Resume teardown #4: international student is graduating and looking for their first job

I’m back with a new Resume Teardown!

Today’s teardown is from someone who will graduate from a U.S. college in a month or two, and is looking for a first job.  

Moreover, this student is not from the United States, and English is not her native language.  This makes a difference, as you will see.

Here’s the original resume:


First impressions:

I’ll say it again, the reason a resume exists, its essence, its raison d’être, its true purpose, is to communicate that you’re a great person to hire.

This student seems to have a pretty impressive background, looking at her work to date both at her university and in the workforce.  Plus, she goes to a good college (University of Texas at Austin).

Unfortunately, as written, this resume almost certainly dooms her to failure.

Why?  Although the resume could benefit from the usual shift in focus from responsibilities to accomplishments, it suffers from a much more basic issue.

It is FULL of grammar and syntax errors.

Every hiring manager I know would discard this resume immediately on that basis alone.

This may seem horribly unfair, especially given that our protagonist is not a native English speaker.

You know what?  It is unfair.

But fairness is irrelevant.

This resume, as currently written, is still going in the trash.

Most hiring managers won’t care about the candidate’s background.  They will think two other things, however.

First, they will think that she couldn’t be troubled to ask a native speaker to correct the resume, even just someone in the Career Services office whose job it is to help people.

And second, they will wonder whether the candidate can work in English well enough to do the job.  Of course, a perfectly-written resume is no guarantee of this, but why create this doubt right out of the gate?

This candidate is needlessly shooting herself in the foot before she even get started.

That’s why my principal advice here is:  get a native English speaker, preferably someone who is a good writer, to edit this resume.  

This is a YYYYUGE issue with ANYONE who is writing a resume in a second language.  You absolutely MUST get a good native speaker to review it before you send it out.  (The same applies with even greater force to cover letters, where each country tends to have its own style of writing these.)

Doing this one thing will bring the resume up into adequate range.  It will still require further changes (e.g., focusing on accomplishments) to become a truly great document, but without doing this first step, any other edits are superfluous.  The English grammar and syntax errors will still prove fatal.

So, with that intro, here is a copy of the same resume with my comments:


  • #s 1, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, and 19 all relate to these problems with grammar and syntax.  These comments are also not exhaustive; there are other parts where the English could be improved.
  • #s 2 and 3 focus on the layout of the candidate’s educational information.  Their major and minor should be detailed in a parallel or similar manner.  Otherwise, it is a bit jarring to read.  Also, he/she could save precious resume real estate by moving “Visualization Bootcamp” to the line above.
  • #9 focuses on our protagonist’s waitressing/hostessing job.  These service jobs are generally NOT EASY, and a lot of hiring managers like college students with this experience.  You have to deal with difficult people, deadlines, stress, interpersonal communications, money — it covers all the basics.  In may ways, it sets her apart, and gives her real-world street cred that other undergrad researchers in her field will not have.  She could make this section a lot sexier.
  • #16 — the codes for her projects are almost certainly irrelevant to her audience and just distract from her accomplishments.
  • #18 — here, these two bullets are really two parts of the same bullet, and should be combined.

Overall grade:  F — but easy to improve!

This resume gets an automatic “F” for the grammar and syntax errors.  No matter how good the content is, the errors will banish this resume to the trash bin every time.

The good news is, however, if the English is fixed, this resume is much better. 

Moreover, the candidate could really stand out with a few more tweaks.  She clearly has hustle, having worked as a server and hostess for almost two years while she was studying.  That’s cool.  She could do a lot with this.

Finally, I’ll repeat myself — if you are writing a resume in a second language, please please please get a native speaker with some talent for writing to check it before you send it.  No matter how good you think you can write, you are taking an enormous and wholly unnecessary risk.

(Want to submit your own resume for a teardown?  Write me at Every so often, I will select a resume from the mailbag to review.)

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