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How to Americanize your CV: A guide to resumes in the U.S.

If you’re coming from the UK or Australia, you might use a curriculum vitae, or CV, to apply for jobs and other positions. However, in the U.S., a CV is usually reserved for academic positions. Employers in other fields will ask for a resume.

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Alison Rogers
Journalist and real estate broker

If you’re coming from the UK or Australia, you might use a curriculum vitae, or CV, to apply for jobs and other positions. However, in the U.S., a CV is usually reserved for academic positions. Employers in other fields will ask for a resume. Your resume, like your CV, should sum up your accomplishments and qualifications for jobs you’re interested in. 

Traditionally, the advice given by headhunters and career advisors was to keep your resume to one page. However, a recent study by resume writing service ResumeGo found that recruiters preferred two-page resumes. So your resume should be two pages long, unless you don’t have enough content to fill two pages. In that case, stick to just one page.

Technology has left recruiters more inundated with resumes than ever. A 2018 eye-tracking study found that recruiters spent only seven seconds per resume. To be successful, follow the expectations outlined below for U.S. resumes. Keep in mind that the first reader of your resume might be a robot -- or “Applicant Tracking System” [ATS] as the software is known. The following tips will help to Americanize your CV and produce a strong, clean, modern American resume.

What to include

  • Contact information. The person reading the resume needs to know how to find you. You’ll want to put your name, your email address, your mailing address and your phone number.  It’s preferable to have a U.S. phone number, but if you are outside the U.S., and you will be using Skype, then include your Skype contact information. A resume writing tip from the Monster.com job board: If the email address that you are using for your job search is the same one that you use to log into Facebook or other social media, then it’s easy for the employer to find those social media profiles. Don’t forget to strengthen your social media privacy settings before sending your resume out. Or, even better, create an email address just for your job search. 

  • Work history. Unlike a CV, a resume includes only your most relevant jobs. Many applicants have a general resume that they then customize when applying to a specific program or position. In order to get past an ATS reader, mimic the keywords in the job description. Your general resume may indicate that you’re an “analytics expert,” but if you’re applying for a job as a “data scientist,” make sure that the word “data” is on your resume also.

  • Education. Put your college and post-college education on your resume. Although it may be common in some countries to include your secondary school (in the U.S., “high school”) on your resume, that information is usually left off resumes in the U.S.  

  • Skills and achievements. Your resume is a marketing document. Convey what you’re good at, and what you’ve accomplished. Quantify achievements to the extent that you can; “saved $10 million dollars” or “produced savings of $10 million dollars” is better than “met savings goals.”

  • Language proficiency. Include languages in which you are skilled, but don’t exaggerate your proficiency. You can rate you abilities on the ILR scale, which is used for some U.S. government jobs. “Professional working proficiency” of a language, for example, defines a skill level at which you could participate in business meetings conducted in the language.

What to cut out

  • A photo. Unless you’re applying for acting jobs, don’t include a photo in your resume (even if you have one on your CV). Hiring managers will find it distracting, and it might be considered unprofessional.

  • Personal information. Even if they’re traditionally on your CV in your home country, don’t put identification numbers, marital status, age/date of birth or the number of your children/their ages on an American resume

  • Unrelated work experience. A resume should be targeted, not all-inclusive. Don’t list every job that you’ve ever had.

  • References. It’s assumed that you will be able to supply references if the employer needs them, so listing your references (or even putting “references available upon request”) is unnecessary. The exception is if the job posting asks for references; U.S. government jobs, for example, often require references.

Check Your Spelling

Pay careful attention to your spelling. An analysis of 40,000 CVs by the Australian job search site Adzuna found that two-thirds of them had at least one spelling mistake. A human résumé reader might dismiss such a mistake as carelessness or sloppiness. A robot reader, however, might throw out the résumé entirely. So pay attention, proofread, and then have a friend proofread as well.

Words to double-check:

 “university” 

“address” and 

“management.”

In addition, put words in American English.  If you’re coming from Australia or the UK, for example, change: “analyse” to “analyze”

 “centre” to “center”

 “enrolment” to “enrollment” and

 “fuelled” to “fueled.” 

Cover letters

Like resumes, cover letters are targeted. Mention what job you’re applying for in the first paragraph of the letter. Indicate how the job opening came to your attention and why you’re qualified for it. “Connect the dots” for the reader by matching one or two particular entries on your resume to elements of the job description. However, keep your cover letter to one page, and don’t restate your entire resume. 

Other tips:

  • Include your contact information in case your cover letter gets separated from your resume.

  • Be polite -- thank the reader for considering your application.

  • Restate your enthusiasm for the job near the end of the letter.

The takeaway

For more resources on how to navigate your new life in the U.S., visit Nova Credit’s resource library where you can learn about everything you need to establish your life in the U.S.

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