Application advice for the USA

Key differences from UK CV's and covering letters

  • A CV is typically called a “résumé” in the USA and is often no longer than one page in length.
  • An American “CV” is mainly used to apply for academia, research, science or education. It is much more detailed and no more than two pages in length.
  • More emphasis should be placed on how you made a difference in your previous employment rather than providing a list your responsibilities.
  • If you are a new graduate, put your education history first.
  • Do not include sensitive personal information or a photograph.
  • American covering letters follow a very similar format to UK covering letters.

There are several differences between American “résumés” and UK CVs but the format of the covering letter is very similar. Remember to tailor your résumé and covering letter to the specific requirements of the company and to pay attention to company requests.

Covering letter

The covering letter should be no more than one page in length and is typically broken down into four main paragraphs: 

  1. The first paragraph should state why you are writing, how you learned about the company, and some basic information about you. If you have been referred by someone, it should be stated here.
  2. Demonstrate your understanding of the company and use specific examples  to convey the background and skills that qualify you for the position.
  3. Elaborate on the particularly relevant qualities outlined in your résumé that demonstrate individual strengths. 
  4. Indicate what other documents are enclosed. Reiterate your interest for the position and desire to meet for an interview. Invite the employer to contact you if they require further information and thank them for their consideration.

Be prepared to sell yourself. American employers are used to flashy and professionally-written letters from people who truly believe that they are the best in the market. It is important to sound confident and enthusiastic in the letter but not to exaggerate. American employers pay close attention to spelling and grammar errors so it is essential to proof-read before submitting.

Résumé

Résumés should be a maximum of one page in length but have some structural variations. Use the following as a guideline of how to construct a résumé.

Personal information should be included at the top of the CV - Name, address, telephone and email information. You do not need to disclose your gender, date of birth, or a passport photograph unless requested.

Professional Objective - State position of interest, industry/organisation being sought and outline your key skills.

Education - Information in this section should be listed in reverse chronological order. List all of your degree qualifications with the name of the institution, location, and date they were awarded. List the date you expect to receive the degree for the program in which you are currently enrolled. You may also list relevant modules and your thesis title. Awards and scholarships should also be combined here.  

Work Experience - Positions held should be listed in reverse-chronological order. These listings should include the name and location of the company, dates of employment, and the position held. Responsibilities and accomplishments should be briefly outlined in bullet-point form. Information that is relevant to the position being sought and shows career development should be emphasised. Any gaps in work history should be explained. Make it clear how you made an impact in your employment and what skills have been learned/enhanced.

Internships/Voluntary Experience - Follow the Work Experience section with a list of other relevant experiences that  demonstrate “transferable skills”. These should not need excessive detail unless directly related to the sector you are applying for.

Relevant skills - Under separate headings, briefly list skills such as language proficiency; computer skills (including specialist knowledge of programs); and any other relevant skills/qualifications to the position.

Interests - Outline a couple of personal interests, such as sports or recreation activities for your recruiter to talk to you about. These should be listed rather than described in detail.

References - The last item on the résumé. The résumé/CV may state “References available on request” or left off altogether. Employers will request references if considering your application for interview.