Just like in any country, a solid, well-formatted resume (or CV) is the key to success.
However, the typical format of an American resume may differ dramatically from those in your country. For instance, in the U.S. work experience is at the top of the document. Applying for jobs? Think of it as having just one minute in front of an audience to introduce yourself and highlight your strengths: American resumes are short and concise.
To make the most of your chances and get a response from your potential employer, it is better to follow some general rules:
- Send a complete application (letter of application, resume - CV, copies of certificates, etc.)
- Check you are sending a clear message, try to keep sentences short.
- Be clear about your achievements: provide facts and figures.
- Mention your soft skills (people/personal skills).
- Include projects that show your skills.
- Define your current goal.
- Include personal information (picture, marital status, date of birth).
- Include every work experience you have.
- Go longer than one page. If needed, add a different section.
- Use the word ‘I’ or directly refer to yourself in any way.
- Overuse CAPITAL LETTERS, bold letters or italics.
- Include irrelevant hobbies, such as origami for an accountant position.
The structure of an American resume
A resume in the USA should include:
- Personal details.
- Summary statement: one or two phrases with your skills/experience.
- Employment history: list your most recent job first.
- Education: Americans may not understand your country’s grading system, convert it to a GPA format (1.0-4.0).
- Language proficiency: be specific about your language level.
- Special skills: don’t state the obvious (e.g. Google, Word).
- Relevant hobbies: sports or communities that require social interaction are good options.
Tip: consider including references on a separate sheet. If the employer is interested in your profile, they may ask for them.
Your cover letter is your introduction and provides the first impression. The cover letter with your application is an essential tool for announcing your intentions, your educational and professional experience and your availability to a potential employer. You should keep the letter brief, clear and direct.
The aim of the cover letter is to show you are the best person for the job advertised. What you write should be convincing, show genuine motivation and make the person want to know more about you. Want to stand out? Add a personal touch.
Express your expectations regarding the job you apply for. Show your strengths in relation to this job and, if needed, explain why you want to change jobs. Again, keep it short. Do not write more than one page and make sure you check your grammar.
Remember: time is money in the U.S., and many employers have to scan hundreds of applications to find the right person for the job.
Follow-up and job interviews
Once you start sending out your resume to companies, don’t sit back and wait for companies to call you! Be proactive and follow it up with phone calls. If they promise to call you back and fail to do so, do not be afraid to call them again. Try to be (reasonably) persistent.
If you get lucky, the next step in your application process will normally be an interview. If English is not your mother tongue, practice, practice, practice.
Being on time is essential - Americans show little humor when you start wasting their time. When carrying out business, they may dress informal as compared to other countries. However, you may want to look smarter for your interview - tailored suits or dresses are good options.
Research the company beforehand and be prepared to discuss your relevant skills. Corporate cultures have their own individual values and mission. You want to show you understand and share them.
An American interview is typically formal and efficient. It begins with introductions, handshakes and sometimes an exchange of business cards. After the introduction, there may be some casual conversation. However, after that it is down to serious business.
- Respond to questions openly and honestly, be courteous, and do not interrupt.
- Describe how your qualifications match the position, and how you can contribute to the company.
- Feel free to ask relevant questions about areas such as operational structure, reporting lines and colleagues.
- Send a “Thank you” letter after the interview.
- Get off the point.
- Invade personal space: keep a distance of at least half a meter.
- Do all the talking. Ask questions and listen politely.
- Give up. Even if you think it wasn’t your best interview, get back to them. Show your enthusiasm and motivation in every interaction.
Did you know that…? If you are offered a position, you might have to pass a drug test before getting your contract, which in European countries would be considered an infringement of your private life.
Most Latin American and Mediterranean countries and some countries in Asia and the Middle East are not so used to “bragging” or care a lot about education and job experience. In the U.S., you are expected to sell yourself. Be open and clear: talk about your strengths in relation to the company. Be specific about your achievements. If you succeeded in prestigious companies that are not well known in America, explain. Finally, show your potential. What you can bring to the company is your ticket to success.