How to get a job in America
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The rules for job applications vary around the world - making it difficult for international job seekers to know if they're making obvious mistakes in their job applications. We've outlined the rules for how to get a job in America.

Recommended links:

  1. Our collection of 500+ professional resume examples.
  2. Our gallery of 20+ downloadable resume templates.

The standard application process

Here is the very best job application process to follow for standard job applications.

Choose a limited number of jobs to apply to:

Instead of applying for every job you meet the basic criteria for, focus on quality applications for fewer jobs. Only apply to jobs that excite you — this excitement will show in your application.

Research the company in-depth:

Your chances of landing an interview by spamming your resume to hundreds of companies is slim — but with only a few target jobs you’ll have the time to put effort into a better application. When you’re competing against hundreds of other candidates, focus is necessary to succeed.

Write a completely original cover letter for the application:

An original cover letter shows a company that you’re passionate about their company, as well as a skilled communicator. Most people simply change a paragraph when writing a cover letter, which is obvious (and lazy).

Customize your resume for the application:

Instead, create a custom resume with keywords that match the job description. Using a service like VisualCV will enable you to easily manage these multiple resume versions.

Find a connection at the company:

LinkedIn is a valuable networking tool for finding connections with a company. Reaching out for an “informational interview” will build a relationship with people that can impact the hiring decision.

Provided you are well qualified for the job, following these steps will get your resume a deeper look.

Resume rules for North America

Note: these rules apply to the resume you are using specifically to apply to the job via email or an employer’s applicant tracking system. It is perfectly fine to include a link to your online VisualCV which includes images, portfolio projects, and additional information. However, you do need a resume version that follows these rules.

What to do

  • Use a CHRONOLOGICAL RESUME FORMAT, listing your most recent work experience first
  • Apply to an applicant tracking system using a PDF or Word document
  • Use a clean, readable design
  • Use bullet points to describe your accomplishments for each work experience position

What not to do

  • Do not include a picture on your resume
  • Do not include personal details such as date of birth, social security numbers, or marital status
  • Do not include references on your resume
  • Do not include an objective. Instead, replace it with either a summary of your qualifications, or nothing.

Create 2 versions of your resume.

In North America, two versions of your resume will help you land the job.

An online resume that includes work samples, portfolio projects, references, and a picture - this resume can be more creative to show off your unique abilities.

A “traditional” resume that does NOT include a photo or portfolio projects . You can link to your online resume from this resume version.

Our research shows that employers spend on average 4 minutes viewing an online resume. As the average resume is viewed for around 6 seconds, this is an encouraging statistic.

However, it still means you need to pass the initial resume screening test.

Questions employers ask about your resume

The following are questions that employers will ask themselves when reviewing your resume. Studies have shown that employers spend on average 6-15 seconds initially reviewing a resume. In that period of time, they will first look for the following:

  • Name
  • Current title/company and dates
  • Previous title/company and dates
  • Education

After the initial screen, recruiters will ask the following questions to determine whether you are a good fit.

  • Is this resume tailored to the position?
  • Is the candidates' experience relevant?
  • Is the candidate growing professionally? Are they developing their skills or participating in extra-curricular activities?
  • Does the applicant have adequate background experience?
  • Is the applicant a job hopper?
  • Is there anything special or unique about the applicant?
  • Does the applicant meet all required criteria and have the sufficient education or certificates?
  • Does the applicant have relevant skills to perform the job?
  • Is the applicant overqualified?
  • Is the resume well-designed and organized?
  • Is the resume believable?

Resume red flags

Red flags are things that employers look for that will get your resume immediately rejected. Here are the most obvious red flags:

  • Not having contact information on your resume, or having an unprofessional email address
  • Spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors.
  • Lack of attention to detail - addressing the cover letter to the wrong person, or not following instructions

Avoid red flags at all cost.

The best advice in standing out in the job search process is to be a high quality candidate.

Have relevant work experience. Applying for the right jobs is crucial. If you're not qualified for a position, you will not pass the initial screen and will waste your time.

Work for well known brands. A Google, Apple, or any well-known company on your resume is very valuable. Even if it was a student internship, big brands are well respected in North America.

Have a history of delivering results. Having specific, measurable accomplishments from each work experience entry will ensure your resume is read.

Include high-quality work samples. Employers love to see work samples. If you have any projects you are proud of - documents, video, presentations, or any multi-media - add them to your online portfolio. This is especially important in a visual field like graphic design.

Have unique and valuable skills. Having skills that are in high demand is a guarantee you will land a great job. Here are a few of the top specialized skills employers are looking for.

  • Python/Ruby web development
  • Statistical analysis and data mining
  • User interface design
  • Digital and online marketing
  • Business development/relationship management
  • Retail payment and information systems
  • Business intelligence
  • PR and communications

More websites and resources

There are a number of additional websites (depending on your industry) that employers look for. Here are the most popular. A website for developers to manage and deploy code. It is relevant to the hiring process because many developers host their open source or side projects on the website, which employers look for when hiring. For many engineering roles, Github is the first link from the resume. Medium is a website for people to publish stories. It is an excellent platform for blogging about your industry, and can help you stand out in the job search.

Your Personal blog: A personal blog is another good way for marketers or people who don’t have specific portfolio projects to convey their knowledge and passion for an industry. Many employers looks for strong communication skills, and a personal blog shows those well. Twitter can be useful in connecting with employers and defining your personal brand. However, if you’re not going to use it properly, don’t bother using it at all. A LinkedIn profile is useful for finding new jobs and connections within a company. Use it to search for connections, but do not use it to apply for the job (it is much too general). Getting the job

While the resume rules written here are tried and tested, that doesn’t mean that employers don’t appreciate candidates who think outside the box.

The best strategy is to play within the rules by following the traditional application process - but to also be unique with a brilliant online portfolio, personal blog, and strong personal relationships.

How hard is it to get a job in the US?

There are sufficient job opportunities in the US, but converting a job opportunity requires you to understand American culture, how ATS works and how to impress a hiring manager with the right skills.

Happy job hunting!

James Clift

Written By

James Clift

Co-Founder & Director

James is an entrepreneur and the Co-Founder of VisualCV. He has spent the last 10 years building businesses, from window cleaning to software. His passion is helping individuals create the careers they want.

James on LinkedIn

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