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Working in the US
Applying for Jobs in the US
So, you want to live and work in the United States? You have already found a few jobs that you’d like to apply for – what next? Our brief overview of the job application process in the US will guide you through the search for jobs, from the resume to the official interview.
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First, you should send your potential employer a formal, written application. Even if you have personally talked to a business contact within the company about your interest in the position, you need to go through the official search for candidates.
Sometimes, the first step is to fill out various online forms for applicants. This is frequently the case when you apply for jobs at big, international corporations. Such a company often has its own selection process. Their website usually explains it in detail. Just follow the instructions!
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For most jobs in the US, you hand in a typical application via e-mail or sometimes by “snail mail”. For this purpose, you need to prepare several documents:
- Your resume or CV is often read (or scanned) first. The HR manager is often very busy and doesn’t take much time to search for in-depth information. On average, you have 30 to 60 seconds to make a good first impression.
- Your cover letter elaborates why you want this particular job and why you’d be the ideal candidate. As most applications are sent by e-mail nowadays, the “letter” is actually the body of your email. The resume is sent as an attachment.
- In the USA, it’s not usual to enclose copies of your diplomas, certificates, etc. However, you should prepare an actual folder or a virtual file of all such documents that may become relevant later on. In this case, you have them ready if you’re asked to provide more information.
- You should be able to give references upon request. Ask your current or former colleagues, business contacts, clients, people you volunteered with, a previous manager or former professor if they are willing to vouch for you. Make a list of their names, current job title and employer, and contact information. If they have already written a letter of reference, keep this at hand, too. Here’s a great online guide to obtaining references. Don’t forget to thank them for their service!
Generally speaking, a resume should be one or two A4 pages long. The most common resume format is the chronological type.
In the header, you state your name, address, and contact details (phone, mobile, fax, email). Then you start out by describing your occupation and qualifications in about three brief sentences.
Example: “I am a qualified dietician and nutritionist with a master’s degree in Nutritional Science. I have over eight years of professional experience, working in a children’s hospital and a diabetes clinic. I have also acted as an independent coach for clients with food allergies and dietary restrictions.”
After the opening statement, you list your employment history in reverse chronological order. Always begin with your current position, then proceed to other jobs you’ve had.
In US resumes, you should do more, though, than state the company, former position, and period of employment. Don’t forget to add a few bullet points to summarize your tasks and responsibilities and to underline your professional achievements.
For instance, you could mention projects you have completed, problems you have solved, or awards you have received. See if you can include any quantifiable results (e.g. “With a new sales strategy, I helped to increase our performance by 30 %”).
Below your work history, you may list your academic degree, professional qualifications, or vocational training. However, the company probably won’t care which high school you attended, or which type of language class you took 15 years ago. Keep the information relevant for the job at hand.
The same goes for any other details you want to mention at the bottom of your resume, such as technical skills, computer literacy, languages, memberships in professional associations, or volunteer commitments. If it adds to a well-rounded profile – wonderful! If it clutters your CV, think twice about including it.
Moreover, you shouldn’t “recycle” your resume by using the same template for all jobs. Tweak it and don’t hesitate to make several changes in order to match it to a particular job description.
In terms of formatting, a clean and simply layout works best. Don’t forget to check your CV for spelling, grammar, and punctuation before you send it. If your written English skills are a bit rusty, ask a native speaker to proofread it for you.
Last but not least, US CVs do not contain a picture of the applicant. Neither do they mention age, date of birth, gender, or nationality. Employers often take great care to avoid all potential biases that could hint at discrimination. You can easily find templates for a chronological resume online on various career advice sites.
In some cases, however, the above advice for a standard type of resume may not be the best choice. What should you do if you have any “red flags” in your personal history, like lengthy unemployment? What about people who want to change careers and thus include more information on new job objectives and key skills? Are you on the search for jobs in an extremely competitive field?
Think about hiring the services of a US career coach to advise you on your resume, as well as the hiring process in general. We will cover the latter on the next two pages, starting with the rest of your application.