U.S. Resume Best Practices, Examples & Tips

Elizabeth Muenzen, CPRW
By Elizabeth Muenzen, CPRW, Career Advice Expert Last Updated: March 13, 2024
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Ready to tackle the job market in the United States? The first step is to create a compelling resume that showcases your skills, experience and qualifications.

But with different cultural expectations and preferences, it’s essential to understand what makes a U.S. resume stand out.

In this guide, we’ll explore the key elements that employers look for on U.S. resumes, as well as tips and tricks on how to write a resume that gets noticed.

From choosing the right format to tailoring your skills to the job description, we’ll cover everything you need to know to create a winning U.S. resume.

What is the standard U.S. resume format?

The most popular resume format in the United States is the chronological format, otherwise known as the reverse-chronological format, which highlights relevant work experience in reverse-chronological order. 

In addition to following a reverse-chronological format, there are a few key elements to keep in mind as you format your U.S. resume: 

  • Stick to one to two pages in length. If you choose to use two pages, ensure that the entire second page is filled.  
  • Write your resume on a U.S. letter document (8.5” x 11”). 
  • Use 1-1.15” line spacing and 0.5”-1” margins on all sides.
  • Choose a professional resume font such as Arial, Helvetica or Times New Roman.
  • Use 10-12pt font size for body text and 14-16pt font size for headers. 
  • Incorporate bolding, italics and color consistently (i.e., if one header is bolded, every header should be bolded).
  • Include clear section headings and ample white space so that your resume is easy to scan.

See what your resume should look like for additional tips and tricks from Certified Professional Resume Writers.

You can also use one of our professionally designed resume templates, which incorporate all of the formatting elements mentioned above. 

What to leave off of a U.S. resume

When crafting a U.S. resume, there are certain elements that should be left off in order to follow the best practices American employers will be looking for. Below is a list of what not to include in a U.S. resume.

  • A headshot or picture of yourself. While including a headshot is standard practice in some countries, it is uncommon and discouraged in the United States.
  • Graphics or complex design elements that can prevent your resume from passing applicant tracking systems (ATS).
  • References from past colleagues or managers. These can be provided if requested during the interview process.
  • Personal information such as your age, marital status, ethnicity, religion or political affiliations.
  • Your full street address. You do not need to include anything beyond your city and state (and your zip code if you choose to include it).
  • Personal identification numbers, such as your social security number, driver’s license number or passport number.
  • Immigration status or evidence of your employment eligibility. Employers cannot ask for this information before extending a job offer.

Any information that could potentially be used to discriminate against a job seeker should not be included in a resume.

By avoiding such information, job seekers can help ensure that their application is evaluated solely on their qualifications and merit.

If you want to clarify that you are applying from a different country or that you do not require employment sponsorship, you can write a cover letter that details your circumstances.

What to include on a U.S. resume

In addition to showcasing your work history in reverse-chronological order, your U.S. resume should also feature a summary statement, relevant skills and your educational background.

See the infographic below for a snapshot of the key sections to include on a U.S. resume.

US Resume Format Infographic

An essential element of a U.S. resume is that it should be tailored to the job you are applying for. A personalized resume incorporates keywords and phrases from the job description, increasing the chances of passing ATS and impressing hiring managers.

We recommend using our free ATS resume checker to scan for common errors that hinder your chances of passing automated screening, such as a lack of measurable achievements or ineffective word choice.

Header with your contact information

Your U.S. resume should start with a clear header that includes your contact information so that employers can reach out for an interview.  

We recommend using our Resume Builder, which includes U.S. resume templates that feature a variety of header options crafted according to best practices in the United States.

In addition to your phone number, you’ll want to include your full name, a professional email address, your current address (including your country of residence, if applicable) and a link to an online career profile or personal portfolio if it is relevant to the job.

Here is an example:

WINSTON WRIGHT

555-555-5555 | winston@email.com | West Des Moines, IA 50265 | example@example.com

Brief professional summary

Most U.S. resumes feature a profile or resume summary at the top that briefly details the key qualifications that make you uniquely suited for the role.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when writing a summary for a U.S. resume:

  • Highlight your unique value in three to five sentences. 
  • Use American English spelling and grammar conventions. 
  • Incorporate resume keywords from the job description if they fit naturally. 
  • Do not use first-person pronouns or passive voice.
  • Use impactful yet simple language, avoiding unnecessary jargon.

Below is an example of a professional summary that effectively describes the candidate’s key skills and qualifications.

“Results-driven marketing professional with over five years of experience in developing and executing successful marketing campaigns for a variety of clients. Skilled in market research, brand development and digital marketing, with a proven track record of increasing brand awareness and driving sales. Highly organized and detail-oriented, with strong project management skills and the ability to collaborate effectively with cross-functional teams.”

