How to write a CV for USA jobs, including tips

CV/Resume USA

Working in the USA can provide exciting opportunities across a range of industries and professions. If you’re considering applying for jobs in the USA, it’s worth taking the time to understand what employers expect from your CV. In the USA it’s more common to use the word ‘resume’ than ‘CV’, but the terms may be used interchangeably by employers or recruiters. A well-structured, well-written CV is essential for US job applications, and taking note of the customs and trends in US CVs can help your chances of success. CVs in the USA tend to be one-page summaries of your work history and skills. Read on for further tips about the structure and content of your USA CV.

Choosing the Right Format for Your US CV/Resume

The most common CV format in the USA is the traditional or reverse-chronological CV. This structure emphasises your employment history and involves listing your experience starting with the current or most recent, and working backwards. US recruiters are likely to be most interested in your relevant work experience, so placing the greatest emphasis on this section should serve you well.

You may opt for other CV formats, depending on your situation and the role you’re applying for. If you’re not very experienced, or you’re applying for an entry-level role, you may wish to use a functional or skills-based CV, which emphasises your skills over your work experience. For those with some relevant work experience, a combination format may be best. This combines the functional and traditional formats to include an equal emphasis on your skills and work history.

Expert Tip:

Your CV for USA job applications should use a traditional, reverse-chronological format. The work experience section is the most important part of your CV, so make sure you concentrate on showing how your responsibility and achievements make you an ideal candidate. Try to limit the length of your CV to one side of A4, using concise, professional language that makes an immediate impact with employers.

Essential Formatting Tips for a US CV/Resume

The formatting of your CV can make a big difference to your prospects of making it to the interview stage. Take a look at these tips for formatting your US CV:

  • Keep it to one page: the recommended length for a US CV is one side of A4. However, this means being selective about what you include, rather than trying to cram as much information into that one page as possible. If you need to add further details, you can do so in your cover letter.
  • Use a readable font: Select a font that is clear and easy-to-read. Sans serif fonts such as Arial or Open Sans tend to be the easiest type to read. Opt for a font size between 10 and 12, and consider using larger, bold text for headings.
  • Make good use of line spacing: Line spacing can help make your CV more attractive and readable. Try 1.15 line spacing for a clean, clear layout. Consider adding spaces before or after each paragraph to give your document room to breathe.
  • Choose a professional CV design: Using a clean, professional CV design with subtle use of colour can make your CV stand out. Jobseeker’s CV examples and CV templates can inspire and equip you to create a stunning CV that hiring managers will notice.

Contact Information on a US CV/Resume

The first section in a CV for USA job applications is the header. The most essential details to include are your name, your location (avoid using your full address), your phone number and your email address. Accurately presenting your contact details and avoiding common pitfalls, such as including personal demographic information, is critical to your chances of success. Follow these tips to make sure you include all the necessary details in your contact information:

Use a professional-looking email address

Make sure your email address has a professional feel and doesn’t include nicknames. If it doesn’t already, set up an email address that contains a variation of your real name, and use this for your job applications. If you can’t find a combination of your names that’s available to use as an email address, add a simple combination of numbers until you find a unique address you can use.

Add portfolios or online profiles

You can include links to websites, portfolios or LinkedIn profiles in your contact information. These can help the hiring manager to easily find out more about you. Make sure any portfolios or LinkedIn profiles are up-to-date and don’t contradict any of the details on your CV.

Don’t include a photo

While it’s common practice in some countries to include a photo on your CV, this isn’t the case in the US. Don’t add a photo to your CV unless the job advert specifically requests one.

Avoid adding demographic details

Don’t add demographic details to your CV, such as your age, gender or religion. These can lead to unintended biases and discrimination creeping into the recruitment process.

“Accurately presenting your contact details and avoiding common pitfalls, such as including personal demographic information, is critical to your chances of success.”

Effective Resume Profile or CV Summary/Objective

The CV summary or objective is a brief introduction to your professional background and an opportunity to set out your ambitions for your career. For an effective CV objective, open by explaining your role or profession. Reference your experience and some adjectives to describe your strengths or style of working. For example, if you work in journalism you could write ‘dedicated and committed investigative reporter with five years’ experience covering national consumer rights stories’.

In the next sentence, you may want to mention your skills or abilities. For example, a graphic designer might write ‘skilled in photoshop, CAD software and presenting creative concepts to clients’.

Finish your CV summary by referencing your career ambitions, including why you’re applying to work for this organisation. For example, a project manager could write ‘seeking to gain further experience in the full project cycle and develop my skills with a major international consulting firm’.

Presenting Work Experience in Your US CV/Resume

Your work experience section is typically the most important part of your resume for US job applications. Hiring managers will want to quickly and easily review your employment record and assess whether you’re suitable for the position.

List your work history in reverse-chronological order, with your current or most recent role at the top and each preceding role underneath. For each entry, include your job title, the company name, its location and the dates you worked there. Under each job, add a list of responsibilities and achievements in bullet point format. It’s critical to be concise with these points to avoid making your CV too long. Your cover letter provides a chance to expand upon the details of your work history. Take a look at these cover letter examples for tips on how to write yours.

