By Russ Hovendick
I review more than 200 resumes every day, and I notice that those from military folks have common pitfalls. What happens when these types of resumes find their way to a civilian employer’s desk? In most cases, they end up in the trash bin or buried in the inbox.
Your skills and talents are too valuable to end up in “no man’s land,” so give employers a reason to hold onto your resumes.
What follows are some of the common mistakes I see in military resumes.
Acronyms and Military Jargon—Ditch Them
After spending any amount of time in the military, I’m sure it’s natural for military acronyms to become part of your everyday vernacular. But when you use acronyms in your resume and any other communications with civilian employers (e.g., e-mails, phone calls, job interviews), you’re speaking a foreign language. Employers don’t want to have to ask or research what an acronym represents. It’s your responsibility to make sure you’re conveying information clearly. To be frank, it’s more annoying than anything else to see an acronym in a resume. It shows the applicant’s laziness and inability to anticipate that the acronym might be a stumbling block for the employer.
For example, here’s a line taken from the top section of a military resume: “I am a certified DOD mediator to hear EO complaints.” Leave the certification for the bottom of the resume. In the body, the employer is more interested in hearing about the quality of work you’ve done. Here is what he’s probably thinking: Tell me the details of your work as a mediator. Give me a glimpse of the types of disputes you mediated and how you resolved them. And, by the way, I know DOD means Department of Defense, but what the heck is an “EO complaint”?
Too Many Numbers,Too Little Explanation
Numbers are a good thing. If they demonstrate something meaningful about your previous experiences (e.g., you introduced a new policy that reduced processing time by 30 percent), include them. But often in the military, some numbers are so intimidating that they deplete the importance of the accomplishment you’re trying to showcase. For example, if a veteran says he oversaw 200 soldiers, the employer would know he couldn’t have possibly had much personal contact with all 200 of them. But if he mentioned that he trained five sergeants to lead their groups of 40 soldiers each, the statement is more meaningful.
Overemphasis on Technical Skills—Show Your Soft Skills
If you’re applying for a technical position, your resume should play up your technical skills. But you’re not a robot. You drive that fuel your technical aptitude. Make sure that comes across in your resume. No matter what job you’re applying for, employers want to see soft skills, too, such as leadership style, communication skills, motivation to make a difference and more.
Lengthiness, Longwinded Language—Be Concise, Get to the Point
No matter how many years of experience you’ve had, no one should have a resume that’s more than two pages long. If you’re applying for a technical job and want to highlight specific projects, I recommend attaching a separate sheet of case studies or projects. You never want the person reviewing your resume to feel frustrated, overwhelmed or lost. A reviewer who gets bored reading your resume might get the impression you’re dull or bland. A reviewer who gets confused reading your resume might think you’re not a clear communicator or simply not bright. The best way to avoid conveying this impression is to be concise. Get straight to the point. Use action words to bring life to the resume and by using as few words as possible. Every word on your resume occupies valuable space. Don’t waste space on meaningless words. You don’t even need full sentences—use bulleted lists where appropriate.
“So, What?” Statements—Tell Me Why It Matters
Sometimes, I read a statement in a resume and think to myself, “So, what?” Then, I prod the candidate for more information and realize that he or she simply didn’t highlight the significant part of that experience. Former Marine Nolan Ruby gave this great advice: Employers just don’t know how to interpret military accomplishments into their own private companies. It’s up to you to explain it.
Highlighting Decades of Military Service Makes You Look Old
It’s perfectly understandable that you might feel proud of having served, say, 20 years in the military. But don’t create additional hurdles through misconceptions by explicitly stating at the top of your resume that you had a 20-year career in the armed forces. When employers see that a person has held a position for a couple of decades, they automatically assume the candidate must be old when, in fact, the individual could be as young as 38 if he or she joined right out of high school. Let the employers see your skills and experience first, and do the math later. Don’t give them an easy reason to reject you. If you’ve spent many years in the military, I recommend writing “extensive experience,” instead of the number of years served.
Create Multiple Resume Versions
If you are looking for jobs in multiple industries, you’ll need to tailor your resume for each industry. We’ve already pointed out the different languages of the military and civilian worlds. Now, think of the various industries in the same way. Law firm staffers talk very differently from tech startups. People in the medical field use different terminology from people in manufacturing. The more you know about your ideal employers, the better you will be at determining what they are looking for, and therefore, what to include in your resume.
Use a Hybrid Profile-Objective-Company Heading
I often see resumes with the applicant’s objective listed at the top. Here’s a typical example:
“To secure employment as a project manager at an information technology firm.” As an executive recruiter who knows how hiring managers think, I find this type of statement unhelpful. It tells the employer what you want, not what you can offer. On the other hand, I’ve also seen resumes with a profile heading that highlights key skills, qualifications or summarizes the applicant’s experience in a sentence. The profile heading can be helpful, but it runs the risk of repeating items included in the resume. Consequently, I propose a hybrid model that incorporates the applicant’s profile, his or her objective and a complimentary description of the company the applicant is applying for. Here’s an example of the hybrid profile-objective-company heading: “Electrical designer with expertise in automation and relay logic systems searching for an innovative manufacturing company.”
Lacking Education? Highlight Your Professional Development
If you’ve never completed high school or college and you’re wondering what to list in the education section of the resume, no need to worry. I recommend following the advice from Monster resume expert Kim Isaacs: Create a professional development section in which you highlight vocational training, certifications, courses and even seminars or conferences you attended. If you did not complete high school but passed the GED, don’t include the GED on your resume. Employers tend to assume that candidates graduated from high school. You may hear differing opinions from other career counselors, but I firmly believe it’s better not to highlight the fact that you did not earn a high school diploma.
Creating a killer resume takes a lot of thought, time and effort … but the more work you put into creating your resume, the more success you’ll see.
Source: Quintessential Careers