Ten resume tips for getting hired in the U.S.

Do you want to get a good job? You will need a great resume! Learn what a resume is, get tips and watch a video to help you write an American-style resume, and get additional information if you are trying to get an entry-level job or other professional role. Also, guidance to create a job-specific resume.

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

What is a resume?

A resume is a document 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.

Your resume is the first thing a company will look at when they decide 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 essential part of the job search process in the United States. Many refugees and immigrants have significant 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 U.S. 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 following four numbers: (503) 544-1195.

Do not use an email address that ends in a foreign country such as [email protected] Instead, use an easy-to-type U.S. email address. For example, [email protected] Remember to check your email address! It’s a good idea 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 a U.S. company to get U.S. experience. You can also take free online classes 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 to be kind and because it is part of their community. You should include this volunteering on your resume. The only thing you should not have 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 minor but significant change you can make is ensuring all of the text on your resume is in 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 Microsoft Word document or other types of document, it might get changed or spoiled. It is better to send it as a PDF file to look exactly the way you want. But make sure that you have a version saved in Microsoft Word format as well. You can use this version to make edits to your resume.

Watch a video of the 10 resume tips


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 studies 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 could 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 two 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 a unique 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 famous or challenging school 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. 

A computer probably reviews your resume; 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 to your resume. Remember that honesty is important. Do not include any skills that you do not have.

Use a template

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