Resume Writing Tips from a J1 Graduate

If you want to have the best possible chance to secure an interview with a US company, you’ve got to tailor your CV accordingly, or as they say in America, your ‘resume’.

So what’s the difference in an Irish/UK CV and an American resume I hear you ask?

A lot of it comes down to, layout and format, naming of headings, spelling of your content and ideally it tends to be on average one page instead of the two or three you may be used to.

Today however, a CV in Ireland/UK tends to fall somewhere between a traditional CV and a resume. As a general rule, employers don’t want to have to read pages and pages about every single thing you’ve ever done. So today’s CVs have been slimmed down, typically to around two pages, detailing only the things that you have achieved that you think are relevant to the specific job you are applying for.


Candidates writing a resume for an American audience will have to contend with many differences – one of the more obvious ones being the date format used. When listing dates on a Irish/UK CV, the correct format is day/month/year (i.e. 30/04/95). On an American version the correct format is month/day/year (i.e. 11/30/98). For simplicity’s sake, when listing dates of employment it may be easier to only list the month and year (i.e. 05/11).

Differences in Spelling

Variations between US and UK English have evolved and therefore it is important to tailor your spelling to your audience. For example, American spelling often uses the letter ‘z’ rather than ‘s’ (organization / organisation) and frequently drops the ‘u’ (labor, color). With this in mind it may be sensible to have your document checked by a native speaker.


There are several words that typically crop up on a CV or resume that differ between the US and the UK. In America the word ‘internship’ is used, whereas in the UK this is typically called a ‘work placement’ or ‘training period’. If you have been an ‘intern’ in the US, that means you have been a ‘trainee’ in the UK.

When you are responding to a job post, it is a good idea to make your resume specific to the position you are seeking. To do this, present your educational and professional experience in a way that matches the requirements and duties of the position.

To get a start I suggest googling a basic US Resume template to get a footing on how it should look.

Summary of Skills

A summary of skills is a list of 6 bullet points displaying a range of your most impressive achievements. It is placed at the top of your resume, in place of the Career Objective. It is a powerful tool, designed to satisfy Applicant Tracking System software, and grasp the attention of the hiring manager.

When describing your acquired skills and experience remember to use quantitative and measurable data to back it up.

Examples: For a sales position describe how many sales you made in a select time period or if referencing a law role maybe describe a particular case you handled or in medicine a patient you took care of.

The idea is to show how you benefited your past employer with your employment and showcase your skills in an effective measurable way. Its not just good enough to say you ‘taught English for a summer in Thailand’, describe the effect and results you had on your students.


This is a list of relevant qualifications you’ve acquired. Please include the institution attended, course studied, acquired result/qualification achieved, dates attended and location. If you want you can highlight the modules studied or a short description of the program.

If including a college/university degree result it might be a good idea to include the American GPA equivalent. A quick google search for Classification conversion to US will be able to help you with that but generally this should help:

Irish/UK Degree ClassificationUS Grade Equivalent (Fulbright)US GPA Equivalent (Fulbright)
Upper SecondA-/B+3.33–3.67
Lower SecondB3.00

Professional Experience

This is a list of relevant previous or current work experience you have done. Include name of organization, your general duties, dates of work and location.

Additional Skills

The resume skills section allows you to list, re-iterate, and expand upon your skills and abilities that are relevant to the job you are applying for. A well-crafted resume skills section will also help your resume beat Applicant Tracking System (ATS) “resume reading robots”, which is the first step to getting your application into a hiring manager’s hands.

In Summary:

  • Keep your resume short (1 page if you can, 2 at the very most).
  • Use the correct resume layout.
  • Make sure to use ‘Americanized’ spelling.
  • Format your dates correctly to US style.
  • Use measurable data to back up your experience and skills learnt.


About the author:

James Cumiskey is Business Development Manager for KEMP Technologies based in their New York headquarters. Coming from Ireland, he has been through the J1 process before and found his employment through networking and interviewing on the ground here in the city. Find him on Twitter or LinkedIn.


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