So you’re moving to the USA and you need a job, applying for jobs is the easy part? We respond to the advert with our CV or we fill in an application form using the techniques we’ve learnt through experience or college. However, job etiquette in Britain is one thing, but in America they have a completely different way of doing things and whilst some of our British habits might be considered “quaint” over there, such romanticisms will do you no favours when it comes to competing with other experienced American job hunters. There is a right way and a wrong way to apply for jobs in America and hopefully we can show you the right way.
Americans are not backward when it comes to selling themselves and their skills, whereas here in the UK we tend to be a little more reserved. If you don’t make an effort to sell yourself here then you may struggle to get employers to see past that reserved façade.
Always include a covering letter with your application or résumé, make sure it is formal and use it to highlight your most recent and relevant skills. Remember that UK courses and qualifications may not mean anything to an American employer so it’s crucial to focus on the skills you have acquired instead.
Never mention your weaknesses or include passive sentences. Always focus on the positives and try to turn any disadvantage (such as you being a foreign national) into a positive.
The Résumé (Curriculum Vitae)
It is not uncommon for US résumés to include a photograph and text boxes, however, if you are not familiar with inserting these into your résumé then it’s best to steer clear. Remember however, that the US employment market is highly competitive these days so your CV needs to stick out if it’s to stand a chance against the 500 or so other CVs sat on the desk. An English styled CV may actually work in your favour here, so long as it is easy to read with a simple layout.
As a general rule try to make your résumé fit onto one side of an A4 sheet of paper (no more than 2 sides in any case) and list only your most recent of experiences and skills. It’s important to keep personal information basic as the US has strict laws on equal employment rights.
Highlight the most crucial skills and experiences to make it easy for the employer to skim read and try to find the US equivalent of any qualifications.
Dress codes in the US for interviews is smart – this means shirt and tie for men, suit for women. Research the company as much as you can beforehand. Forbes may list the company or arm yourself with Hoover’s Handbook .
Don’t be surprised if you are asked to do a psychological test as part of the interview process. This is becoming quite common with large companies. Do make sure that you sell yourself and give honest and straight forward answers.
The UK careers website Prospects has a good guide on applying for jobs in America.