Living in a new country comes with all kinds of hurdles and hardships. Perhaps the most pressing concern for any new immigrant in the United States is employment. Establishing yourself in a new place requires a steady income, so you’re going to want to dive head first into the job market as soon as (if not before) you arrive. To do this, you’ll need to create a professional resume that gives you an edge in a competitive marketplace.
In this article, we’ll go over some key tips for putting together your resume, also known as a curriculum vitae (CV). We’ll also provide a round-up of resume-building resources for your convenience.
Before you can even think about crafting your resume, you’ll need to thoroughly research any prospective employers. You’ll want to figure out precisely what they’re looking for in an employee. To this end, you can also go to the company website to check their mission and values section. This will give you a sense of which attributes are most important.
You may also want to look into the experiences of current or previous employees. What were the perks of working at this particular company? What were the downsides? How much did they pay? The more thorough your research, the easier it will be to tailor your resume to the specific job requirements.
To get started, you might want to check out:
- Glassdoor (where you can find information about salary and reviews written by employees)
- Yelp (where you can also find reviews) and
- LinkedIn (where you can track down further information about each prospective employer)
Finding the right format for your resume might seem difficult at first, but rest assured, it’s relatively easy.
Keep it simple. Don’t feel the need to use fancy fonts or highly stylized borders. Too many frills can make the document harder to read and less enticing to the reader. Choose a straightforward font — something like Arial or Times New Roman — and a couple of font sizes, ranging from 9 to 12. You can use a larger font size for your name and previous employers, to help highlight the important aspects of your resume. You’ll also want to keep it short, so try your best to fit everything in one page. Only go onto a second page if you absolutely have to.
List your previous employers in reverse chronological order. If you’re worried about gaps in your timeline, you can also opt to organize the resume by relevance. Each entry should include the name of the company, location, and dates of employment on one line; and your position title on the next. You may also want to include brief explanatory notes next to (or below) any entries that might be unfamiliar to a U.S. employer. If you went to a prestigious university in your home country, you may want to highlight its pedigree, noting that the school is similar to an elite U.S. college such as Harvard or Yale.
Embolden the important stuff. Remember, hiring managers will most likely only spend about 15 to 20 seconds scanning your resume. For this reason, it’s always a good idea to highlight all the qualities and job responsibilities that are relevant to the job description and company values. You can do this simply by emboldening all the most important attributes.
First things first: don’t hold back for fear of sounding overly confident. In the United States, it’s normal to flaunt your achievements during the hiring process, so be sure to include as many of your accomplishments as possible. If you have applicable skills and accreditations, this is the place to communicate them. You want the prospective employer to know that you are a capable worker who will satisfy the requirements listed in the job description. The more you can tailor your resume to the job description, the higher your chances of getting through the first phase of hiring.
Also, you may want to consider including your immigration status on the resume. If you’re a green card holder, or are allowed to work in the United States, you’ll want to communicate this. And, if English isn’t your first language, it’s a good idea to give your resume to someone who can check spelling and grammar. In fact, this is a good idea for everyone — not just immigrants — as you want to be absolutely sure that there are no grammatical blunders on your resume. These types of mistakes can make your resume appear less professional.
So far, we’ve touched on a few fundamental principles for resume-building. In this section, we’ll list some useful resources that you can use to find the optimal format and content for your resume.
University of Michigan Career Center
Pretty much all major U.S. universities will have a career center, and many of them will have resources available online. The University of Michigan, for instance, offers a pretty thorough breakdown of the resume-building process, including a general overview, tips on formatting, and advice on writing bullet points. You’ll even find a number of resume templates you can download, in addition to a list of action verbs you can use to craft your bullet points. They also provide a handy PDF that breaks down the process into greater detail.
Designed specifically for new immigrants, Jobversity offers a whole range of resources, including a resume review checklist and a video responding to frequently asked questions. You can also use this site to write your cover letter and to obtain industry-specific resources.
This website provides a broad array of resources for newly arrived immigrants, refugees, and their communities. Specifically, you can find information on job opportunities, professional references, interviews, and of course, resumes. They provide a concise list of 10 easy-to-understand tips for writing a resume — specifically for people who have recently immigrated to the United States.
Your Local Public Library
If you’re looking for a more hands-on approach, you may want to visit the website of your local library. The Brooklyn Public Library, for instance, offers direct assistance to anyone who emails their resume — and any relevant job descriptions — to firstname.lastname@example.org. Once they receive the email, they will respond with a list of suggestions. Similarly, the Seattle Public Library (SPL) offers free workshops to help craft your resume and nail your interview. You can also use the professional resume builder provided by the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County.
These resources should provide a good starting point as you begin the process of writing your resume. If you thoroughly research and prepare, you should have no problem creating a professional resume that stands out.