How To Write An American Resume

By Heidi Cope
Oct. 2, 2022
Articles In Resume Guide

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If you are an international job seeker looking for a position in the United States, you are probably wondering what in the world an American resume is.

American resumes are different than many other international resumes and not keeping the style guide in mind when writing a resume for an American company can hurt you in the job-seeking process. Because of privacy and anti-discrimination laws, revealing too much on your resume might make American recruiters automatically dismiss your resume.

Key Takeaways:

  • American resumes are typically 1 page long, include information only relevant to the job you are applying to, and use the chronological format.

  • Make sure to use American English and American address formats.

  • American resumes include a header, a resume summary, and sections on work experience, education, and skills.

  • Do not include a profile picture, references, or your full address on your resume.

How To Write An American Resume

What Is an American Resume?

American resumes have some noticeable differences than other international resumes. These include:

  • Relevancy. American resumes are concise documents that only contain information relevant to the job you are applying for. You will make sure that everything you add to your resume helps speak directly to your ability to perform the job you are applying for well.

  • One page. American recruiters want to see a summary of your skills and experiences, but usually, don’t want to read about it for more than a page. For most resumes, especially for recent graduates and entry-level positions, recruiters want to see a one-page resume. It allows them to see an accurate snapshot of your skills and expertise quickly and effectively without having to read through many pages for the same information.

  • Not a CV. Because of these page limits, an American resume is very concise and to the point. It is not the same as a CV that many other countries often use.

  • Use American English. When writing an American resume, there are other stylistic changes that you should consider. If English isn’t your first language, be sure to check to make sure you are spelling words according to American English, versus British English.

  • American address format. You also want to note the American way of addressing letters. Be sure to list your address in the American format in your resume.

  • Active language with keywords. American resumes require active language and many resumes are first read through by a computer. You read that right — your ability to make it to the final cut is often first determined by a computer. For that reason, you want to be sure to include relevant keywords throughout your resume that the computer can pick up on.

These are the basic large differences between an American resume and an international resume. But let’s take another step closer to see what is best to include in an American resume and what you should leave behind.

Types of American Resume Formats

American resumes tend to be shorter and include less information from earlier in your education and careers than you may be used to. Most American resumes are limited to a single page, which can be a daunting task to create if you are used to writing multiple-page CVs.

Luckily, there are a few standard American resume formats that make it easy to transfer your CV’s info into a resume. The three major resume formats in America are:

  1. Chronological resume. A chronological resume is the standard resume format that most job-seekers should use. It details all of your work history in reverse chronological order, meaning that your most recent experience is at the top, and your older experiences are at the bottom.

    This format showcases recent, relevant work history and demonstrates a career of consistent upward movement. It also shows that you’ve worked without any major gaps in your employment.

    Chronological resumes work just as well for entry-level workers as they do for people in the middle of their careers because the focus is the same: work experience that’s relevant to the job you’re applying for.

  2. Functional resume. Functional resumes focus more on your skills as opposed to your work history. That means putting your skills section above your work experience section and going into more detail about each skill you list.

    On a chronological resume, the skills section is relatively short, and not much description is given for each skill.

    But on a functional resume, you should give a 2-3 sentence description of each of the 4-6 skills you choose to list. The experience section, on the other hand, is relatively brief, with only 1-2 bullet points for each of your previous jobs.

    The functional resume format is a great choice for applicants who have long gaps in their employment history or want to change career paths completely.

  3. Combination. A combination resume combines elements of the chronological and functional resume formats. This means including a lot of details for key skills and work experience.

    This resume format is reserved for high-level executives and those aspiring to the upper echelon of American business. It won’t work well for entry-level job-seekers, but if you’re changing to a totally different job, field, or industry, then a combination resume can be a good choice.

What to Include in an American Resume

You might be thinking that a good portion of your old resume is no longer allowed to be in an American resume. You might be asking, “What can I include?”

American resumes are all about being concise and relevant. If you are applying for a nursing position, for example, recruiters don’t want to read about your lawn mowing side hustles back in high school.

