02 July 2015

Top 6 Resumé Writing Tips for Veterans

David Yoo, RallyPoint Civilian Careers.

Resume Tips for Veterans

As you transition into the civilian world, you may be wondering how to craft a proper resumé to present to future employers. One of the most important things when creating a resumé is translating your military experience and skills so that the hiring manager in the Human Resources (HR) department can clearly see the value you will bring to the company and the company's culture. 

The best way to convince the recruiter or hiring manager that you would be both a good fit for the company and that the company would benefit from having you as an employee is by understanding what they are looking for in a candidate. 

Civilian Resumes for Veterans
Luckily, a recent report by TheLadders help us know just that. 

The study conducted by TheLadders involved using a scientific technique that tracked eye movement to evaluate what recruiters pay attention to and what they focus on when evaluating resumés.

The study "gauged specific behaviors of actual recruiters as they performed online tasks, including resume and candidate profile reviews."

Among other things revealed by the study, one of the most astounding findings was that the average recruiter and hiring manager spends only about 6 seconds on a resumé.

This means means we have only 6 seconds to tell the recruiter who you are, what you do, and why they should contact you, and also inform the recruiter how your military experience and skills transfer into the workplace. 

Remember: Recruiters want you, your leadership qualities, your discipline, your teamwork attitude, and your flexibility and ability to think of solutions under pressure. But you need to convey that to them and help them envision how you would fit with the company. 

Below we will highlight some of important things that we learned from the study conducted by TheLadder and how we can best avoid some of the common mistakes we make when writing a professional resumé, and how to include the relevant information for which recruiters are on the lookout.

One of the quickest ways to dissuade a recruiter from looking into your resumé is by having irregularities with the format of your resumé. Some of these formatting issues include font, writing style, and page length, among other things. 

#1 Font Usage

Refrain from using obscure, casual, or completely unorthodox fonts. Fonts that attempt to mimic cursive writing or other difficult-to-read fonts do not impress your recruiter and can give your recruiter a negative impression. Having your personality, qualities, and accomplishments stand out should be the main goal when creating a resumé, but should never be at the expense of professionalism. 

Resume Writing for Veterans
Many people also like to use specific fonts when writing their resumés by taking into account the type of position they are applying for in a company. In a sense, some people like to make their fonts reflect a "personal brand" that helps convey both the information that they would like to convey to the recruiter and, at the same time, ensure that their resumés stick out without making the written content unreadable. For example, if you're a lawyer, you may want to use Garamond, or if you are applying for a technology company, you might want to use Computer Modern. 

If you are unsure of what font to use for a specific "industry" or are unaware of the company's "font culture," stick with the fonts such as Times New Roman, Verdana, Helvetica, or Trebuchet which have been used as standard resumé writing fonts for a long time. 

The rule of thumb: use common sense and try to put yourself in the position of the recruiter. Will the font that you use stick out as unprofessional, too casual, or difficult to read? If so, stick with the standard fonts above.

#2 Writing Style

Be wary of your register. Do not use first-person when writing your resumé. A standard resumé uses third-person when detailing skills, recognition, and accomplishments. 

Resume Writing Tips for Veterans Register
Bad example: 
I helped establish some procedures for our global e-commerce presence. I also helped make a few strategies for brand recognition and market expansion for a retail bookstore chain.

Another Bad Example: 
I was in charge of developing strategies for marketing and branding for an entertainment company. 

A Third Bad Example:
My strengths lie in team leadership through my years of military service. I have expertise in establishing proper business practices policy/business planning, and marketing.

Notice the use of the first-person voice when describing past experiences in a resumé, a style that is simply not used in professional resumés. Also notice the clumsy use of passive words to describe experiences and skills. Recruiters look for power words when they scan through the document.

The good examples below gets rid of the first-person voice and adds some power words to help bring attention to certain aspects of past experiences and current skills.

Good Example: 
Established benchmarks for creating global e-commerce presence, brand recognition, and market expansion for a $250M+ retail bookstore chain. 

Resume Writing Tips Power Words Veterans
Another Good Example:
Devised actionable strategies for marketing and branding for a $200M+ technology and entertainment company. 

A Third Good Example:
Defined positioning and strategic marketing practices refined and shaped by years of leadership experience through military service. Executed high-level analytics decisions and oversaw operations to maximize productive efficiency. 

Replacing unclear words and phrases such as "helped do X" with something more specific strengthens your writing style and communicates with the recruiter that you have been actively onboard with major projects in your previous positions. 

Try looking through some "power words" to help you replace the filler words that you may be using now, and remember to be specific about what you did and what you're interested in doing.

#3 Page Length

Most companies prefer your resumé to be no more than one page in length. This may be a difficult task, as you may want to communicate many of your countless experiences and skills you possess so that your recruiter can get the full picture. But remember, recruiters spend an average of 6 seconds per resumé. And, unfortunately, they don't want to go through 4 to 5 pages of every experience you've had. 

Resumes Samples

  • You must pick and choose what is important to you and what experiences and skills you believe align well with the company that you want to work with. 

