First things first. Unless you are working as a professor or a researcher in academia, there's no such thing as an American CV. In the US it is called a resume.
Believe me, even if you are a highly qualified foreign professional whose career speaks for itself you need to Americanize your curriculum vitae.
Otherwise you are risking that a recruiter will simply misunderstand your career path, underestimate your achievements or - in the worst case scenario - will have to disqualify you. Because chances are that without a proper knowledge of the American HR system, you might include some ILLEGAL information in your resume. Yes, you got it right. Americans are a very legal-sensitive nation and if you are planning to work here, there's no other option but to comply.
But please don't be discouraged. Working on your American CV resume can be interesting, fun and might even serve as an exercise in boosting your self-confidence. I promise, after finalizing the draft, you will feel like a professional super hero. And here's why:
The reason for it is that in the US you should focus on your measurable accomplishments. On highlighting your successes. On showcasing your uniqueness, expertise, talents, leadership skills...
OK, ok, enough. I know what you are thinking. I can almost hear your inner voice saying "but I'm not THAT wonderful."
Well, my friend, there's no other culture in this world that values marketing and self-marketing more than the American one. Just think about how wonderfully they advertise their coke, their movies, their smartphones, their everything.
So if your culture discourages you from showing off too much, you will end up looking like a person who hasn't achieved much.
Everything is a matter of cultural perception. Whether you are a computer programmer or an event manager, focus on your results. Market yourself in your American resume. Pretend you are drafting an ad campaign for a brand called YOU.
Even if your task was to make coffee for your boss when she or he first showed up in the office and later take notes while she or he sipped that steaming latte during a daily briefing with the team (yes, we feel sorry for you too, but everyone starts somewhere). Great. Just frame it as a marketer would do. Don't lie. Never, ever lie. But use words that just sound better. Let's say: "Planned and executed a daily series of c-level executive meetings.”
With all this in mind, let's proceed to some important tips that will help you Americanize your resume and land that job in the US you are dreaming of:
1. DO NOT include the following information
It is illegal to discriminate anyone on the basis of any of these. If you include it, a hiring manager might be in trouble so he or she may just automatically disqualify you as a candidate.
- Your Photo (never attach)
- Marital status (such as married, single)
- Having kids or not
- Your parents' occupation
- Other cultural information, such as your heritage, cast etc.
- Any other personal information other than your name, email and address
Plus, never ever include any untrue information. Never. Don't lie. Word your resume as a marketer, but don't include any lies. Your resume will be checked and if you are dishonest, you won't be hired. Or you will be fired later. Including false information is not only unethical, but also illegal. Just think about the consequences.
2. Tailor your resume to a company
Don't mass send generic resumes. You need to research every employer you are applying to and make your resume relevant. You might need to change things, highlight different responsibilities, change the tone from moral formal to more laid back, and add or remove sections. Every company is different so please make sure that whatever you are doing will support your application.
A good rule of thumb is to keep all the sections the same and edit your Summary for each company.
3. Format correctly, Americanize your spelling and proofread
- Limit yourself to two pages (if you are a recent graduate a one-pager would work too) - if you need to elaborate, use your LinkedIn profile for this
- Use bullet points, not paragraphs with wordy description
- Be short and sweet, focus on results
- Sections to include: Summary, Experience and Education. You can also add Additional Experience or Volunteering/Charity Experience to show additional skills
- Summary is a short description on who you are and why you should be hired. Placed it on top of your resume.
- Put the most current items first
- Use America titles and positions. Your job might be called differently in your country and in the US. Make sure that an American recruiter will understand you. Google and check if the name of the position you are going to include actually exists here.
- Don't include "References Available on Request," there is no need to say this because everyone knows they are available
- Take out the "Interests" section (it is not that common in the US and shows fluffiness, according to many companies, but again every employer is different so do your homework and research); consider keeping it only if it shows something relevant, like charity work in a smilier field or something that shows your leadership skills or anything that might be important
- Make sure your spelling is American, not British or Australian. Don't assume that the person reading your resume will know the difference. He or she might think you made a typo.
- Proofread, edit and re-edit and proofread again. There's no such thing as too much proofreading.
4. Experience Section: show results
- Put the most current position first
- Don't write a dull description on all you tasks; do not copy your job description
- Instead focus on results, highlight outcomes, the more measurable the better (for example, "exceeded sales goals by 100%" or "named the Most Effective Employee of the Year")
- Write in 3rd person ("Mentored and trained 100 employees")
- Use action words in past tense, such as managed, led, produced, created, exceeded - this shows that you are an achiever. Avoid the -ing form.
- Use Americanized names of the companies. If your foreign employer is unknown in the US, add a few words of description, for example the largest supplier of X in Argentina, the biggest TV station in Holland.
- Have American experience? Highlight it. Consider creating a separate section "American Experience" and list other positions under "International Experience"
5. Education Section: show your excellence
- Use American equivalent of your degree. For example, "Graduate diploma in Engineering - equivalent of Master's of Science in…”
- Use the English name of your school/university
- List only your college/university. Don’t bother with high school and earlier.
- Include the year of graduation. If a degree is in progress, say "To be completed in 2018”
- List awards/achievements/activities etc.
6. Additional Experience: show relevant skills
Here you can include your volunteering, charity work or a hobby that is relevant to your job or shows something extraordinary. Good examples of items to include are running a marathon or winning an award for your non-profit work or organizing a fundrising event etc. But be careful before you say that you are a Harry Potter fan or that you ride a motorcycle after hours - you might come up immature or reckless. But again, every company is different and if you do your research, you may decide that listing your fondness of Harry Potter will land you that interview.
Also, think twice before you list something that might be controversial. You never know who will read your resume.
This is also a great place to highlight you international, global, multicultural approach and list language you speak.
7. Address Visa Issues in your American CV resume
This is a tricky one. Lack of a visa might discourage a recruiter from even considering your resume. Getting a work permit for you is a lengthy, costly and messy process on an employer part. So if it is clear that you are a foreign applicant and you happen to have a visa, address this in your cover letter. For example, say that you are a graduate of an American university on OPT, you are relocating with your spouse, or state any other circumstances that might help you alleviate the hiring manager worries. However, if you don't have a visa, you can always try convince an employer to petition for it you. Show your talents and try your luck. There are thousands of foreign workers hired on H1Bs and other types of visa yearly. Some companies are known for hiring immigrants, especially in IT, engineering and science.
8. Done? Not so fast… Now work on your LinkedIn profile
- Go to LinkedIn and look for profiles similar to yours. American recruiters rely heavily on LInkedIn and it is a must for everyone.
- Make sure your LinkedIn Profile matches your resume.
- Don’t copy. It is illegal an unethical. But check what words and expressions are commonly use. See if you could improve something in your resume.
- Upload a nice photo of yourself. It is illegal to attach a photo to your resume, but it is legal to put it on LinkedIn. This give you a chance to show that you look like a nice person. Smile. Americans always smile on their photos.