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Crossing Borders: How to Convert a CV Into a Resume

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Getting a job in the United States is not easy. There may be language, cultural and legal barriers which can interfere with non-U.S. job seekers' attempts to find their dream job in America.

Getting a job in the United States is not easy. There may be language, cultural and legal barriers which can interfere with non-U.S. job seekers' attempts to find their dream job in America.

To make sure skills and experiences translate, non-U.S. job seekers should convert their CVs into resumes -- the standard for a job search in the United States.

Resumes differ from CVs in some key ways: They are shorter and omit personal information about the candidate, such as date of birth, marital status and religion.

So whether you've been calling it a Lebenslauf (Germany), a Meritförteckning (Sweden), your Bio-data (India) or a Curriculum Vitae (Great Britain), get ready to start writing a resume.

Before embarking on your task, it would be helpful for you to know what your final product should look like. View as many examples of American resumes as possible.

1. Omit personal information

International CVs often contain personal information about the candidate (e.g., age, religion, ethnic group, marital status).

In the United States, however, it is illegal for any employer to make discriminatory employment decisions based upon:
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Race/National origin
  • Ethnic group
  • Religion
  • Possession of a disability
Depending on the employer's state, it may also be illegal for them to make employment decisions based on:
  • Sexual orientation
  • Parental status
  • Marital status
  • Political affiliation
Employers are so worried about discrimination lawsuits, that if you explicitly include the above information in your resume, it will likely go directly into the garbage can.

The only information that you should list at the top of your resume is your contact information:

Your name Your mailing address Your phone number Your e-mail address

For example, this might resemble the top of your resume:

John Doe 123 Pine Street Philadelphia, PA 19102 Phone: (555) 555-5555 E-mail:

Don't place the word "Resume" at the top as it is sometimes done in European countries. Just start with your name.

2. Know length requirements

CVs are usually rather lengthy, explaining past work experience in detail. Unless you are applying to be a teacher or a scientist (which have their own unique resume standards), follow this rule of thumb: A resume should never be more than one page long. The average employer spends less than 30 seconds reading a resume, so brevity is key.

To shorten your resume:
  • Use sentence fragments with as few words as possible
  • Use action verbs
  • Eliminate articles and pronouns
A CV might have a line that reads:

"As a Project Manager, I was responsible for helping the organization recruit clients. In my first three months, I recruited 250 clients, and I recruited another 200 clients in my second three months. These clients eventually brought the organization $45,000 worth of revenue, making my department the most valuable."

On a resume, it might read:

"Recruited 450 new clients in six months. Total revenue raised: $45,000"

3. Use accepted headings

Resumes consist of separate sections, each of which should provide evidence of your skills and talents. The list below outlines sections that are commonly used, in the order in which it should appear.

Objective: A brief sentence explaining what kind of job you are looking for.

Work Experience: Under this section, the candidate lists jobs the candidate has held, with some impressive details proving job excellence.

Skills: This section may contain important information such as computer knowledge, languages spoken and memberships in professional organizations.

Education: This section should briefly list the candidate's educational history going back as far as an undergraduate degree, listing the institution(s) attended, the degree(s) received and the dates of attendance.

4. Put the most recent information at the top

If the top of a resume doesn't grab recruiters' attention, they'll never get to the bottom. As a result, most resumes are organized in reverse-chronological order - the most recent information is placed at the top of a section and works its way backwards.

5. Use American paper sizes

If you are going to send a resume through the mail, remember that the standard size for an American resume is 8.5 by 11 inches. Use only one side of the paper, with a legible font and margins of at least .75 inches on each side.

6. Spell-check and proofread

Whether or not English is your first language, there is no excuse for having any spelling errors in your resume. So before submitting your resume, be sure to double-check your spelling. Then give your resume to a friend (one who is fluent in English) to give it a second read.

Even native English speakers from abroad should check their spelling using an American-style dictionary, because there are words that are spelled uniquely in the U.S. For example:

"organized" not "organised"

"favorite" not "favourite"

"theater" not "theatre"

"color" not "colour"

Searching for a job in the U.S. can be a daunting experience, but a standard American resume can put you one step closer to your dream.
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