When writing an American resume, pay close attention to the job description. Make sure that everything on your resume can point back to one of the skills or qualifications needed for the job. If you are wondering what the relevant keywords are, look at the job description and use similar keywords and terminology they do.

An American resume should include the following sections:

  • Resume header. A resume header should include your contact information. In the United States, employers will like to see your full name, phone number, email address, and location ([City], [State] is fine — you don’t need to give your home address).

    You can also include links to your online portfolio with samples of your work, your LinkedIn page, or your professional website, but these are all optional. There are plenty of ways to format your header, so look for examples and imitate a style that you like.

  • Resume summary or objective. If you’re an entry-level applicant, using a resume objective is a good choice. This should be a 2-3 sentence summary of what skills you hope to use in the occupation you’re applying for.

    Most job-seekers, however, should use a resume summary statement. It’s a far more powerful tool that tells the hiring manager about your qualifications and proves them by including achievements from your past work experience. If you have the option, always use a resume summary statement over an objective.

  • Work experience. Work experience is the main focus of most American resumes, and it follows your resume objective/statement in the chronological resume format (the most popular choice).

    For each job, list the company name, your job title, the dates you were employed, and then follow that information with 2-4 bullet points describing what you did at that job.

    Most hiring managers know the responsibilities you had based on your job title, so don’t list everything you did. Instead, focus on your most impressive achievements. If you can, always use numbers to paint a more vivid picture of your impact.

    For example, instead of saying “Answered customer calls,” write “Responded to an average of 40 customer calls every day.”

  • Education. Next, you’ll want to list your educational background. If you have had any jobs before, you don’t need to include your high school experience. Start with your most recent university degree.

    Give the school’s name, the name of your degree or program, and the dates you attended. If you have very little work experience, you can include relevant coursework here.

    If you think it will help your chances, you can also include your GPA (if it’s 3.5+), your honors/achievements from college, your minor, and any impressive extracurricular activities or volunteer experiences you were involved with. When you’re later in your career, you can start removing this information.

  • Skills. Next, you’ll want to include a skills section that has a healthy mix of hard skills (skills that can be taught) and soft skills (skills that relate to your ability to be a positive coworker, like time management and collaboration).

    If you’re using a functional resume format, you should give a brief 2-3 sentence description of 4-6 of your most impressive skills.

    If you’re using a chronological resume format, your skills section will be at the bottom of the page (unless you’re including optional sections). You can simply list 5-10 skills or list fewer and give a one-sentence description of each.

    If you don’t know what skills to put on your resume, read the job description carefully. Look for what the necessary skills and qualifications are and use some of the same language. Of course, if you don’t actually have those skills, then don’t lie.

What Not to Include in an American Resume

American companies are required by law to not discriminate against a job applicant based on their ethnicity, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, or disability. Because of these laws, the American resume doesn’t include some of the information other international resumes might.

For example, you should not include a picture or headshot of yourself in an American resume. Adding a picture is one way a potential employer can discriminate against you as an applicant.

You also want to limit the amount of personal information you include in an American resume.

American resumes should not include:

  • Marital status

  • Whether or not you have children

  • Disability or health information

  • Sexual orientation

You might include some of these details perhaps, if you were to apply for a job at a children’s hospital, for a disability services office, or perhaps an LGBTQ+ advocacy center.

Just know that employers are not allowed to ask you specifically about your personal information related to these subjects and that disclosing them should probably be avoided unless it is relevant to the job position.

Other things to keep in mind when changing your resume to an American format include:

  • Limit your educational history. In an American resume, you don’t include anything before your college degree unless the furthest education you’ve had is a high school diploma or General Education Degree (GED).

  • Don’t include your references. Unless the application asks for it. Adding references takes up precious space when you have a one-page limit. Recruiters will ask you for reference information if they want it, so you also don’t need to include the phrase References available upon request.”

  • Other personal details. Don’t include your date of birth, social security number, or any other identification numbers.

  • Don’t include your full address. The company doesn’t need to mail you anything at this point in your relationship, so there’s no reason to tell them exactly where you live.

