If you’re applying for a job in the US, you’ll need to submit a resume that meets US application standards.
As a foreigner, though, you may have little to no idea what a US resume is and how you should write one to land the job.
Even as an American, you might need to dust off your knowledge on the US resume.
Unless you’re a resume expert, you probably don’t know what’s the best format for a US resume, or what’s the correct page length.
But worry not! This article is here to teach you all there is to know about writing a convincing US resume.
Here’s what we’re going to cover:
- US Resume Specifics
- Step-By-Step Guide to Build Your US Resume
- Formatting Your US Resume
- What NOT To Include in Your US Resume
Ready? Let’s dive in!
US Resume Specifics
There are a few specific things you need to know when it comes to the US resumes, but let’s start off with the most important:
The term US resume is equivalent to the European CV.
Both are one-page documents that summarize your relevant experiences, tailored for a specific job you’re applying for.
- The common length of a US resume is between 1-3 pages. If you are a recent graduate or someone with less than 5 years of relevant work experience, a one-page resume is enough, whereas if you are a seasoned professional, you can go for 2. In rare cases, you can do 3, but that’s rarely encouraged.
- Standard American English is preferred. For the most part, this means dropping those extra “U”s that UK English uses (e.g. “color” instead of “colour”).
- Leave out personal information, such as marital status, birthday, gender, photo, number of children, age, religion, personal identification numbers, and ethnicity/country of origin, as they can be grounds for discrimination.
- Don’t include references in your US resume unless the employer specifically asks you to.
- Don’t list English as a foreign language in your US resume (unless English isn’t your foreign language).
- Don’t list your GPA, SAT, TOEFL, or ACT scores on your US resume unless otherwise stated. More often than not, the recruiter doesn't care.
Step-By-Step Guide to Build Your US Resume
Now that you know the specifics of a US resume, it’s time to start writing one.
Not sure where to start?
Below is a step-by-step guide to building the perfect US resume, starting with:
#1. Choose the Right Format
The most popular US resume format is the chronological format (also known as the reverse-chronological format).
This format is widely preferred by recruiters, and for a good reason—it puts the focus on your work experience by starting with your most recent job and making your way back.
The reverse-chronological format looks like this:
99% of the time, we recommend using the reverse-chronological resume format, as both US and international recruiters are used to it.
Want to learn more about different resume formats? Check out our article.
#2. Follow These Formatting Tips
Making sure your US resume looks professional and is reader-friendly is just as important as what it contains.
Here are some essential formatting tips to perfect your US resume:
- Make sure your US resume is divided into clear, separate sections.
- Use 1-1.15 line spacing.
- Keep your US resume length between 1-2 pages. Only go for a third page if you are a seasoned professional with plenty of relevant work experience.
- Use a professional but easy-to-read resume font.
- Opt for ample white space to make your resume easier on the eye.
- Use the "US Letter" size (8.5 x 11 inches) when saving your PDF (instead of A4). In Novorésumé's editor, for example, you can switch this from "Layout" in the top menu.
...Or Use a Resume Template
No matter what format you choose, using a standard text editor like MS Word to create your US resume will be a pain.
You have to choose the right font, adjust the margins, order your sections the right way, and make sure the end result looks good & easy to follow…
All this can take hours of your time before you can even start filling your resume with content!
Want to skip all the hustle?
Use a resume builder. With just one click, you can choose out of 8+ resume templates and start building your resume instantly!
Our resume builder is fast, easy, and most importantly, the end result looks absolutely stunning.
See for yourself! Here's an example of our resumes saved in the US Letter format:
#2. List Your Contact Information
Once you’ve picked the resume format (or template), it’s time to start filling in the contents.
The first thing on your US resume should be your contact information, which includes:
- Name and surname
- Phone number (US phone number, that is)
- Address (City and State)
Optionally, you can also include links to a personal website, online portfolio, or even LinkedIn profile, but make sure to check if they are up to date and present you in the best light.
#3. Express Yourself in Your Resume Profile
Your resume profile is a short, introductory paragraph of your career or your professional goals.
Depending on how it’s written, a resume profile is also known as either a resume summary or objective.
- Resume Summary, or a 2-3 sentence summary of your career.
- Resume Objective, or your motivation for getting into a new field (the goal of your resume, if you wish).
If you’re a seasoned professional with several years of experience, you should use a resume summary to highlight your experience and achievements.
On the other hand, if you’re at the start of your career or if you’re changing industries, opt for a resume objective, as it’s less about work experience and more about skills or goals.
Your resume profile must be brief and to the point. Preferably, it should be between 2-3 sentences and urge the hiring manager to read the rest of your resume.
Here’s an example of a well-written resume summary:
- “Marketing manager with 4+ years of experience in a corporate environment. Good eye for design, with experience in creating marketing materials with Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and Canva. Intermediate copywriting skills, having worked on the company website, flyers, and several other content pieces.”
