Resume & Cover Letter Writing Tips for International Students in USA

By Max Troy
Retrieved from OPTnation.com | “Resume Writing Tips for International Students in USA

International students cross not just the borders but also a million hurdles for studying in the prestigious US universities. If you are one of them, you would identify with the pain of leaving your home country to make your dreams come true. The endless career opportunities available in this country can give you an impeccable quality of life.

But, you need to prove yourself to the potential employers for landing a well-paid job in the industry of your choice. From preparing a resume to waiting for feedback, the journey of securing employment is stressful. While some job seekers avail professional resume writing services in USA, others find reliable sources for learning how to create a perfect resume.

To help international students write a standard American resume, we have shared some wonderful tips in this blog post. Continue reading to ensure maximum job interview calls.

Follow These Resume Writing Tips for Building a Job-Winning Resume

The resume format acceptable in the USA by organizations and staffing agencies varies from the format used in many other countries around the world. Therefore, it becomes of utmost importance for international students to understand the correct format and craft a resume accordingly.

  • Personal Information

While some personally identifiable information has to be presented compulsorily, you should not disclose extensive information about yourself. Companies and recruiters in the USA never expect to see excessive personal information on a resume as they need to conduct recruitment without showing any discrimination. We have mentioned the list of information items that should and should not be disclosed.

You should include:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Contact Number
  • Email Address

You should not include:

  • Age/Date of Birth
  • Gender
  • Religion
  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Marital Status
  • Parents’ Names
  • Spouse’s Name
  • Photograph
  • Social Security Number
  • Immigration Status
  • Home Country

Keep these points in mind

  • While specifying your address, include only the city, state, and zip code.
  • Don’t include building number, street name, landmark or any other detail.
  • No need to write ‘US’, ‘USA’ or ‘United States of America’ in the address.
  • Never include permanent/temporary address in your home country.
  • Write the residential phone number along with area code but no country code.
  • You can include links to your LinkedIn profile, blog or personal website.
  • Educational Qualifications

International students who are looking for a part-time job during studies or a full-time job after completion of studies should pay extra attention to how they showcase their educational qualifications. As undergraduates and fresh graduates can earn a job only on the basis of their academic background, they need to highlight their performance in their resume.

Keep these points in mind

  • List in reverse chronological order all your degrees, diplomas & certifications.
  • You can also keep the education most relevant to the job at the top of the list.
  • Mentioning GPA is optional, but you can do it if your GPA score is excellent.
  • If your overall GPA score is less than 3.0, you can mention your major GPA score.
  • You should include the details of the training programs attended by you if any.

Include these for every degree

  • Start Year of Program
  • End Year of Program
  • Majors and Minors
  • Coursework
  • Projects
  • Presentations
  • Workshops
  • Conferences
  • Symposiums
  • Student Societies
  • Debate Groups
  • Book Clubs
  • Theatre Groups
  • Extra-Curricular Activities

For Doctoral (Ph.D.) Degree Holders

  • Thesis
  • Researches
  • Publications
  • Work History

Postgraduates and doctoral degree holders who hold a certain level of experience (whether it’s related to their field of study or not) of working in any organization in their home country or the USA should include the details of their professional experience in their resume.

Keep these points in mind

  • List in reverse chronological order all your paid and unpaid work experiences.
  • You can opt to mention the experience most relevant to the job on the top.
  • You should also include information about your volunteering activities.
  • Specify the tasks and duties you used to carry out in your previous jobs.
  • Use bullet points instead of paragraphs to describe your past job roles.

Mention details in the following order

  • Job Title/Position
  • Department/Team
  • Name of the Organization
  • Address of the Organization
  • Period of Employment
  • Role and Responsibilities
  • Accomplishments
  • Tools/Software Used
  • Optimize for context and keywords

While describing the responsibilities performed by you in your previous jobs, emphasize your achievements. You need to show how you created a distinct place in your past organizations with your smartness and creative abilities.

You can use numerical information to prove your effectiveness as an employee, for example, “reduced inventory waste by 5%”. You should also state your level of adeptness in the computer programs and applications used for carrying out different tasks.

Employers view a resume of any candidate only for a few seconds, and an even more disappointing fact is that they view only those resumes that have passed the barrier of ATS, i.e., applicant tracking system. Therefore, you should create a resume that is both human-friendly and robot-friendly.

Find out the keywords relevant to the job position you are applying for and utilize them in the work history section of your resume without fail. The idea of keywords can be obtained from the job title, role & responsibilities, skills required, and other details mentioned in the job advertisement.

Remember the following points

Use powerful action verbs for illustrating the contribution made by you in your previous workplaces to impress the hiring manager of the organization you wish to join.

For example, “Developed an offline application for monitoring logistics” or “Managed the social media accounts for boosting customer engagement”.

To mention the experience gained in the countries other than the USA, you should provide some background information about the organizations you had worked for. For example, “Worked as an Accountant in ABC Ltd, which is one of the top 10 oil & gas companies of the world”.

  • Skills

You might have studied at the best university, but if you don’t possess the skills demanded by your potential employer, you will not get a job. You must list down the various skills you have acquired from your previous jobs.

You need to include both hard and soft skills to show that you have the best of both worlds and make your application stand out from the rest. Hard skills can comprise skills related to your education (such as accountancy, law, web development, etc.), familiarity with computers (such as the Microsoft Office Suite, C++ language, office communication tools, etc.), and language proficiency (such as Chinese, Spanish, French, etc.).

Soft skills should demonstrate that you can become a valuable asset of the organization. You can mention skills, like great interpersonal communication and amazing leadership capability.

Keep these points in mind

  • Use bullet points and short phrases for describing your skills.
  • You can keep the skills most relevant to the job on the top.