  • Remove country code from your phone number. Americans like to see 10-digit phone numbers with an area code, like this: (555) 444-3333.

American Resume Formatting Tips

With all that has already been said, consider the following tips to create your American style resume:

  • Use a professional font. Use fonts such as Times New Roman or Arial. Make sure it is easy to read. Use 12 point font for the body of your resume and 14-16 point font for headers.

  • Use 1 inch margins. Make sure there is a enough space around the edges of your resume. This makes your resume look less cluttered and easy to read.

  • Use 1.15 line spacing. Proper line spacing helps your individual bullet points stand out without sacrificing too much space on the resume.

  • Submit as a PDF or Word file. Sometimes an employer will specify, but when it doubt save your resume as a .pdf or .doc file. Make sure that your resume can be read by applicant tracking systems (ATS) that filter out resumes for readers.

American Resume Examples

Now that we have a good idea of how to write an American resume, let’s take a look at some examples:

  1. Chronological Resume Example

    Jack Pilgrim

    Washington, DC 14015 – (555) 444-3333 – jackpilgrim@gmail.com – www.linkedin.com/jpilgrim

    Resume Summary

    Graphic designer with 3+ years of experience creating and implementing promotional materials and social media graphics. Worked with sales and marketing teams to increase inbound calls by 23% YoY through compelling digital media. Adept at planning, managing, and prioritizing multiple deadlines at once, and thrives in fast-paced work environment.

    Work Experience

    Creative Designs | Washington, DC
    Lead Graphic Designer | June 2018-Present

    • Worked with sales and marketing teams to create landing pages, sales proposals, and supporting media elements to drive sales by over $250,000 per quarter

    • Trained, managed, and mentored team of 4 junior designers to fulfill 40+ project orders on a weekly basis

    • Conducted UX research through surveys, usability testing, and data analysis to plan content marketing strategy, driving organic search traffic by 12%

    • Presented proposals, results, and status updates to set of 4-7 clients, ensuring customer satisfaction at or above 95% for 3 years straight

    Happy Place | Alexandria, VA
    Junior Graphic Designer | July 2016-May 2018

    • Translated client needs and branding strategies into design and content strategy, increasing client retention by 22%

    • Reduced project turnaround time by 8% by Utilizing web-based ticket system for completing and archiving finalized pieces

    • Posted digital artwork to network IPTV using web interface to produce high-end infographics and other materials

    Happy Place | Alexandria, VA
    Marketing Intern | September 2015-July 2016

    • Assisted marketing team with data collection, analysis, and presentation using Google Analytics

    • Drew up storyboards for new marketing campaigns alongside sales team, increasing brand awareness through social media

    • Wrote 500-1000 word articles to pair with graphical elements on page, leading to a 40% boost in engagement on company website

    Education

    Savannah College of Art and Design | Savannah, Georgia
    May 2016
    Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design

    Skills

    • Adobe Creative Suite

    • Typography

    • HTML/CSS

    • WordPress

    • Collaboration

    • Organization

  2. Functional Resume Example

    Allison Neederly

    Chicago, Illinois, 60007 | (333) 222-1111 | jackpilgrim@gmail.com | www.linkedin.com/allison.neederly

    Resume Summary

    Dedicated customer service representative with 4+ years experience resolving customers’ needs in-person, online, and over the phone. Top achiever at XYZ Inc. with a 100% customer satisfaction rate for Q1 of 2020. Friendly personable, and knowledgable about company’s products and services.

    Relevant Skills

    Customer Service

    • Responded to upwards of 200 customer queries daily with XYZ Inc., reducing the average wait time by 56% and increasing customer satsifaction rates by 13%

    • Ability to resolve conflict and create a positive atmosphere for shopping for both new and existing customers through technical proficiency

    • Expert product knowledge and communication skills, and experience training and mentoring new customer service staff

    Web Chat and Phone

    • Skilled in 3 web chat platforms for helping online customers resolve their queries quickly and accurately

    • Achieved fastest call resolution rate at XYZ Inc., with an average resolution time of under 5 minutes per customer

    • Performed outbound calls for customer satisfaction surveys, as well as writing web-based surveys for 10,000+ customers

    Troubleshooting

    • Detailed product knowledge allowed for customer technical issues to be resolved at rate within top 5% of all customer service associates at XYZ Inc.

