The challenge of outlining your entire career and achievements is a difficult one, especially if this is not in your native language.

Writing an English resume is a very different practice compared to ours here in Japan. The first thing you may notice is that the language used can be very different. In the anglophone world, your resume - or CV, depending on the country - can be thought of as an opportunity to market yourself. You are the product; you’re selling your skills and achievements with the ultimate aim of getting an interview.

How to begin your resume

First things first: on the top of the page, write your name, phone number, and email address. This will serve as your introduction.

There’s some debate as to whether you should include your address on your resume. Historically, it was included because job applications were made by mail. Today, with everything online, it is not necessary. If there’s a clear advantage for including it - for example, you may live nearby - you may want to add it here, but this is not obligatory.

Then, write a short, focused introductory paragraph about you and your career objectives. This should be tailored to the job you are applying for, so be sure to include the job title of the role you want in this section. Finish up this short paragraph with one or two sentences outlining your professional background in order to make a strong case for your particular application.

Download resume template

How to write about your professional experience

Unless you are applying for a job in academia, the anglophone world puts more emphasis on work experience than on academic qualifications, so the next major section on your resume will be work experience.

You will need to do this in reverse chronological order; that is, your most recent job should be listed first. Each job you’ve had that’s relevant to your application will be the start of a new paragraph. For each role, list your job title, the company, as well as the month and year that you started, then finished.

In bullet points, list your responsibilities and achievements for each particular role in the past tense. Use verbs and write in the active voice, for example: “Launched a new social media campaign that generated a 60% increase in sales leads.” Verbs like launched, generated, led, managed, designed, and improved are all examples of action words that are powerful to read, and a good way to start each bullet point. If you have any clear statistics or numerical results that demonstrate your success, include them here.

Education, qualifications, additional relevant information

Under a new heading, list your academic qualifications, the year you graduated from each, and the school you attended. If you did particularly well, you may wish to include your GPA, but it is not necessary. If you’ve received other qualifications, for example, professional certifications, list them here.

Consider also any other relevant information that may support your application. Do you have any volunteer experience? Have you won any awards, scholarships, or honours? Are you a member of any professional groups or societies? If so, add a new section for each and list them.

Finish up your resume with a short sentence: References available upon request.

It’s important to keep your resume focused and to-the-point. Most resumes are only skimmed at first, so you have just a few words to make a strong first impression. This is why, if possible, you should keep your resume to one page, two maximum. Finally, ensure that you have used the correct grammar and spelling; reach out to an English speaker if you can to proofread your document.

Download an English resume template