Does it ever feel like certain jobseekers know something you don’t? Although you may know that finding an American job can take some time, do you notice how some people seem to waltz into an interview, say the right things, and come out with a great new job in hand, while you’re still struggling to get someone to just respond to your resume?
Job hunting is hard enough as it is. But if you are coming to the U.S. from a different country, you have all sorts of additional difficulties. There are cultural barriers to overcome, which can range from writing an American resume correctly to answering weird questions at interviews. And there is the issue of networking: if you’ve recently arrived from another nation, chances are you’re building most of your local professional network from scratch.
Resumes or CVs in many other countries tend to be longer and more detailed; but in the U.S., it is important to know what is really essential, and leave everything else out
However, there are a few simple steps that can help you quickly convince American employers that you are up for the job.
Don’t just translate or reformat your resume; localize it and provide context
It is likely you’ve already looked up American resume formats and adjusted yours accordingly; if you had a photo, your birthdate, or your marital status listed, you have now removed them. However, having an effective resume is more than a cosmetic makeover. Resumes or CVs in many other countries tend to be longer and more detailed; but in the U.S., it is important to know what is really essential, and leave everything else out. For example, you don’t want to list every duty you had at each of your previous positions only the work and accomplishments that will be most relevant to the job you want now. (This is particularly important when you apply to jobs online, because of the automated software that sorts submitted resumes resumes that are not completely relevant to the job might never be seen by a live person.)
Moreover, there is a high probability that some of your great achievements back home won’t be as obvious to an American audience without some clarification. Let’s take a look at a segment from a French journalists resume:
This reporter worked at one of France’s top weekly news magazines, reaching 500,000 readers anyone seeing this in France would be impressed. But an American employer might not know anything about this magazine; for all they know, this might be a small, local publication given out for free at coffee shops. However, with a small tweak, this information can be made much more interesting to American hiring managers.
In this new version, the reporters level of achievement is much clearer to an international audience.
What you can do today: Go through your resume and provide context for positions at all companies that are not internationally recognizable.
Learn how people talk in your industry
Differing terminology can cause confusion even for professionals who worked in English back home, because U.S. terms and word choice may vary. For example, job-seekers from certain countries are used to abbreviating the title of Managing Director as MD, whereas an American seeing or hearing this abbreviation will likely think of a Medical Doctor.
But often, these differences are more subtle, and can even change from one U.S. company to another. For example, if you are looking for a writing position in advertising, do you talk about your experience writing articles or copy? The best way to find out is to read articles or trade magazines relevant to your industry. Plus, when applying for a specific job, taking a close look at the company’s website to find the language they are using. Once you understand how to sound like an insider, you can use this knowledge to edit your resume and make a great impression at interviews.
What you can do today: Find out what magazines, blogs and online forums are popular with members of your industry, and start reading them. And look at employers’ websites to see how they describe what they do.
Don’t go to events for jobseekers; find out where the pros go
As a job-seeker, it seems logical that you should go to events like job fairs and networking mixers, right? Well, not necessarily. The problem with these events is that most of the people you meet there will also be looking for a job, just like you. The few employers present will be flooded with attention, and it will be hard to create a real connection with them.
So where can you go to make new professional connections? Look for events that are targeted at employed professionals in your industry. Conferences and professional trainings are great for this: in addition to letting you meet people who are already working in your field (in other words, the people most likely to provide you with great tips and advice), these events will give you the chance to learn and improve your own qualifications. The downside is that some of these events may be costly. However, if you’re looking for a cheaper alternative, you can find many informal meet-ups and activities in a range of sectors. For example, meetup.com lists thousands of groups for members of various professions that anyone can join. Or you may consider an event that mixes fun with professional skills; for example, if you want to work in tech, consider attending a hack-a-thon to meet other tech enthusiasts. This is particularly important during a job search because most employers prefer to hire someone they know or that has been recommended to them, rather than people who apply online.
What you can do today: Find an event attended by people employed in the types of jobs and companies you’re looking for whether its a trade show, conference, class, or informal gathering or meet-up.