  • Remember to include specific details about the type of work you did when you were serving and to include any prior experiences you may have had in the civilian sector. 

  • Try to have 2-3 specific things you did or learned when you served that you believe are things that your recruiter would like to know when he/she considers asking you for an interview.

At this point, it is worth noting the differences between a CV (Curriculum Vitae) and a resumé. Many companies will ask for a resumé or a CV and many think they are interchangeable. In short, a CV is a longer and more detailed overview of your skills, achievements, and experiences. These can be up to 2 pages, but anything more than that length can start to look too long.

Difference between Resumes and CV

The University of North Carolina clarifies the difference between the two. 
"A typical resume will include the following information:
  • Name and Contact Information: your residential address might be most appropriate, especially if you do not want your current employer to know that you are looking for another job! 
  • Education: a listing of your degrees or certifications and educational institutions or programs. 
  • Work Experience: names of the companies or organizations that you have worked for, the location of each company, the dates worked, your job title, and duties performed. 
In contrast, a CV is a fairly detailed overview of your life’s accomplishments, especially those most relevant to the realm of academia.
As such, these documents have their greatest utility in the pursuit of a job in academia or research. Because academic researchers are often working on and completing many projects and teaching responsibilities simultaneously, it is wise to think of a CV as a living document that will need to be updated frequently...

A typical CV will include the following information:
  • Name and Contact Information: contact information for your current institution or place of employment may work best, unless you do not want your colleagues to know that you are job-hunting. 
  • Areas of Interest: a listing of your varied academic interests. 
  • Education: a list of your degrees earned or in progress, institutions, and years of graduation. You may also include the titles of your dissertation or thesis here. 
  • Grants, Honors and Awards: a list of grants received, honors bestowed upon you for your work, and awards you may have received for teaching or service. 
  • Publications and Presentations: a list of your published articles and books, as well presentations given at conferences. If there are many of both, you might consider having one section for publications and another for presentations. 
  • Employment and Experience: this section may include separate lists of teaching experiences, laboratory experiences, field experiences, volunteer work, leadership, or other relevant experiences. 
  • Scholarly or Professional Memberships: a listing of the professional organizations of which you are a member. If you have held an office or position in a particular organization, you can either say so here or leave this information for the experience section. 
  • References: a list of persons who write letters of recommendations for you, which includes their contact information.

#4 Personal Information

A crucial component in convincing your recruiter that you are professional is by avoiding some common mistakes that many veterans and service members make in their resumés.

You do not want to include unnecessary personal information such as you, such as whether you are married and have kids, what race/nationality you are, or your religious background. You also do not want to include any photos of any kind. 

Sample Resume Veterans
Photos in your professional resumés communicate with the recruiter that you do not understand the standards of the application process in civilian industries. 

Do not include personal financial information, such as how much your current salary is. There is no need for another company to know how much you earn in a given year, and giving access to this type of information takes away from your ability to negotiate for a better salary. 

It's also important to know what information to include. Make sure that your email and one phone number is on your resumé so that your recruiter knows how to contact you.

#5 Military Jargon/Lingo

Too much military lingo so that the hiring manager or recruiter can't understand what you did is unhelpful. If anything, use words to describe the type of skills and work you've done so that the recruiter reading your resumé can see how your skills match up with some of the positions that he/she would like you to fill. Don't place too much of a focus on the particular aspect about the position you held and think more holistically about the types of things you were involved with, rather than what your MOS says.

Help your hiring manager help you. Remember, he/she wants you to show how you'd be a good fit. Complicated abbreviations of things that he/she has never heard of before is not a good way of showing how you can provide value for the company. As an article on job-searching website Monster explains,

"Demilitarize your job titles, duties, accomplishments, training and awards to appeal to civilian hiring managers.

Employers with no exposure to the military don't understand the terminology and acronyms, so translate these into 'civilianese.'

Show your resume to several nonmilitary friends and ask them to point out terms they don't understand.

Refer to job postings and Military.com's skills translator for help substituting civilian keywords for military terms."

#6 Resumé Templates and Test-Driving

Once you're ready to start creating your own resumé to apply for potential jobs, check out some free online templates that you can use to create a professional resumé and get you started. Just a quick search on Google for resumé templates can lead you to dozens of websites offering free templates. 

Resume for Veterans
Your resumé is not, and shouldn't be, written on stone. Treat your resumé as a living document that needs to be constantly written and revised in order to see what power words are most effective and what other specific information you can include to highlight your leadership qualities, personality, and your accomplishments. Record your response rates to see which versions of your resumés seemed more effective. Rinse and repeat, and watch the strategies you develop as your professionally written resumé begins to stand out more and more to prospective employers and hiring managers.

Don't forget to save your resumé as a PDF! It preserves the original format of your resumé.

If you want to explore some of the opportunities that are available on RallyPoint, click the link here. Now that you should have your resumé up and running, you're a few clicks away from showing your future employer how you'd be a good fit for the team!


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