Okay, so you’ve organized your documents, researched the company, and decided on a format. Now you’re ready to start the heavy lifting – putting pen to paper. Some veterans find this process overwhelming…and it can be if you’re not used to writing a lot. Some people have a hard time just bragging about themselves. Don’t worry, this is also quite normal. But there’s no getting around this. Your job is to make it painfully obvious to employers that you’re the most awesome candidate among the pool, and they would be making a huge mistake not to bring you in for an interview.
Contact Information - Ensure you have a valid phone number and email address on your resume. While this sounds like common sense this is a very common mistake on resumes. Also, ensure your email address is professional! firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com will turn off some potential employers, or cause them to start forming preconceived notions about you before they even look at the information in your resume. As a side note, the same goes for phones. Use generic voicemail greetings, and avoid special rings that substitute rings for songs that could cause potential employers to misjudge you. General rule of thumb when job hunting…let your accomplishments shine prior to the interview, and let your personality shine during the interview.
Summary of Qualifications – The first section of your military resume should be a qualifications summary. This is a stand-alone blurb which provides a snapshot of your key skills and attributes that are relevant to the position. Use this section to sell why you are a good fit overall. Recruiters and hiring managers have very limited time to review resumes and often only glance quickly initially. A well-written summary will entice them to read your resume further. Remember what I said earlier, you resume might only receive a few seconds. If they don’t see what they’re looking for right away, you may not get the closer look you deserve.
Core Competencies – I like to include this in my clients’ military resumes for the same reason as the summary of qualifications. It also draws in employers and highlights your core competencies. I’ve found that most vets have performed many tasks – some of which are totally unrelated to their main job. These first two sections help to hone in your focus. For example, leave off the fact that you were a HAZMAT certifier if you’re applying to be a targeting analyst. Make sure the core competencies you highlight are taken from the job description as they relate to your skills. Core competencies can be terms such as Strategic Planning,Accounts Payable, Project Management, etc.
Professional Experience – Your professional experience should include your job functions but more importantly, your accomplishment or impact statements.
Posted Job description – Responsible for maintaining files and implemented system to improve file management.
Your Accomplishment/Impact – Maintained 100% accountability for files for over 500 personnel. Eliminated two-year filing backlog; created new filing systems and procedures that ensured critical material was easily accessible at all times.
Note that this bullet didn’t just say ‘what’ you accomplished; but also
mentioned ‘what the actual impact’ of that accomplishment was.
Limit Military Jargon– In my experience this is where most veterans get tripped up the most. Assume that no one outside of the military knows what titles such as First Sergeant, Company Commander, and Petty Officer mean. Nor do they know what the acronyms NCO, AAM, or SAM mean. In fact many of the acronyms and terms you’re familiar with may be unique to your branch of service. Sure the average civilian may have heard some of these terms and titles floated around in movies and TV shows; but the majority of civilians would be hard pressed to accurately associate a title to the correct echelon. And this is where your accomplishment will get lost. If you write that you were a NCOIC of a mission, and the employer doesn’t understand that you were the non-commissioned officer in charge of that mission, and be able to understand what exactly your responsibilities were for that mission, you’ve just sold yourself short. Or worse, he/she might just decide to push your resume aside and move on to the next candidate.
Education, Credentials, Licenses, Training – Here relevance is key. As you know, training is a constant in the military. However, the fact that you’re a certified life-saver doesn’t matter to the employer looking to hire an administrative assistant. Include information that is relevant to the position. The same goes for your civilian education. Your Master’s Certificate in Government Contracting won’t be relevant to an employer that does not get involved in contracting.
Awards – The awards and recognition section of a military resume is anther somewhat tricky area for veterans, because the military offers a wider range of formal awards. So most of my clients have a difficult time figuring out which awards are appropriate for their military resume, and which ones should be left off. Some awards demonstrate your ability to perform the task at a high level. For instance if you received a Navy Accommodation Medal for performing your job at a high level during a mission, certainly that’s worth putting on your military resume. Other awards don’t demonstrate your capability to perform a task, but rather serve as a testament to your character. Even though these may not be directly relevant to a job per se, most employers are also looking to hire people with leadership ability, dedication, and strong character. Therefore, stand-out awards such as Purple Heart or Bronze Star should be included because they can accomplish that very effectively.
Awards can be added as a separate section on your military resume; or you can add
them as part of an accomplishment statement. For example:
Ex: Received Meritorious Service Award for outstanding and exceptional leadership in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
Ex: Bronze Star Medal-Received Bronze Star Medal for heroic actions and going above and beyond to save the lives of comrades in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.
Resume Length – The [unofficial] standard for a resume is one to two pages. However there are exceptions to this rule. Generally speaking, if you have less than ten years of service, or were an E-6 or below or O-4 or below, you should try to keep your military resume to two pages or less. However, for senior leaders (E-7 and above and O-5 and above), or those with over ten years of service it is perfectly okay to extend that to three. However, try your very best to not go over three. The more important rule to follow here is to make sure the information is relevant to the job. If you find yourself going well into four pages, there’s a good chance that you’ve included some information that simply isn’t pertinent to the job you’re applying for, but instead using a ‘generic’ resume as a catch-all – which as we discussed will get you nowhere.
I hope you found this information helpful. If you would like more information about translating your military experience, or would like me to take a look at your current military resume, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 1-800-651-6303. If you are interested in having me re-write your current military resume or create one from scratch, check out our services and military resume packages »
Good luck with your transition, and thank you for your service!