How do I start my resume?

A resume is a very specific document. It is divided into specific sections, usually in a specific order, so all you have to do is fill the blanks. 

How do I start writing a resume?

The Career Center offers a Resume Workshop multiple times each month on both campuses. Here you will receive helpful handouts. An advisor will teach you how to format and what to include on your resume.

Writing a resume as an international student can be difficult. A U.S. resume is different than a CV that you would write internationally, and a lot of international students are unclear about the information that should be included. More importantly, international students have a unique set of skills as international students that should be advertised in resumes. The information provided will explain how to write an effective resume and how to showcase yourself specifically as an international student.

What is a resume?

A resume is a document to present your background and skills. This is similar to a CV (Curriculum Vitae) used in other countries but it is shorter.

What are the differences between a U.S. resume and an international CV?

The main reason resume writing can be difficult for international students is because resumes in the U.S. are different than an international CV. This section clarifies those differences.

1. U.S. resumes are more concise and organized in chronological order. International resumes tend to be more detailed and are not always chronological.

2. The length of a resume should not exceed one page. International resumes are often two or more pages

3. Does not include personal information such as age, religion, or relationship status. International resumes include this information, which is not necessary in the U.S.

4. Job experiences should be limited to relevant jobs, skills and accomplishments. International resumes have a formal work experience, including irrelevant jobs.

U.S. Resumes              

Concise and frequently chronological.    

One page is typically preferred.        

Does not include age, geographical preference, relationship status, religion, etc.   

Marketing tool which includes relevant jobs, education, skills and accomplishments.   

International Resumes:

Detailed and not always chronological.

Two or more pages is typical.

Sometimes include age, geographical preference, relationship status, religion, etc.

Explains academics and formal work experience.


Heading and Personal Information:

A heading is placed at the top of your resume and simply gives personal information such as your name, address, email address, and phone number. Recall from the differences of a resume and a CV on page two that information such as date of birth, relationship status, etc. The heading can be in the center of the page, or aligned to the right (see example). The order in which you put the information should follow the example below:

John Smith

123 Main St., Allendale, MI 49401 (616) 555-0123

Professional Objective:

The professional objective section will usually change based on the job you are applying for. Your professional objective should display your ambitions in the professional environment and the job you are applying for. Since it is the first thing your potential employer will read, it should make the initial impression that you are professional.

Objective: To secure a challenging and responsible position that will allow me to utilize my experience and supervisory skills.

This section should highlight your experiences as international students. For example, multilingual students should explicitly state that they are multilingual and which languages they speak. You should include that you can adapt to cultural customs as you have experience in multiple cultural context.


Proficient in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel; exposure to Westlaw.

Experience in research and presenting to small groups Displays ability to solve conflicts.

Work Experience:

Work experience can be a little difficult for international students considering that most students are not allowed to work except for on campus. In this section, you should include any internationally, internships that you completed for major requirements, or on campus work.

Work Experience:

Internship, Newton Law Offices PLC, Grand Rapids, MI

(May 2013 – Present)

- Draft legal documents upon supervisors request

- Research for cases using Westlaw and other means

- Close cases and put finishing touches when they are done

- Observe meetings with clients regarding their cases

Resident Assistant, GVSU, Allendale, MI

(August 2012 – Present)

- Develop a community of 66 residents in a living learning community 0f 340

- Help residents solve problems using mediation

- Participation in weekly duty rotations as an on call incident responder

- Organization monthly programs and bulletin boards

- Ensure safety in the community


The education section is primarily concerned with higher education, such as a college or university. As an international student, if you went to a college or university before coming to Grand Valley, you should include that information as well. Education sections include the name, city, and state of the college or university you went to, the degree you earned or are expected to earn, the date you graduated or are expected to graduate, and your major(s)/minor(s).


Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI

Expected Graduation: April 2014

Bachelor of Science

Major: Political Science

Minors: Legal Studies and English


Relevant experience and accomplishments:

This is typically the last section and can also be difficult for international students. Most students are unclear on what to include in this section. This section is for any leadership, volunteer, and extra-curricular experiences. Look to the example below for potential information you should include.


Co-Advisor, GVSU Community Council

(August 2012 – Present)

Tutor, Walker, MI

(September 2011 – April 2012)

Vice President, GVSU Community Council

(August 2010 – May 2011)

Captain, Relay for Life Team Captain

(April 2011)


Volunteer Experience:

Kids Food Basket

(February 2013)

Make a Difference Day

(October 2011, October 2012, & October 2013)

PALS Mentoring Program




Skills Gained from International Education

Page last modified May 12, 2015