Remember the following points

International students who have completed their graduation recently can note down skills that they might have gathered while studying.

For example, if you have carried out your project submissions on time, you can write that you have the skill of meeting deadlines. Similarly, if you had acted as a president or vice president of a student organization, you can write that you have leadership skills.

  • Summary Statement

Most of the companies utilize an applicant tracking system (ATS) for scanning the resumes and shortlisting the candidates for interview. So, your resume should include as many relevant keywords and phrases as possible. You need to use every part of your resume to your advantage by putting keywords and highlighting your strengths.

Most of the job hunters replace the career objective section of their resume with a summary statement as it is beneficial from the point of view of both the hiring manager and the ATS software.

But here comes the inevitable question – “What should be written in the summary statement?”. You need to mention your education and career journey in a succinct manner in this section.

Keep these points in mind

  • Include your noteworthy competencies and accomplishments.
  • Use statistical data to show your small wins and big victories.
  • Put relevant keywords and phrases, but don’t overuse them.

Remember the following points

The summary statement or professional summary section plays a major role in capturing the attention of your potential employers. Therefore, you should explain why you are the right fit for the position through your knowledge, skills, experience, and achievements.

You can use the terminology used in your industry and put forward your suggestions for addressing industry-specific issues.

  • Format and Length

As mentioned earlier in this blog post, the employers and recruiters in the United States of America prefer a particular format for the resume of job aspirants. So, you should learn the nitty-gritty of the acceptable resume format. We have specified the order in which various sections or elements should be placed in your resume.

Include sections in the following order

  • Personal Information
  • Summary Statement
  • Education Details
  • Experience Details
  • Skills/Areas of Expertise
  • Licenses
  • Awards/Honours
  • Professional Memberships
  • Interests/Hobbies
  • Additional Information
  • References

Remember the following points

  • Candidates with no prior experience or little experience should place the section of educational qualifications above the section of work history.
  • Candidates with adequate or significant experience should place the section of work history above the section of educational qualifications.
  • Make your resume ATS compatible with an ATS by using simple font types and avoiding excessive formatting options, like Italics or Underline.

Along with format, you also need to take care of the length while creating your resume. The length of your resume should not exceed 2 pages. However, it’s best to keep it between 1 and 2 pages.

  • Cover Letter

Many job aspirants consider the cover letter as an additional burden and avoiding creating it to save time and effort. But in the ever-competitive employment market, a cover letter can give you a chance to beat your fellow candidates by making a mark on the hiring team.

You should always send a well-constructed cover letter along with your resume while applying for any job in the USA.

Keep these points in mind

  • Write 3-4 paragraphs of 4-5 lines each in your cover letter.
  • Describe your career objective and personal values in brief.
  • Include relevant keywords and phrases in the right places.

Remember the following points

  • Refer to the company’s website and other resources for learning about their history, vision, mission & values, milestones, and more to build a cover letter accordingly.
  • Focus on presenting yourself as a candidate that your potential employer would like to hire by putting across your message in a decent and unique way.
  • Personalize every cover letter by mentioning the name and job title of the person responsible for handling recruitment in the respective organization.
  • State your intention of applying for the job clearly in the first paragraph, and explain the reasons behind your interest in joining the organization.
  • Show consistency and a positive attitude throughout your cover letter and conclude by mentioning how you will work sincerely at your new job.
  • Grammar Check

Just like every other important document, you should also check your job application documents to ensure that they are free from all grammatical errors. Proofreading your resume and cover letter before sending will save you from the embarrassment that might occur due to the use of incorrect spellings or improper sentence formation.

Keep these points in mind

  • You can choose a free or paid online grammar check tool for checking the grammar in your resume and cover letter.
  • You should make someone else read your resume and cover letter once they are finalized to know their viewpoint.

Additional Tips

  • Replace the fancy titles of your previous jobs with regular job titles.
  • Stay clear of charts, tables, shapes, and other graphical elements.
  • Write “References available upon request” in the references section.
  • Keep capital letters and punctuation & quotation marks to a minimum.
  • Select the appropriate size for margins to ensure enough white space.
  • Never mention your scores on the English language proficiency test.
  • Don’t write the word ‘Resume’ on the top of your resume at any cost.
  • Avoid including unnecessary and irrelevant information in the resume.

Conclusion

Employers and recruiters in the USA have a fast-paced lifestyle, and so, they might not bother deciphering a resume that has not been created using the standard format. In such a scenario, interview calls cannot be guaranteed even if your resume passes the ATS test.

So, you should create your resume and cover letter by considering both the hiring team and the applicant tracking system (ATS). Being an international student, you must pay heed to the fact even if you are not a native English speaker, you cannot boast about your skill of speaking the English language as it’s expected from every employee or job seeker in the US.

Go through the job advertisement properly to write your resume and cover letter in a language that matches the language used in it. Keep updating your resume at regular intervals to include new skills and the latest experiences. Customize your cover letter while submitting every job application.

Writing a resume and cover letter requires a high level of diligence. Therefore, if you are not sure whether you will be able to curate a flawless resume or not, don’t take a chance as it could cost you, your dream job. Turn to the companies that provide professional resume writing services in USA. You can increase your chances of landing a lucrative job offer by availing additional services, like resume priority service and resume marketing services.

OPTnation Blog - author - max troy

Max Troy is the Career Counsellor as well as a passionate Author. Well, he has years of experience in the Career and Jobs industry. As a part of his career at OPTnation, he helped various OPT and CPT candidates to shape their Career. Through his knowledge and writing skill, he is contributing to the students to find the best Career advice and immigration topics. Do share the information if you like it.

By Keashla Marengo
Keashla Marengo