Recommendations specifically for international students
To apply for most jobs in the United States, you will need a resume. A resume shows employers why you are a good fit for the position you seek. If you’ve never written one before, it can feel overwhelming. This step by step guide will help you write your first resume—or improve the one you already have.
Step One: Gather your information
Lists will help you collect all of the information you need to write your resume. First, list every job you’ve held. For each job, you’ll need the name of the company, your title, the years or months you worked there, and the company’s location. Volunteer jobs can be included here as well.
Next, list all of the degrees, certifications, and special training you’ve earned or are working toward. For each degree, certification, or special training, you’ll need the name of the school, the date you earned it (or your expected completion date), and the location of the school. Then, make a list of clubs or organizations you are a member of.
Step Two: List your skills
One more list will help you write your resume. Write a list of no fewer than nine skills that you have that would be valuable to an employer. If you have a specific job posting in mind, you can look at that posting to help you choose skills. If not, try to think about the kind of work you’d like to do and the skills a person would need to do those things.
Try to include a mix of both soft and hard skills. Soft skills are general skills that could be applied in any industry. Examples include: communication, problem-solving, leadership.
Hard skills or technical skills are specific to your industry. These might include a specific type of software you know how to use or familiarity with a particular subject area. Don’t forget that speaking multiple languages is a skill as well!
Step Three: Write Your Summary
The summary helps employers quickly understand who you are and what you can offer. Even though the summary is about you, you should avoid using the word “I.” This might mean your sentences aren’t grammatically correct, and that’s okay. The reader understands that you are the subject of the resume.
Use the summary to describe what makes you special or sets you apart from other candidates. Here’s an example of a complete summary to help you:
Architecture student with strong technical skills and an exceptional work ethic. Eager to learn and ready to contribute as a member of a team to achieve project goals. Consistently recognized for attention to detail and unique approach to problem solving. Speaks three languages fluently including English, Mandarin Chinese, and French.
The list of skills you made earlier can help you decide what to mention in your summary.
Step Four: Format your resume header
Employers will expect your resume to present information in a specific way. It’s important to format your resume correctly. You can use a template or start with a blank document.
Put your name on the top. Put your phone number, city and state, and email address on the next line. If you have a LinkedIn profile, you can include the address here as well. Separate your contact information.
555-555-5555 | Anycity, Sometown | firstname.lastname@example.org
Leave a blank line between your contact information and the next part of the resume. On the next line, write the title you are seeking. This might be something like: marketing intern, research assistant, or the title of the job you are applying for.
Leave another blank line and then paste in your summary. Under your summary, list no fewer than nine and no more than 15 of your skills. If you mentioned a skill in the summary, you don’t have to mention it again in the list.
You can format your list in three columns or just list all of the skills with a line or dash in between.
Step 5: Format the resume body
Students who don’t have much work experience should list their education immediately after their skills. Write “Education.” Underneath that heading, include all of the information from your education list. It should look something like this:
Bachelor of Arts in Architecture, Auburn University, Auburn, AL, Expected 2018
If you’ve earned any special recognition, like Student of the Year, Dean’s List, or some other academic achievement during your time in school, you can list that here.
Leave a space, then on the next line type “Work Experience.” Underneath include each job from your list along with all of the information about that job. For each job, add between one and five bullet points explaining your achievements, duties, and responsibilities. Try to use action words and specific examples to make these as interesting as possible.
Barista, Auburn Campus Cafe
Auburn University, Auburn AL, 2019
- Provided cheerful customer service to 50+ students each day
- Complied with health and safety guidelines to protect students and self
- Contributed as a member of the team to meet daily goals
Finally, add a heading for Memberships and Organizations. Remember, the goal of a resume is to show why you are a good candidate for a job. Include clubs and organizations that are relevant to your career or show off your skills. For example, if you’re the president of the International Student Council, that shows leadership skills. However, if you’re a member but not an officer, you might choose to leave that off of your resume.
Step 6: Edit your resume
Employers expect your resume to be polished and professional looking. Spelling errors, poor grammar, or unclear phrasing can make you seem less professional. Edit your resume carefully. Show it to someone with strong English language skills.
Optional step: Get help
If you have never written a resume for a U.S. job posting, it can seem overwhelming. Fortunately, there are many people who can help you. Your school’s career office or student services center will likely have someone on staff who can help you make your resume as professional as possible. Take a look at this example resume as a way to get started. If you need help, ask.