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4 Things Foreign Nationals Must Do when Writing a Resume for US Jobs

People new to the US can overcome the unique talent acquisition process with a resume built for US employers. Here are the 4 things to do now to start landing the US interviews.

The expectations of US employers are unequivocally different from any other country – from the cultural norms to the technology. This makes it incredibly difficult for people new to the US or that are looking to move to the US to find a job that will utilize their full skill set or career experience. Here are the 4 things to know when writing a resume to apply to jobs in the US when coming from another country:


Your resume and cover letter should convey that you a great fit for the particular employer and job that you are applying to. In order to do this, many employers will want to see that you understand the cultural norms that may exist in the US (in particularly within their company). To do this effectively on your resume as a foreign national, consider the following:

  • Politics. Whether you agree with it or not, the Trump era has left an undeniable mark on the US political and cultural landscape. Small changes in a resume or cover letter can often address these complexities effectively.

  • Immigration status. Explicitly include on your resume or CV that you authorized to work in the US if applicable. Consult with someone who can advise you on the immigration rules to avoid any costly missteps.

  • Provide context. Many US employers may not be knowledgeable of where you are coming from, the depth of your experience, or how it translates. Make sure to provide context and make the information relatable to the person who may read your resume or cover letter.

  • Cultural difference. The US is geographically large and contains  a tremendous amount of regional differences. Research these potential differences and incorporate the information whenever possible to reflect your commitment to the particular job that you are applying to.


Most US employers use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that will screen and sort the applicants for the recruiters. You can read more about how to write a resume to beat an ATS here. As a foreign national, here are a few additional things to consider when crafting your resume to get through the ATS:

  • You may be excluded you automatically. Many jobboards will automatically hide or prevent application to jobs by anyone that is presently or appears to be located in another country. Be mindful of this fact when deciding whether to include your address in your candidate profile and on your resume.

  • English is not English. Many non-US English speakers will follow the UK spellings of many words. Unfortunately, this spelling will be viewed as a typo by most ATS or recruiters. Make sure to use US version of the spelling for words on your resume when applying to jobs in the US.

  • Process moves fast(really). The US process for hiring is significantly faster than that of most other countries. In fact, there are many jobs that are closed to applications within 7 days if not sooner and that fill within that same period. Do not sit around to make decisions about whether to apply. Apply first as you can always withdraw an application down the road.


Make sure that your resume explicitly reflects the skills needed to perform the job that you are applying to. The ATS can’t make inferences and the language on your resume needs to be explicit. Skills fall in to a number of categories and all of the relevant ones should be captured on your resume. Think about the following when assessing whether you have adequately captured your skills to perform the US job that you are applying to:

  • Industry knowledge. Specific knowledge or experience within an industry can be huge for some jobs. Include specific information and industry buzzwords whenever possible. But, be careful not to get overly technical when incorporating this information as a recruiter may not know what the particular word means.

  • Substantive skills. These are the hard skills needed to perform the job. Make sure to capture these skills in multiple ways throughout your resume – from keywords to full bullets.

  • Emotional intelligence/softer skills. US employers have made a large shift to looking for people that are “cultural fits.” This typically means that the person can align with the organization’s style of doing things and its mission. Examples of words reflecting EI would be things like: versatile, adaptable, teamwork, collaboration, professional, communication, organized, etc.


Never forget that the resume and cover letter are your opportunity to sell yourself as the candidate that MUST be interviewed. Take the time to tout your own achievements and explain how you are different from the competition explicitly. To do this without it feeling awkward or forced, try a few of the following tactics:

  • Add a summary statement. This should replace any objective statements at the top of  your resume. This section should be 3-4 sentences long and answer the question “why hire me?”

  • Use a resume instead of a CV. In many countries the words resume and CV are used interchangeably. In the US, there are clear stylistic differences between the two and most employers will expect a resume and NOT a CV. Read here for more details on the difference between a resume and a CV in the US.

  • Incorporate achievements. US employers want to know that you have achieved results because they see those results as an ability to perform the same function for them. Make sure to include an achievements section on your resume and to add numbers.

  • Reflect focus. Develop a clear message about who you are as a professional and keep that message clear through out your resume. To do this, the bullets should be focused on the responsibilities of the job that you are applying to and on point with the message that you are trying to convey about your personal brand.

At the end of the day, there are no universally accepted format or rule book to writing a US resume. The reality is that employers receive an average of 70 applications per job that is posted (with some receiving many, many more). So, the most important thing to do is to: (1) apply  to the job using a compelling resume; and (2) to follow-up professionally to try to stand out from the crowd.