Ask The HR Expert: How to Ace in Finding Jobs in The U.S.


Hi IM’s readers, in this article, Reno Rafly, a Human Resources (HR) expert who works in the U.S., will answer some questions related to finding jobs in the U.S. If you have questions in your mind that you would like to ask, you may want to read the end of this article carefully.

Without further ado, here are the questions:


Question 1:

What kind of resume/CV preferred by U.S. employers? Is it true that it should be one page and not contains personal information (such as birth date and marital status)?

Answer 1:

There are two types of resumes that are preferred in the U.S.:

  1. Chronological resume, where you would describe your most recent experiences first. This is the best resume if you have a solid work history and be able to show your career progression.
  2. Functional resume, where you would describe your most relevant skills & experiences according to the job description you targeted. This resume would be suitable for those of you who are recent grads and who may have gaps in work history. If you are recent grads, you would put your college degree first and then list your experience in internships, volunteering, and any relevant skills you would like to highlight.

You can also use a combination of both once you have gained a sufficient experience and understand your strengths.

Most resumes, especially for recent grads, should only use one page. Be mindful that recruiters receive hundreds, if not thousands, of resumes on a daily basis. Think of your resume as an expensive real estate. Choose your words carefully and use key words that would match with the positions you apply. Most companies are now using an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) where they could set a requirement to only see resumes that would match at least 70% of key words on the job description. Don’t be surprised if your resumes are not even reviewed by human recruiters anymore. So, be sure to review the job description and tailor your resume to fit with the key words.

The U.S. provides equal employment protection to applicants and workers regardless of their marital status, gender, race, ethnicity, age, and religion. These laws and regulations are maintained under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Therefore, there should not be any personal information on your resume that would reveal your marital status, gender, race, ethnicity, age, and religion. This protection also includes your interviews and any pre-employment tests. Click here for more information on EEOC.


Question 2:

In Indonesia, it is common to use Batik for formal interview. Is it also appropriate in the U.S.? If not, what kind of clothes are acceptable for U.S. employers?

Answer 2:

While Batik is an appropriate outfit to wear for an interview in Indonesia, it is not appropriate to wear Batik for interview in the U.S. To determine what’s appropriate, you need to do a little bit of research on the company culture. For example, a financial company may have a formal dress code and your best bet is to wear a full suit. On the other hand, if you have an interview with a startup company, you may be able to wear a blazer and trousers. Nordstrom has a good mini video on this topic (click here).

For women, there are more options to choose from. Depending on the industry, you can either choose a plain color palette for a banking company or go for a trendier one if you apply for a retail company. Whatever you wear, be sure to wear something that doesn’t speak louder than you. You want the interviewer to focus on you and not on your outfit.

Prepare everything the day before so you can be confident going into the interview.


Question 3:

How much do U.S. employers value cover letters from applicants?

Answer 3:

Some companies still require cover letters as their standard practice. If you need to attach a cover letter, keep it short and simple. A cover letter is an opportunity to draw the recruiter’s interest about you, so be sure to highlight your most relevant experience and accomplishments.


Question 4:

Could you describe the process for narrowing down applicants’ resume?

Answer 4:

As explained earlier, most companies are using an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to help them manage recruiting and hiring process. Depending on the size of the company, internal recruiters may handle 20 to 50 open positions at the same time. The ATS help them manage resumes and quickly view resumes that might warrant further review. Once they narrow down to 5 to 10 resumes, they would send these resumes to the hiring manager. The hiring manager then decide who would be selected for an interview.

With this process, you can beat the odds of getting an interview by focusing on your keywords and clarity of your resumes. Another strategy is if you know someone in the company and, with their permission, you can put his/her name as a referral.

Beyond this, networking and being involved with your professional association is the best way to skip this route altogether. Knowing who’s who in the industry will give you the leverage to be present in front of the people who make the hiring decision.


Question 5:

What is your opinion when selected applicants try to negotiate their benefits (such as salary, holiday, etc)?

Answer 5:

Do your research on the average salary of the type of jobs you target. Most internships and entry-level positions already have a range and that range would depend on different criteria, such as whether or not you have a prior relevant internship experience. For other fringe benefits, such as health benefits and holidays, these are usually a company standard package for all employees.

Once you know you are offered an average salary based on your qualification for the position, my advice is for you to decide whether or not this company will help you learn and grow as a professional, have the right working culture that you like, and have the right mission and business strategy that you would want to be a part of. These components should be on your checklist before you accept a job offer. Having the right company and the right culture will tremendously provide you with a significant progress in your learning and development.


Question 6:

Could you tell us your unique experience when you are dealing with applicants?

Answer 6:

I used to go to college recruiting events and met with students who were eager to apply for any entry-level positions. In my experience, the best applicants would be students who understand their strengths and keep up with the news in the industry. They are the ones who ask the right questions and have the right attitudes. They have done research in companies they targeted for and build a network with the people in the industry. Regardless of any universities, these are the people who would do well during their internship period and who will most likely be offered a full time position once they complete their degree.

Think of being in college as part of your career experience. Use your time wisely and spend it on activities that can leverage your career. Most, if not all, universities have a Career Center that have services that can help you with career research. Work with them to figure out what would be a potential career for you. With the rapid change of the new world of work, your major and interest may take you to a range of careers that may not exist five years ago.


Want to ask Reno some questions?

Indonesia Mengglobal invites our readers to ask their own questions, which then will be selected and published in the next installment of ‘Ask The HR Expert: How to Ace in Finding Jobs in The U.S.’ series. We are looking for interesting, brilliant, and out of the box questions related to finding jobs in the U.S., although the questions related to finding jobs in general are welcome.

Please submit your question(s) to The subject is “Indonesia Mengglobal – Ask The HR Expert” (without the quotation marks). Please write your questions in the body of the email, and not in any attachment.


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Reno Rafly is the CEO & Founder of Catalyst Global Consulting, a NY-based strategic human capital consulting firm specializing in organizational development, training, coaching, and HR technology management. Reno has 10 years of experience in global HR and is currently serving as an adjunct faculty at York College, City University of New York. She is also pursuing a PhD in Business Psychology at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. You can follow her on Twitter @hrnotepad.


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