Tips for International Students: Revamping Your Resume

For international students that have newly arrived here from overseas, congratulations on finishing up your first semester here at Penn. I’m sure it was no small feat to prepare to leave your home for a long duration on your own, to a new country and school community. We’re so glad to have you here and want to give you the resources for success for your future job search.

As the semester draws to a close in the next month, consider revamping your resume with an advisor at Career Services during winter break. Mid-December and earlier in January are opportune times to come into Career Services. The campus is less busy and so is our office! So, please take advantage of that and make an appointment to get your resume reviewed. Start working on a resume draft and we encourage you to make an appointment via Handshake (or feel free to call) to have it critiqued. Here are some pointers on what to include on your resume:

  • Name – put it in bold and visible at the top; not too big, but not too small either.


  • Contact information – this includes your name, email, and phone/mobile numbers (current/permanent addresses are optional). No need to put “US” in your address if you are applying for a domestic position. If applying to a job overseas, yes, please do include it. Please be sure to include the phone numbers in the format (123)456-6787. Often times, I will see that this information is not listed and that is fine too. The trend now is to omit all identifying information, but rather include a LinkedIn profile URL instead. Please do what feels comfortable for you.


  • Education – if you are a current student, this information usually is at the top of the page. Include your bachelor’s degree, master’s degrees (if applicable), minors, and study abroad information.


  • Honors/Scholarships – include those that are relevant in the last 5 years or so. Please leave off any from high school unless it was a significant, international/national honor.


  • Relevant Coursework – you may include this if it will be helpful for the positions you hope to apply to; sometimes you have the coursework experience and not necessarily the professional experience. In either case, it may be helpful to list relevant courses that have given some foundation on future work. Please refrain from listing all the courses you’ve taken or from listing irrelevant courses that do not pertain to the position you are applying to.


  • Professional Experience(s) – this can be categorized into several headings (i.e. Research, Healthcare Related, Relevant, & Additional, etc. to name a few, but certainly not limited to), depending on your interest area or the job you’re applying. Be strategic in organizing your headings – this is IMPORTANT and helps to frame a resume best angled for the job you hope to secure. If you’re unsure about the organization, please come in and talk to an advisor. Another very vital part of your resume is using active verbs under your bullets. Be sure to have strong verbs and details about your experience (quantify when needed and be cautiously specific). See this link on our website for strong verbs:


  • Leadership and Volunteer Experience – list any significant leadership and community related experiences you have had in the last 5 years or so. Keep this format consistent with what you have listed above. For example, if you have dates on the right side for your experience section, please keep your dates on the right in this section as well. Stay consistent.


  • Professional Development – you may or may not have this section. If you do, likely you received additional training or attended a conference that gave you additional certificates or certification.


  • Professional Memberships – you can include these if you are a member to any professional organizations, however, you may not be yet, and that’s ok! This section might be something you hope to add in the future.

Also, you won’t need to add “References are Available” on your resume or list your references. After going through the interviewing stage, your references will be requested regardless. Be prepared to share these if you move further along in the application process.

Other important things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure your sections on your resume are well delineated and not cluttered. White space (space with nothing written on it) is also valued on resumes. This helps your resume look nice and gives it accessibility to be read well.
  • Don’t include personal identifying information (i.e. age, marital status, etc.)
  • Usually you do not need to include any standardized test scores, such as TOEIC or TOEFL. Some companies may request this (possibly if it’s an international company), however, most American companies will not. If they do ask for it, the suggestion is to provide it for them then, and not have it listed on your resume.
  • This one is a tough one: make sure all of your information is RELEVANT, but that does not mean you erase all your experience that does not relate to your future position. There are many jobs that have transferrable skills, but will not relate to your new ventures, and that’s ok to keep on your resume! If you have trouble deciphering this or unsure how to categorize your experience, or even to include it at all, please come in and meet with an advisor.
  • Keep your fonts consistent – your resume and cover letter fonts should all be uniform. Your heading fonts should be consistent with the font you use for your content.
  • Make sure you keep it to 1-2 pages in length. Typically, 1 page if you are an undergraduate, and 2 pages for a master’s graduate student. There are some exceptions to this, but this is a general guideline.

For more best practices for the overall job search for international students, please refer to our website, where we have compiles some useful information: Again, we are happy to meet with you if you have any specific, individual concerns or questions. We look forward to meeting with you!


By Esther Ra
Esther Ra Associate Director, Nursing/Education/Social Work