Follow these tips to create a compelling work experience section for your USA CV:

  1. Customise for each job application: Take the time to tailor your CV, and particularly your work experience, for each job application. Some details and achievements may be more relevant for some roles than others. You may also want to update your responsibilities and achievements over time, as you gain further experience.
  2. Use keywords from the job description: Base any tailoring of your work experience section on the job description. Include keywords that mirror the language in the job description. This indicates that you have the tools and experience necessary for the job. Using keywords from the job description can also help your CV to navigate any ATS (applicant tracking system) selection stage. 
  3. Quantify your achievements: Back up your career achievements with evidence and data. If you’ve been a successful salesperson, offer sales figures to support this. If you’re an accomplished teacher, reference the pass rate of your students. Any evidence you can offer to support your claims will enhance your chances of success.
  4. Use strong action verbs: Use strong verbs to demonstrate your skills and competencies. Words like ‘managed’, ‘organised’, ‘developed’, ‘advised’, ‘invented’ or ‘adapted’ make you appear professional and accomplished.

Educational Background in Your US CV/Resume

After your work experience, the next section is usually your education. This gives you the chance to list any relevant qualifications or certifications you’ve achieved. For senior roles in the US, it’s usually only worth mentioning degree or diploma-level qualifications, or professional awards (such as chartered accountant qualifications).

For each entry, list the name and level of the award, the institution and your dates of study or graduation. If you have space, you could also list some brief details about the course, any distinctions or awards you received, or any societies you were a member of during your studies. If you’re a recent graduate or you don’t have much relevant work experience, you may choose to place your education section above your employment section, as this could be a better indicator of your suitability for the role.

Here’s an example of an entry in an education section:

BA (Hons) Economics, University of Leeds, September 2014 – July 2017

  • John Hampton Award for Best Dissertation
  • Member of the Economics Society

Skills Section in a US CV/Resume

The next section of your USA CV is the skills section. If you’re using a functional resume format, this section goes closer to the top of your document. Consult the job description and make sure your skills mirror the requirements for the role.

You can list all your skills in one section, or you could split them into hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills are specific technical abilities required to do the job, while soft skills are the strengths and personality traits that make you an effective employee and colleague. Only mention relevant skills, and try to avoid clichés.

Here’s an example of a skills section for a US job applicant:

Hard skills:

  • Producing monthly financial reports
  • Invoicing
  • Budget management and forecasting
  • Accounting software including Quickbooks and Xero

Soft skills:

  • Interpersonal skills
  • Working under pressure
  • Multi-tasking
  • Time management

Expert Tip:

Make sure any skills you include in your CV relate directly to the job description. Some of the most in-demand skills in the US job market include management, communication, customer service, leadership, sales, project management, analytical skills, and teamwork. If you’re strong in any of these areas, consider including them in your skills section.

Additional Sections in Your US CV/Resume

If you have space available, you might choose to include some additional sections. These can add further evidence of your skills and qualities. In a tight recruitment race, they could be a determining factor against similarly well-qualified candidates.

Some additional details you could add include languages you speak besides English, any previous internships or volunteer work or any training or certifications you’ve gained. Only mention details that are relevant to the role.

What NOT To Include in Your US CV/Resume

It’s equally important to know what to avoid when writing your US CV. Including any of the details below could reduce your chances of success in the US job market:

  • Photo: Most job applications in the USA don’t require a photo. In fact, including one could rule you out of a role under anti-discrimination laws.
  • Demographic information: Adding your demographic information to your CV creates the risk of discrimination in the recruitment process. Similar to photos, it’s definitely best to leave any personal demographic details out. This includes your age, gender, ethnicity and religion.
  • Your full address: It’s not necessary to include your full address in your US CV. Add an indication of your location, such as your town, city, county/state and country of residence (if applying from abroad).
  • Your visa status: You might want to add your visa status to your CV to show you’re eligible to work in the USA. In fact, this goes against US employment law. Employers aren’t allowed to ask about your eligibility to work until after they make you a job offer.
  • References: In some countries, it’s standard practice to include references on your CV. This isn’t the case in the USA. If the employer is considering hiring you, they’ll ask you to provide references.

Key Takeaways for Crafting a US CV/Resume

Your CV for USA job applications is a vital tool in your journey towards employment in the US. Taking the time to write a compelling and impactful CV can drastically increase your chances of success. Remember, in the US, CVs tend to be short summary documents. If you can fit your CV onto a single side of A4 paper, that’s ideal. US CVs tend to adopt a traditional reverse-chronological structure, with the greatest emphasis on your work history and achievements.

Exclude any personal or demographic information that could see your CV fall foul of anti-discrimination laws and exclude you from the selection process. Use strong verbs and reference the job description for keywords that prove you’re capable of doing the job. This also gives your CV the best chance of passing any automated review stage (ATS).

Spend some time crafting a CV that’s easy to read and looks great. Jobseeker’s CV templates can help you create a stunning CV that catches the attention of employers. You can also find beautiful cover letter templates to match your CV. Sign up today to get started with creating your perfect CV for USA job applications.

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