Resume Guidelines and Tips

It takes just one great employer search, one great resume, and one great interview to find yourself in the perfect job. -- simplyOPT

Welcome graduate!  Your on an incredible journey!  If you want to learn how to create a U.S. style resume that survives recruiter scrutiny and launches you to the top of the interview short list, then you've come to the right place.  From this point forward, we will be with you every step of the way on your path to the perfect job.

The guidelines on this page are intended for international graduates seeking employment in the U.S.   Yet many of the tips are useful to anyone wishing to learn how to prepare a rock solid resume.  Let's jump right in and learn how to create a compelling resume that opens doors and leads to interviews. 



Before you begin
Before you start creating your resume, it is best to do some research on companies in your target industry.  Choose 10 to 15 companies you would like to work for and do your homework.  Learn what they do, the types of employees they need, the skill sets they are looking for, and how you can add value to them.  After you have a solid understanding about your role in these companies, then you can begin creating a resume that focuses on how your interests and skills can fulfill their specific needs in those roles.  Refer to the section below called "DIRECTED RESEARCH" for more detail.  

Don't rush to send
There is a great deal of research to be done before making your resume available to employers, so don't rush it out too soon.  In most cases, you will get only one chance to make a good impression on employers, so make it your best.  

Give yourself a deadline
Your time is valuable, so be efficient and productive.  Direct your activities in a manner that achieves the greatest value.  Give yourself a deadline.  This will encourage you to figure out the most direct path to achieving your goals and objectives.

Your first impression
Your resume is the first impression you will make on employers.  It serves as tangible proof that you can create a meticulously accurate and well-crafted product.  It demonstrates your attention to detail.  If you want to succeed in the U.S. job market, take the time and effort to create an impressive resume.

U.S. style resume
In the U.S. job market, employers expect their applicants to submit a resume that is fundamentally different from the CV used in many countries throughout the world.  CVs are generally longer and more detailed than resumes, and they often contain information that is not allowed on resumes.  Many employers will not take the time to review lengthy CVs.  Consequently, submitting a CV can damage your chances of getting hired in the U.S. job market. 

The recruiter mindset
Recruiters review many resumes each day and the process can be tedious.  For this reason, most recruiters scan resumes for roughly 15 seconds on their initial pass.   That is to say, if nothing stands out after 15 seconds, your resume will be dismissed and unlikely to be given another look.  Conversely, recruiters are always looking for reasons to disqualify candidate resumes, and their reasons are not always consistent.  Finding a misspelled word, for example, may be enough reason to disqualify you.  So make sure your resume is both compelling and offers no reason for disqualification.

Standard format
The format of your resume can make or break your ability to get noticed and promoted onto the interview shortlist.  Make it easy for recruiters to find the information they seek by delivering your resume in a format that is familiar to them.  We suggest several standard format options that are common in the U.S. job market.  Some  resume formats are more suitable than others for your profession.  You can find a resume format that works best for you by researching the internet or networking with others.  Try exchanging resumes with our student Community members in your field of study to examine different format options.  

The key to success
Strong and compelling resumes speak to recruiters in terms they understand; and because recruiters have little time to review resumes, they are looking for specific keywords to jump out at them and grab their attentions.   So it stands to reason that the best resumes contain the keywords recruiters are looking for.  These keywords can take many forms:  a specific university, degree, major, or set of skills.  Whatever the case may be, it is your job to make sure that recruiters can quickly find the information they seek.  Keywords that match company requirements are your key to success.  

Resume dismissal
In the fast and furious world of the U.S. employment industry, recruiters will find any reason to discard your resume and never look at it again.  It could be as simple as a misspelled word, or there may be a company policy to trash any resume with personal information that includes a candidate's age, race, or religion.  Whatever the case may be, you will be wise to prepare a resume that does not give recruiters a reason to dismiss you.  Following our resume guidelines will help you identify and avoid these pitfalls.   

Study example resumes
Search the internet for example resumes relating to your chosen career or field of study.  There are plenty of examples out there.

Network with others
Network with members of our student community to compare different resume formats and presentations.  Over time, you will find a presentation that works best for your chosen career or field of study.

Remain positive
Do not include anything that could be considered negative on your resume.  Your resume should positively promote your knowledge, skills, and/or experience.   Avoid entering anything that does not promote yourself in a positive way.   One exception is your GPA.  Your resume will be overlooked if does not include the GPA associated with your major.  

Demonstrate responsibility and commitment
As a student who has recently graduated, employers do not expect you to have job-related experience.  So don't be afraid to include work experience that does directly relate to the job.  Don't shy away from including volunteer work either.  Anything that shows your commitment to something is meaningful to recruiters and adds value to your resume.  

Showcase your accomplishments and achievements
The employer would be most interested in your accomplishments and achievements that relate to the job.  As a recent graduate, and because your work history is absent or limited, you can use just about anything that proves your .  Don't be shy Examples:  grand master of chess, placed 2nd in national collegiate wrestling championship, won an international tango competition in Argentina, black belt in judo, own and operate a landscaping business, raised $10,000 to promote Autism Awareness, and the list goes on.  

Be accurate with an eye for detail
Do not sabotage yourself by allowing typos, spelling, grammar, or factual errors on your resume.  Use the spelling and grammar check features of your text editing software, but don't rely on them.  Have several reliable people proof-read your resume before you submit it to employers.  

