Answering FAQs on Creating Effective Newcomer Resumes and Using Switchboard’s Resume Template

Describing Experience Effectively

The task of documenting international work experience and education on a newcomer’s resume can be daunting, especially when assisting clients who have informal work experience or expertise in a highly technical industry. This blog is Switchboard’s second post related to resume-building. If you are new to this topic, start with our first post Resume Building for First-Time Job Seekers. This post and the accompanying resume template and sample resume are designed to streamline the resume creation process, ensuring that clients’ resumes effectively communicate their unique skills and experiences to potential employers. Below we answer frequently asked questions service providers may have about supporting newcomer clients in creating effective resumes. 

  • What are resume metrics? Resume metrics are quantifiable achievements that make resumes stand out. Examples include time saved, number of products created, revenue generated, number of staff managed, number of children or animals cared for, or any other number or percentage that proves the scope or effectiveness of the client’s work.  

  • How do I help clients create bullet points for jobs I have never heard of? If you are struggling to articulate a client’s past responsibilities, consider using artificial intelligence (AI) tools (for example, ChatGPT) or other Internet resources to generate potential bullet points for specific job titles. This approach allows clients to simply confirm pre-generated responsibilities rather than having to articulate technical responsibilities in English. 
    • For example, if you’re struggling to generate potential duties a client may have had as a MIG welder, you could use the following query to prompt an AI tool to generate potential bullet points: “Write me a list of 10 potential resume bullet points for a MIG welder who worked in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Use technical keywords found in American job descriptions for MIG welders, and put in placeholders for metrics to demonstrate accomplishments.”  

  • What do I do when the client has limited formal education or work experience? In these situations, emphasize practical skills, informal learning experiences, and any certifications or training the client may have. Detailing involvement in community projects, volunteer initiatives, or domestic responsibilities as “Relevant Experience” can often illustrate valuable competencies and transferrable skills. For more information on how to document this type of work, see Switchboard’s blog post on Resume Building for First-Time Job Seekers. 

  • How do I calculate the U.S. equivalent of a foreign grade point average (GPA)? When a client has foreign transcripts, consider relying on a GPA calculator. Keep in mind that some countries use a different grading system than the U.S., and U.S.-equivalent GPA will be difficult to obtain without a course-by-course credential evaluation. In cases where it is challenging to obtain transcripts or discern an equivalent GPA, omit the foreign GPA from the resume.
  • How should I document a client’s experience with small family businesses, like working at a concession cart, sewing and selling clothes at a small booth, animal husbandry, or growing and selling agriculture commodities in their home country? For clients with these business experiences, focus on detailing the responsibilities they managed, the skills they utilized, and any achievements or improvements they made. Emphasize entrepreneurial qualities such as initiative, customer service, sales proficiency, and inventory management. Even if the business was small or self-owned, these experiences demonstrate a strong work ethic, adaptability, and direct market engagement, all of which are valuable to potential employers.  

  • How should gaps in employment due to relocation or asylum-seeking processes be addressed? Employment gaps can be addressed in the cover letter or briefly in the resume’s summary section. If possible, focus on activities during these periods that contributed to skill development, such as language learning, volunteering, or any informal work. 

  • Is it necessary to translate all foreign education and job titles into English? Yes, translating foreign degrees and job titles into English helps hiring managers better understand the client’s qualifications and experiences and underlines the client’s commitment to improving their English skills. When translating job titles, choose a title that closely matches the client’s responsibilities and is recognizable in the United States. 

Using Switchboard’s Resume Template

  • What is the difference between the red and black instruction text on Switchboard’s template? The black text indicates a placeholder for the user to enter information in the format, font, and style of the template. Red text provides additional detail, explanation, or context. To use the template effectively, change all black instructional text to reflect client experience, and delete red instructional text as you progress through the template.  

  • Why should I use the resume style in Switchboard’s template? The template follows a combination resume format, blending chronological and functional styles. This format is particularly beneficial for newcomers, as it allows them to highlight relevant skills upfront. This approach is especially ideal for candidates who are seeking to utilize their previous professional experience after years of paused professional experience during a stint in a refugee camp or after entry-level work in a new industry upon arrival in the United States. Additionally, this one-column format is more easily read by applicant tracking systems, which can give clients an edge over candidates who opt for a different format. 

  • Why should I keep a client’s resume to one page? Hiring managers often have limited time to review each application due to the high volume of candidates. A one-page resume ensures that a candidate’s key qualifications are immediately visible, increasing the likelihood that they will be noticed. 


  • What do I do when I’m done creating a client’s resume using the template?  
    • First, remove all red instructional text and any remaining black instructional text that were part of the template.  

    • Save the finished resume as a Word document in your digital client file. This step ensures that resumes are easily accessible and can be quickly tailored for various future job applications. 

    • Email the resume to the client as a Word document so that they can continue to edit it for various job applications.  

    • After confirming the client has received their resume, explain that resumes being sent to employers should often be formatted and saved as a PDF, unless an employer has indicated otherwise. When saving a resume, title the document “[FirstNameLastNameResume].” This ensures the file name is clear and concise, without any additional descriptors such as “final” or the industry name.  

    • Note: Many clients may not have the digital literacy to edit their resume or understand how to save a document as a PDF. This is an excellent opportunity to teach clients how to send emails with attachments and how to save documents for editability. Additionally, strive to educate clients on how to edit their resumes in a longer session as part of a job readiness curriculum. 

  • What if the client has multiple career interests? For clients with diverse career interests, consider creating multiple versions of their resume, each tailored to a specific job or industry. This approach allows for highlighting the most relevant experiences and skills for each target job. 

Related Content

More Posts