Ten resume tips for a great resume

Do you want to get a good job? You will need a great resume! Here are 10 resume tips and a video to help you write an American-style resume.

two people working on a resume
Photo: iStock/People Images

What is a resume?

A resume is a document that you create that details your contact information, the job you want, your qualifications, work experience, educational background, and other information. It tells the employer why you are qualified for the position. Resume tips will help you create a great resume.

Your resume is the first thing a company will look at when they decide if they want to interview you for a job. Companies receive hundreds of resumes. When someone looks at your resume, you have about 10 seconds to impress that person. Remember that the employer wants to learn about you and not your coworkers. Make sure to use the word “I”, rather than “we”. You may not be used to talking about yourself. However, it is an important part of the job search process in the USA.  Many refugees and immigrants have great experience and skills but need a better resume.

1. The top part of your resume with your name is very important!

Make sure it is easy to read. Make it bold and consider using a shortened version of your name that is easier for employers to read. Do not include your middle name, especially if it is long.

2. Make sure you use a US phone number and email address

Do not use a WhatsApp number or international number. Use a US phone number and write it using the standard format in the USA, which is area code in parentheses, then the first three numbers, then a dash, and then the next four numbers: (503) 544-1195.

Do not use an email address that ends in a foreign country such as: mohamedhusseinali17352@yahoo.fr.  Instead, use an easy-to-type U.S email address. For example: mo.ali@gmail.com. Remember to check your email address! A good idea is to have one email address that you use just for job applications.

3. Use a layout that is easy to review quickly

This means making sure everything is easy to understand. You can do this by using the same format for every area and making sure everything lines up. You can download a free resume template on our website.

4. Put your US-based work or volunteer experience at the top of the resume

It’s important to include experience from working in the United States. If you do not have any U.S. work experience, consider volunteering or interning at U.S. company to get U.S. experience. You can also take free online classes in order to increase your qualifications and include these on your resume.

5. Include your language skills but do not include English

List any languages you speak, including if you only speak or write in those languages. Do not include English. You show you are fluent in English by having a good resume with proper grammar, capitalization, and formatting.

6. Be sure to include your volunteer experience

Many refugees and immigrants do not include the many ways they help their community. For example, many refugees we know will translate for other community members. They do this just to be kind and because it is part of their community. You should include this type of volunteering on your resume. The only thing you should not include is when you are helping your own family.

7. Use capitals and verbs

Be very careful with capitalizations. You need to make sure you capitalize all proper nouns. Proper nouns are words like names, cities, and companies. Review your resume and make sure you are using capital letters for all names, places, companies. Every bullet you write describing your experience should start with a verb (a word describing an action). This makes it more interesting to read. It also tells the employer what your responsibilities were right away.

8. Make sure your resume is no more than two pages

Your resume should only be single paragraph spacing and should all fit on one or two pages. Employers will not read resumes that are longer than that.

9. Make sure your font is the same for the entire resume

One small but important change you can make it to be sure all of the text on your resume is the same font. Often, when you are making a resume, especially if you copy parts of your text from another document, the font might accidentally change. It makes it confusing to look at. To make sure your font is correct, select all your text. Once all of the text is highlighted, select the font and the size. Two good fonts to use are Times New Roman and Arial. Use size 10 or 12 font to make your resume easy to read.

10. Save your resume as a PDF!

If you send out your resume as a Word document or other type of document, it might get changed or spoiled. It is better to send it as a PDF file so that it will look exactly the way you want. But make sure that you have a version saved in Word format as well. You can use this version to make edits to your resume.

Watch a video of the 10 resume tips

The Refugee Center Online is now USAHello. We changed our name to make sure newcomers from all backgrounds feel welcome on our website and in our classroom.

Additional resume tips for entry-level roles

Education can help make you look like a qualified worker. You may have taken courses in school where you developed skills you will use in your job. If so, write the names of the courses in your education. You can do the same thing with longer research papers or significant projects.

Life experience can be helpful to list as well. Even if you did work at or around your home, you can list what skills you used. For example, some stay-at-home mothers could say that they balanced the family budget.

Avoid putting many “soft skills” in your resume. This means that you should not focus on your personality traits. Instead, focus on the things you did or skills you have learned. You can do it a couple of times but not more than that. For example, avoid saying that you are “friendly”, or “a happy person”.

Based on your experience, give yourself a title in your resume. For example, if you worked at a school where you took care of and taught young children, you would be a “teacher” or “childhood education professional”.

Additional resume tips for professional roles

Your resume should not be longer than 2 pages, even if you have been working for a long time. Only include the last 15 years of your work experience.

List accomplishments as well as what your tasks were. If you worked on an impressive project, give a little detail about it. An example would be a project you worked on that was very expensive or where you had to manage many people.

If you went to a school that was famous or hard to get into, make sure to add that to your “education” section.

Customization resume tips: how to create a job-specific resume

Companies use resume tracking systems to filter job applications. For most jobs, a human is not reading your resume. Instead, a computer is looking to see if the words in your resume match the job description. A posted job typically receives hundreds of applications. 

Your resume is probably reviewed by a computer. This means you have to make sure you create a job-specific resume. Each time you apply, you need to check the job description and match your resume to it. A job-specific resume does not have to include every word from the job description. Look for keywords. Keywords are words and phrases that are used the most often. Many keywords are listed under the “required skills” section. For example, if you are applying to be an administrative assistant, you notice that words like “filing”, “making appointments”, and “scheduling” use a lot. 

Writing a job specific resume might include changing words to other words with very similar meanings. For example, you might be applying for a job that wants a “content writer”. You might have worked as a “content creator” before. Another example may be changing the phrase “looked for new workers” to “recruited employees.”

This process takes time and practice. The easiest way to start is to print out the job description. Take some time and highlight and underline words you think are important. Add them into your resume. Remember that honesty is important. Do not include any skills that you do not have. A helpful website for resume customization tips is jobscan.co. You can upload your resume and job description. You can see if you have enough word and phrase matches between the job you are applying for and your resume. If there are few, you can add more to increase your chances of getting an interview.

Use a template

On our resume examples page, you can find a simple format for a basic resume. You will be able to download the format in Word and change it to suit your own application.