The US uses a standardized format for resumes. Generally speaking, you should be able to know definitively whether or not you are looking at a resume without reading a single word. This is achieved through uniform formatting, applying the same handful of section titles, and effectively leading the reader through your information.
If it’s your first time making a resume for the US workforce, that might seem like a lot to achieve.
Not to worry, we’ll walk you through the entire US resume format so you can impress the next recruiter who sees it.
In this article we’ll discuss:
The difference between a CV and a US resume
What a standard resume format looks like in the US
What sections and elements to include in a US resume
What is the difference between a CV and a US resume?
While a CV and a resume serve the same purpose, they do have slightly different structures and approaches to helping display your professional background. The main differences are the length and style of the document. US resumes can be customized a bit more depending on the industry or experience of the candidate, while CVs typically only follow a reverse-chronological format.
A professional resume in the US should have a clean appearance and be easy to move through. Stick to a uniform look by using size 11 or 12 font for the main body, size 16 font for titles, and size 18 to 20 for your name.
Utilize spacing and accent lines to help define the sections of your resume and create a clear separation of information.
Keep in mind that you want information to be received in a way that the recruiter learns the most relevant information about you first. This is how you can showcase how you are an ideal candidate for the position, and then go into more detail later.
The top of your resume should clearly state your name, email, and phone number. You should also include the city and state that you reside in, but it has become common practice to omit your actual home address.
If you are applying for work in another country, you can also include the country that you’ll operate from. Similarly, if you need a work visa to legally qualify as a candidate, your contact information section can include a statement about your visa status.
This section can interchangeably be called a summary statement, a work summary, professional qualifications, or areas of expertise. It is what’s replaced the objective statement that many professionals included in years past.
The difference between an objective statement and a professional summary is that the professional summary gives a quick overview of your skills and achievements. It directly relates to the position you’re applying for. An objective statement on the other hand is a vague statement of intent. If you are updating your resume for the US market, be sure to make this change.
The education section of your resume can be placed in a few different places depending on its relevance. If you work in a field where most of your qualifications are expressed in certifications and professional experience, then you can place your education section near the bottom of your US resume. If you work in an industry that highly values your education degrees, place the section in a more prominent section on the first page.
In 2023, experts recommend omitting high school from your resume unless you are a recent high school graduate who is entering the workforce for the first time. Also, only include the year of your graduation if it is within the last ten years to avoid age discrimination and also show relevance.
Certifications and professional development
The certifications and professional development section can usually be placed on the first page. Most jobs in the US workforce require some sort of certification or skillset and will benefit from candidates who have already pursued that growth.
If you work in an industry that requires certain certifications, write them in order of relevance. You want the first thing the recruiter learns about you to be that you meet the basic requirements for the position.
Some industries require annual credits worth of professional development. In such cases, you should include how many professional development credits each course was.
If you have personally acquired a lot of certifications and professional development, only include the courses and certs that are relevant to the position you are applying for.
The main body of your US resume will be the professional experience section. Here, it’s typically recommended to use a reverse-chronological format. This means that you list your most recent or current position first, then work backward through time as you go down the list. To maintain relevance and avoid age discrimination, only include work experience from the last ten to fifteen years.
When you are writing the details of your work experience, the most recent position should have the most content. You can write a portion of the detail in paragraph format, taking up about three to five lines. Underneath that description, use three to five bullet points to detail your proudest achievements from that job. As you move down chronologically, you can reduce the amount of information each job description has. Every entry should have at least two lines of sentences and two bullet points with achievements.
Technical proficiencies is an increasingly important section to include on your US resume. Almost every job in the country will somehow involve the use of some type of technology. For a lot of people, this is considered a given, such as the use of Microsoft Word or Gmail. However, many large companies use automatic resume screening software called Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). ATS filters through all of the applications submitted for a position and scans them for relevance. By including details like tech proficiencies, your resume will get a higher ATS score.
In addition, when you list out your tech proficiencies even for a position that doesn't require them, you are still displaying an affinity for keeping up with workplace trends and professional growth.
Limiting your resume to only the last ten to fifteen years can mean not including achievements that are significant to you. To overcome this and still be able to display your older achievements, you can include a section called additional experience. This section should almost always be one of the last items on your US resume.
The additional experience section should be relatively small because you want your most recent information to be the true highlight of your qualifications. Save this section for big achievements that are also relevant in some fashion.
A US resume has many different elements that can be included. Choose the ones that are relevant to you.
Remove your objective statement and opt instead for a professional summary.
All information listed on your resume should be relevant to the industry and position you are applying for. This means only including information from the last ten to fifteen years.