Do’s and Don’ts when Writing an American Style Resume

If you are looking for a job in the United States (or Canada), you should know that you will need a resume that looks quite different from the one you probably use in your country. Here are some guidelines you should follow to make sure your application gets the attention it deserves:

Personal Information

American companies do not want to be accused of any kind of bias in their choice of candidate. This means that a lot of personal information normally included in resumes in other countries is NOT included in an American resume. Here are some of the rules you should follow:

  • DO NOT include your picture in the resume. Pictures reveal information about your age, race, and gender and employers are legally required not to include such information when making hiring decisions. Some companies will automatically reject resumes with photos and some have even been known to remove both pictures and names from resumes before the selection process begins to ensure that the process is objective. The only applicants expected to provide photos would be those applying for jobs where physical appearance is an important consideration, such as acting or modeling jobs.
  • DO NOT include any information regarding your age, marital status, or religion. Also avoid mentioning any affiliations that you may have that would indicate your religious or political beliefs (such as club memberships or volunteer activities).
  • DO NOT include your hobbies unless there is a direct connection between your hobby and the job you are applying for. For example, if you are applying for a job in a photography studio, mentioning your interest in photography as a pastime would be appropriate. Most of the time though, what you do in your personal time should not be considered relevant to a job application.
  • DO NOT include your home address in your country. If you are looking for job or internship in the US, it is important to indicate that you are living here now. If you use your home address, the employer will assume you are not available to take the job.
  • DO NOT use graphic resumes It is common these days for many people to assume that in order to get the attention of an employer, a resume must be creatively designed with various graphical elements to highlight their skills and experience. There are thousands of graphical resume templates out there and it has become much easier to create such documents. However, most experts still advise against using this kind of resume. For most people, sticking to a straightforward text-based format is probably best. The only exception might be for people applying for jobs in a creative field such as graphic design. Applicants who submit graphic resumes risk having their resumes rejected for a number of reasons. First, a resume loaded with pictures and icons often looks overworked and busy, giving the impression that the applicant is desperate to impress. Second, the way that skills are represented graphically often makes no sense and confuses rather than clarifies.

On the other hand, here are some things you should include that many people leave out or forget:

  • DO include your visa status. If you are legally permitted to take a job or internship, you should mention this in your resume.
  • DO include you language skills. You should list you native language as well as any language you have proficiency in. If you only have basic knowledge in a language you should not include it.
  • DO include a list of specialized computer skills you have. It is not necessary to include MS Office on your list of skills because it is assumed that everyone has this ability. (The only exception is if you have advanced knowledge of MS Excel programming, which is required in some positions.) You should list any other relevant software skills you have.
  • DO include volunteer activities. If you have limited professional experience, you can include volunteer activities as well as internships as “jobs” in order to present your experience and skills.

About Anthony Jackson – Anthony is the official Business English teacher at Manhattan Language, where he has helped hundreds of students pursue their personal and professional goals more effectively. As a former business analyst at major international financial firms on Wall Street, he understands the challenges of the workplace and how important it is to have a global perspective. Also, having both an MBA and a professional teaching degree allows him to pass on insights to international students who are seeking to grow professionally in an English-speaking environment. 

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