    • Created manual for step-by-step directions for troubleshooting that was implemented for team of 100+ customer service reps

    • Positive attitude took average tech-related negative response from 1/5 stars to 4/5 stars, increasing trust in brands and services

    Work Experience

    XYZ Inc. | Philadelphia, PA
    Customer Service Associate
    New Look Global | Burlington, VT
    Junior Customer Service Representative
    L.L. Bean | Burlington, VT
    Sales Associate

    Education

    University of Vermont | Burlington, VT
    May 2012
    Bachelor of Arts in Humanities

  3. Combination Resume Example

    Priya Laghari

    New York, NY | (222) 111-0000 | priya.laghari@gmail.com | www.priyabizdev.com

    Resume Profile

    • Strategy Development: Grew John Deere’s international sales by 13% by tapping into underserved countries in Southeast Asia

    • Management: Oversaw a team of managers representing marketing, sales, and product teams. Streamlined collaborative, cross-functional communications through agile and scrum management system

    • CRM: Developed, customized, and implemented new custmer relationship management database for accounts totalling over $10M in value

    Work Experience

    Business Development Manager
    01/2015-Present
    Microsoft | Redmond, WA

    • Developed product strategies and roadmap for Google AdWords, increasing inbound traffic by 26% YoY

    • Reduced time training on new software by 50% for new and existing employees by implement e-learning programs

    • Spearheaded digital marketing campaign worth $1M that saw a return of 200% in first year by qualifying leads earlier in the sales funnel

    Regional Sales Manager
    11/2012-01/2015
    Big Things Inc. | St. Louis, MO

    • Managed territory encompassing 29 regional locations with an annual revenue of approx. $55M

    • Worked with C-level executives to plan business strategies, resulting in 20% reduction in overhead costs

    • Increased client retention by 12% in first year by implementing a CRM approach based on accouunt profiling and elevating levels of relationship selling

    Account Manager
    02/2009-11/2012
    Solutions Corp. | Chicago, IL

    • Implemented and developed CRM strategic plans, increasing retention of long-term clients by 22%

    • Maintained 50+ accounts totaling over $35M in value

    • Generated leads through one-on-one consultation via phone inquiries, online check-ins, and meeting office walk-ins

    Relevant Skills

    • CRM: Proficient with Salesforce, Zoho, and HubSpot; some experience with Keap. Used various CRM software over a decade to successfully manage customer relatinos and quick to adapt to new software and tools that aid in quality of customer experience.

    • Salesmanship: Negotiated and closed over several deals worth $1M+ and skilled in upselling and cross-selling. Adept at working closely with marketing and product teams to maximize the efficiency of the sales funnel for both inbound and outbound traffic.

    • Presentation: Represented Microsoft Northwest Region at quarterly board meetings, ensuring all stakeholders were kept abreast of new developments and opportunities. Also deliver monthly presentations to big clients and vendors to maintain positive relationship.

    • Data analytics. Expert at integrating data from various analytics platforms, inclding Google, Microsoft Power BI, and SAP BusinessObjects

    Education

    Colgate University | May 2008
    MBA

    Fordham University | May 2006
    Bachelor’s Degree in Business

Final Thoughts

This article listed the main differences between an American resume and many international resumes. When writing an American resume, keep in mind what kind of information that you include in the resume.

Make sure that you keep your resume concise and to the point, while also giving employers a detailed look at you as a potential employee. Now that you’ve got all the information you need, it’s time for you to head back to writing your own American resume.

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Author

Heidi Cope

Heidi Cope is a former writer for the Zippia Career Advice blog. Her writing focused primarily on Zippia's suite of rankings and general career advice. After leaving Zippia, Heidi joined The Mighty as a writer and editor, among other positions. She received her BS from UNC Charlotte in German Studies.

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