas or sponsorships? Please feel free to give us a call!