#4. Add Your Work Experience
Unless you’re a recent graduate, your work experience section is the most important part of your resume, as it shows your past accomplishments and responsibilities.
This section commonly includes the following:
- Job Title/Position, so that the recruiter scanning your application knows right away you have the relevant experience for the job.
- Company name and location. In some cases, especially if your previous employer isn’t as well-known, you may also want to add a brief company description.
- Dates employed in the mm/yyyy format.
- Accomplishments and responsibilities, which make up the core of each work entry. Depending on your field and years of experience, you want to list either responsibilities or achievements, in bullet points.
Here’s a concrete example:
Now there’s one thing to list your work experience and an entirely different thing to write a work experience section that’ll help you stand out from a pool of hundreds of applicants.
Here are a few tips to achieve the latter:
- List your achievements when possible and use action words to mention your responsibilities.
- When describing your achievements or responsibilities, follow this formula: “accomplished [X] as measured by [Y] by doing [Z]” (or, start with a verb, numerically measure what you accomplished, provide a baseline for comparison, and detail what you did to achieve your goal.)
- Add 4-6 bullet points for your most recent position and fewer as you go back in time.
- Even if you’re a senior professional with many years of experience, don’t go back further than 15 years. The recruiter doesn’t care what you’ve been up to so long ago.
- Tailor your resume to the job description. Read the job ad you’re applying for and identify the top experiences or skills listed. Then, make sure that your US resume includes the ones you’re qualified for.
#5. Include Your Education
Your education comes underneath the work experience section in your US resume.
Here are the essentials of how this section needs to be formatted and what to include there:
- Program Name. E.g.: “B.A. in Business Administration”
- University Name. E.g.: “Penn State University”
- Years Attended. E.g.: “08/2008 - 06/2012”
Here’s how this looks like in practice:
B.A. in Business Administration
NYC State University
08/2016 - 05/2019
- Magna Cum Laude
- Minor in Finance
Finally, here are some tips and tricks on how to get this section done right:
- If you lack work experience, place your education section right on top of your resume. This way, you’ll put more emphasis on your academic background than your lack of experience.
- Add courses that are relevant to the industry you are applying to in case you lack work experience (e.g. Design & Layout, for a Graphic Designer position).
- Mention your latest educational entry on top. E.g. Master’s Degree goes on top of a B.A. which goes on top of your high school degree.
- If you have a university degree, don’t mention your high school degree at all.
#6. Emphasize Your Strengths in Your Skills Section
Another staple of a US resume is the skills section. This includes all the know-how that makes you the perfect candidate for the job.
There are two types of skills you want to include:
- Hard skills, or measurable abilities. Here is where you include skills like Photoshop or Microsoft Office.
- Soft skills, or personal skills. They include a combination of people skills, communication skills, interpersonal skills, career attributes, etc.
Keep in mind, though, that a strong skills section doesn’t consist of every skill you ever acquired.
The recruiter doesn’t care about your skills in Photoshop if you’re applying for a job as an accountant.
Rather, they specifically care about the skills that’ll make you a top-performer at the job you’re applying for.
So, go through the job ad you’re applying for and pinpoint the exact skills that are required for the role.
Then, make sure that your US resume mentions the same skills (as long as you possess the skills, of course).
Additionally, make sure to include both soft skills and hard skills into your skills section, as recruiters value applicants we have some of both.
#7. Include These Additional Sections
Already included all the sections we’ve mentioned so far but still have some space in your US resume?
You can include some of these optional sections:
- Hobbies and interests
- Volunteer experience
- Certifications and awards
Keep in mind that these sections aren’t as important as the ones we’ve covered before. You’re not going to get hired just because you’re into creative writing as a hobby.
That said, these sections do help the recruiter pick between equally capable candidates.
Meaning, someone with work and volunteering experience is more likely to get hired than someone who only has work experience to show for.
What NOT To Include in Your US Resume
Equally important to remember are all the things you should NOT include in your US resume:
- Personal information, such as marital status, birthday, gender, photo, number of children, age, religion, personal identification numbers, and ethnicity/country of origin, because they can be grounds for discrimination.
- Authorization to work in the US, which includes your Social Security Number or immigrant status. By law, only after making you an offer can employers ask if you’re eligible to work in the US.
- References. Including references on a US resume is not standard practice. If the employer is interested, they will ask for them.
If you’re applying for a job in the US, you’ll need to submit a US resume. Here are the main points this article covered on the topic:
- The US resume is equivalent to the European CV.
- The common length of a US resume is 1-2 pages and standard American English is preferred over British English.
- The most popular format for a US resume is the chronological format.
- Format your US resume to 1-1.15 line spacing and clear and separate sections, as well as use professional and readable fonts.
- Don’t include in your US resume: personal information such as your age, ethnicity, or gender, authorization to work in the US, and references.