Work experience in reverse-chronological order

The work history section is the primary focus of a reverse-chronological U.S. resume. List your past roles starting from your most recent or current role and working backwards. 

Only include roles that are relevant to the position you are applying for. For example, if you are writing a software engineering resume, you may choose to omit your experience as a waitress since it does not apply to your target role. 

Here are a few tips to consider while you write your resume work history section:

  • Start each bullet point with strong action verbs and maintain consistent verb tense throughout each section. For instance, use present tense for a current role and past tense for prior roles. 
  • Maintain parallel sentence structure, which involves using consistent patterns of words or phrases in a sentence or a series of sentences. For example: “Developed marketing strategies, conducted market research and analyzed customer data” instead of “Developed and implemented marketing strategies, while also conducting market research and analyzing customer data.”
  • Whenever possible, use numbers and figures to describe accomplishments on your resume, for example: “Implemented a new lead generation strategy, resulting in a 40% increase in qualified leads and a 15% increase in conversion rates.”
  • Use active voice throughout your resume. For instance, instead of saying, “A new project was launched and managed by me, resulting in a 20% increase in productivity,” say, “Launched and managed a new project, resulting in a 20% increase in productivity.”

Here is an example of an effective work history entry on a U.S. resume:

Marketing Manager

ABC Company, New York, NY

May 2020 – Present

  • Develop and execute marketing strategies and campaigns across multiple platforms, including email, social media and events.
  • Manage a team of three marketing coordinators, providing guidance and support to ensure successful project delivery and professional growth.
  • Analyze market trends, customer needs and competitor activities to identify new business opportunities and develop product positioning and messaging.

Job-relevant skills

Create a separate resume skills section using bullet points to make it easy for the hiring manager to read and scan your resume. 

Remember to tailor your skills section to the specific job requirements and consider the skills that will make you stand out as an international candidate who brings unique experiences and perspectives to the table. 

Here are a few considerations when writing the skills section of your U.S. resume:  

  • Feature U.S.-specific skills: Research the specific skills that are in demand in the U.S. job market for your target role and include those that align with your experience and qualifications. 
  • Include a variety of skills: Feature a blend of hard skills and soft skills to demonstrate that you have a range of abilities and are adaptable to different work environments.
  • Avoid cultural references or jargon: Be mindful of using cultural references or jargon that may not be familiar to U.S. employers. Keep your language clear, concise and focused on the skills and qualifications that are directly relevant to the job you are applying for.

Here is an example of a resume skills section: 

Skills

  • Google Analytics 
  • HTML and CSS
  • Technical writing
  • Social media management
  • Search engine optimization 
  • Cross-team collaboration

Educational background

Your U.S. resume should feature an education section towards the bottom that lists your college or university degree(s).

If you think including a graduation year will add value to your application, for example, if you are a recent graduate, then go ahead and include it.

However, if you think it may work against you or is not relevant because of age-based discrimination, then it’s okay to leave it out.

Here is an example education section for a U.S. resume:

Education

Bachelor of Science in Accounting

Drake University – Des Moines, IA

Optional resume sections

There are several optional sections that you can include on a U.S. resume, depending on your skills, experiences and the job you are applying for. Here are some examples:

  • Certifications and licenses: A list of any certifications or licenses you have earned that are relevant to the job you are applying for.
  • Awards and honors: A list of any awards or honors you have received, such as scholarships, academic awards or recognition from your previous employers.
  • Volunteer experience: Information about any volunteer work you have done, including the organization, your role and the dates of your involvement.
  • Professional memberships: Information about any professional organizations you belong to, including the name of the organization, your role and the dates of your membership.

Remember, the sections you choose to include on your resume should be relevant to the job you are applying for and highlight your strengths and experiences.

U.S. resume template

Take a look at the professionally made U.S.-style resume to get inspired. We also recommend exploring our library of 800+ resume examples to help you get started. 

U.S. resume example

This U.S. resume sample follows best practices such as listing work history in reverse-chronological order and incorporating value propositions into the summary. 

The education section is relevant and focused, and the skills section provides a quick snapshot of the candidate’s abilities. 

Overall, this resume is a great example of how to effectively showcase your qualifications and stand out in a competitive job market.

Key takeaways

  1. Use a reverse-chronological resume format and stick to one-to-two pages. 2
  2. Do not include personal information such as your age, gender or marital status.
  3. Tailor each section of your resume to the job that you are applying for.
  4. Maintain a consistent format and do not include a headshot or complex graphics.
  5. Include a summary statement at the top that describes your unique value.

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