Unleash your creative side
If your chosen career path relies on creativity, then take the opportunity to let your creative juices flow and create a resume that truly stands out from the crowd.  The more creative your role, the more this statement applies.  Individuals seeking purely technical jobs should refrain from taking this advice largely because it won't be relevant and will certainly be distracting.  

Leave salary out of it
Do not include your salary history and/or salary requirements on your resume.  Discuss this at the end of the interview process if the employer is interested in hiring you.  

No references please
Do not provide references on your resume.  You will have an opportunity to enter this information on the employer's application later in the employment hiring process.   

Resume length
As a rule, resumes submitted by college graduates should be no longer than a page.  Job seekers with five or more years of work experience are expected to have resumes that span two pages.  Generally, resumes longer than two pages are not acceptable.  

Get feedback
After you have completed a draft of your resume, share it with family and friends and have them proofread it to catch any mistakes.  They may also be able to suggest other skills and experiences you might include.  Exchange resumes with student Community members in your field of study to find out how they are preparing their resumes.  

Check spelling and grammar
Many resumes are discarded due to errors in spelling and grammar, and you don't yours to be one of them.  In the and fast-paced and high volume world of the employment industry, recruiters will not waste time on candidates who don't take the time and effort to prepare a quality product.  

Send in email body
Never send your resume as an attachment.  Copy it to the body of the email instead.  If you attach it with nothing in the body of the email, it may be misidentified as spam or a possible virus.   If you email both a resume and cover letter, send both in the body of your email with the cover letter first followed by your resume.  



Know yourself
Take an assessment of your nature, personal preferences, aptitudes, abilities and skills, and know how you want to apply these unique qualities to contribute to team and company goals.  If necessary, take advantage of online personality tests and aptitude tests to help clarify the roles in an organization that may be the best fit for you.  The results may enlighten and surprise you.  

Define your path
There are numerous roles and career paths within every field.  Take the time to learn what they are, and decide which paths are suitable for you.  You may find it helpful to scan the internet for websites devoted to your field.  You can also network with others in the field using chat services and discussion boards.

Speak the language
Your resume should speak in terms the field / industry uses and understands.  Students and graduates often compose their resumes strictly from an academic point of view, and it becomes quickly clear to recruiters that these applicants have not done their homework.  You can gain a definite advantage by learning the language of your field / industry and by speaking that language throughout your resume. 

Study employers
Study all employers in your chosen field.  Your purpose is to find any and all information that will help you learn about the field and industry in your chosen profession.  Company websites and industry trade journals are useful resources to identify buzz words that can be used to differentiate your resume from others.

Study jobs
Once you know which jobs you want, it is time to discover what attributes employers are looking for when filling those jobs.  Your best bet is to start with their job descriptions.  Your resume should respond directly to the needs presented by these descriptions.  And don't limit your research to few employers; study job descriptions from a variety of employers and note commonalties among them.  Pay particular attention to keywords and buzzwords included in these descriptions, making sure you understand and apply them to your resume when relevant. 

Study interview questions
Scour the interview to find interview questions relating to the job you are seeking.  Answering these questions will help you craft a resume that is relevant and in a language that speaks directly to employers.  



Enter your contact information at the top of your resume.  This information includes your full name (middle name is not necessary), your address, email address, home phone number and cellular number.  That's it.  Include nothing else in this section. Do not enter personal information such as your age, sex, race, religion, or marital status anywhere on your resume.  Anti-discrimination laws are strictly enforced in the U.S. and companies are cautious to abide by them.  For this reason, resumes that include any information that can lead an employer to hire based on age, sex, race, religion, or marital status are often rejected by human resources before they reach hiring managers.  

Enter your objective after your contact information.  Though this section is considered optional, we highly recommend adding it.  It should be one or two sentences that relate to the job you are seeking.  If you've done your homework well, your objective can convince employers that 1) you know what you want, 2) you are familiar with the company, and 3) you can help them achieve their goals and objectives.   Make your objective count.  This is your opportunity to grab the employer's attention and differentiate yourself from other candidates.  

This section contains several columns that include a list of words, acronyms, and short phrases that serve as "keywords".  These keywords catalog the knowledge and skills you gained throughout your education and work experience.  Include only keywords that are relevant to the job you are seeking.  Recruiters often review keywords first to quickly determine whether candidates meet their company needs.  

This section is optional and is reserved to showcase special achievements and/or accomplishments you wish to share with employers.  Business related examples include educational honors and personal business endeavors.  Non-business related examples include grand master of chess and placing in a national sporting event. All of these examples show a commitment to something and the drive to achieve excellence.  

Employers will be interested in this section of your resume.  They want to know the school you are attending or graduated from, its location, the duration of your attendance, your degree, major, minor, and GPA.  You may also enter courses that are relevant to your target job as long as this information is not redundant with the keywords entered under KNOWLEDGE / SKILLS.  

This section is optional for students and graduates.  However, if you were employed while attending college, then add this section to your resume.  Include the company name, its location, your job title, the duration of your employment, as well as detail that explains your accomplishments in your role.  Don't enter work history prior to college.  And don't duplicate information between this and other sections.  


DISCLAIMER:  Though we make every effort to include accurate and complete content on our website, simplyOPT is not an authority on the topics contained herein and can not be held accountable for the accurate and complete presentation of this information.