7 Resume Rules When Applying for US Jobs

It's an exciting time when you decide that the good ol' US of A is where you want to work. Many people from all over the globe have established a successful career in the Land of Opportunity, and with hard work and perseverance, you can easily become one of them. Granted, you can't just pack up your bags, take a plane to the US and work. In fact, the entire application process can be overwhelming and frustrating.

Indeed, some cultural differences can come into play that you may not be aware of. For instance, if you come from Asia or certain parts of Europe, you may be used to stuffing and cramming every piece of personal information you can think of into your resume, so it ends up looking like a full autobiography. If you believe a resume isn't worth looking at unless it's at least three pages long and has professional-looking photo of you smiling wide to the camera, then you're in for quite a shock: American companies traditionally prefer resumes to be as concise as possible, and free from such accoutrements.

How concise, you may ask? To be brutally honest, if you find it impossible to write a one-page resume, then you really should rethink your application. With that in mind, here are seven tips to make your resume more American-friendly.

1. Keep the Format Clean

The basic principle behind writing a resume for an American company is the same as it is anywhere in the world: make it simple, clean, and easy to read. Use white paper and print your resume with black text. Choose standard and legible fonts such as Arial, Calibri, or Times New Roman, and keep the size between 10 and 12. Use single spacing, and make sure to add a space between paragraphs. As for the margins, keep their length within the one-inch standard.

2. Don't Provide Too Much Personal Information

Around the world, it's quite common for an applicant to include gender, nationality, height, weight, date of birth, marital status, and other pieces of personal information on their resumes, which is too much to have on a standard American resume. While it's acceptable to include your gender, nationality, and native language because you come from another country, American companies do not require them, mainly to comply with anti-discrimination laws.

3. Never Include Your Photo

It bears repeating that putting your photo on your resume is a bad idea. Unless you're an actor looking for an acting job, the practice of including a headshot with your resume is traditionally shunned in American society. Photos can lead to discrimination, and there are laws in America against such practices. If you decide to go with what you're used to in your home country and send your resume with your photo anyway, it may attract a recruiter's attention, but it may not earn the results you had in mind.

4. Include only University and Graduate School Info Under the 'Education' Section

In some countries, it's quite common for applicants to include all levels of education on their resume, from preschool to higher education. Some will even include final grade and honors received. In the US though, university and graduate school information will suffice for your education, since these are clue enough that an applicant finished secondary and primary schools.

5. Include Only the Most Relevant Experiences

The goal of the resume is to convince the recruiter that you are the right candidate for the job. It's not supposed to be a laundry list of everything you've ever accomplished in your life. To truly stand out, you should only list experiences that relate to the position you are applying for. If your resume reads like your life story, then you need to trim out all the fat. It helps to know the industry that the company belongs to, so you can purposefully discern what to include. For example, if you're applying to a sales company, then any past experience involving finance, sales, and customer service will be useful.

6. Keep Your Resume to a Single Page

One page is usually enough for a resume to serve its purpose. That said, if you have more than 10 years' work experience, two pages could be acceptable, but that's pushing it. Recruiters rarely get to the second page, if at all. And when looking at the first page, they're only scanning it for keywords and unique skills and experiences, so why waste good paper on something that your intended audience will never see?

7. Showcase Your Professional Side

In a way, your resume needs to do the recruiter's job for him or her. You do this by supplying the recruiter precisely what he or she is looking for. Here are the critical sections that your resume should contain:

  • Career Objective - a fundamental resume ingredient that belongs at the top quarter portion of your resume. Every information that follows in your resume needs to support this statement.
  • Skills Summary - this section tells the recruiter more about you than any personal information ever will. Work hard on choosing the skills you want to add in this section. Again, relevance is key.
  • Professional Work Experience - use this section to highlight jobs that support your career objective. For each job you list on your professional work experience, make sure to add information on why you were successful at that job.
  • Education - if you're a new graduate without any work experience, treat your education as your work section, listing a few points under your degree to describe how it can be useful to the job you are applying for.

Additional Points

Check your social circles. Do you have friends from your country now working in the States? It can help your plight to see how they structured their resume, given that it has helped them land a job. As well, use keywords from the company website in your resume not only to catch a recruiter's eye but also to let them know that you've done your homework about the company.

Get a free resume review
  • 7 seconds: this is how long your resume has either to impress or be ignored by the recruiter
  • 300+: average number of applications one corporate job opening posted online receives
  • 3%: number of sent resumes that result in interviews

Transform your career
and beat the odds!