Job search success is a goal that many of our nation’s veterans have difficulty finding, but these top resume tips for veterans can help. Our country owes so much to each and every veteran and we want them each to succeed and have an easy transition back into the civilian job market. Our country’s veterans bring such great skills and experience to share with our nation’s employers, but many have difficulty making their military experience relevant to employers on their resume.
The Broadway musical “Hamilton” features a song, “My Shot,” that tells about a young Alexander Hamilton eagerly embracing the challenges in front of him to make a difference and become a leader in the fight to build a new nation. That same eagerness exists in our veterans returning home. It is a time of great excitement, as well as great nervousness. The transition is often not easy, and thankfully we have some top resume tips for veterans and resources available to help
Job Search Challenges for Veterans
It is no secret that many of our nation’s veterans struggle to find work after their military service ends. No doubt, there are many challenges that face our veterans, and not all of them are related to finding work.
Many veterans find it difficult to translate their experience and service into a set of skills that employers can understand and need. This is because much of the experience gained in the military is very specific to military equipment, processes, and procedures that are not relevant outside the military. But, in fact, it is relevant. This is by far the biggest complaint I hear from veterans is that no one wants someone with experience preparing, maintaining, and operating a specific piece of military equipment. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Yes, true, company ABC does not own or operate military equipment so there is no need for that SPECIFIC skill, and that’s OK. You didn’t really think you would be running military equipment in the civilian workforce, did you?
This is where many veterans often don’t see the forest through the trees. The higher level skills that it takes to perform that can translate very well to working with other equipment or managing processes and operations and teams. You need to remove a lot of the military-speak specifics from your experience and speak about your background in a way that a civilian employer will understand and appreciate. Employers often don’t understand, or really even care about the detailed specifics of military equipment. Your goal is to be able to convey your experience at the right level of detail that an employer can see it in terms of their own world and appreciate how your skills will help them.
So, unless you are seeking a civilian position as a military consultant or contractor, you must find a way to convey your military experience in a way that competes with civilian job seekers and that makes your experience relevant to what the company is seeking. This not an easy task, and I am not suggesting that is. It often takes many iterations of resume to get the balance right. But, if you send out 100 resumes and get no interest or calls, you definitely have a resume problem.
If you are not up to the challenge yourself, there are top resume writers who have great track records working with veterans. In fact, top resume writer, Jessica Hernandez of Great Resumes Fast, was recognized on Resume Remodeler’s list of 2016 top resume writers as #1. Great Resumes Fast has worked extensively with veterans and helped them to successfully make the transition to civilian work. If you are struggling in your job search, sometimes honest advice and assistance from a professional with a successful track record like Jessica Hernandez is exactly what a veteran needs to make things happen. Check our review of Great Resumes Fast for more information on why we selected her as the top resume writer for 2016.
Top Resume Tips for Veterans
Here are our top resume tips for veterans to help get your veteran job search on track.
- DE-MILITARIZE YOUR RESUME. Many veterans will take this the wrong way. Please know that in no way is this tip meant to take away from your service and experience. Please recognize that most companies do not have a need for someone to operate or maintain a howitzer or tank. However, this does not mean that these skills are not valuable or needed. You just need to present them differently to a civilian employer than you would to the military. It is your job to help a potential employer see the relevance of your skills to their needs, do not expect them to do research and make those connections, especially in a tight job market.
- INCLUDE A SKILLS SECTION. This tip works so well for those in transition from military to civilian. It forces you to step back and assess your experience and list it in terms that employers can understand. It is typically a bulleted list of your top skills. That being said, make sure your list has skills in it that employers need or desire. Again, the key is to make your military experience relevant. Do not list specific types of military equipment if that is not needed for the job, figure out a way to make it relevant such as Equipment maintenance and repair, cleaning, operation, scheduling, etc. Foreign languages are great to include in this area, as well as any professional certification you have. Technical positions could also list software or hardware or other equipment in this section. This helps also ensure you use key words on your resume so reviewers can see them. Reviewers like lists because they are easy to scan. Just make sure you include the right things in the list for your reviewers.
- FOCUS YOUR RESUME. Military transition is no different from civilians in this regard. Your resume is not meant to be a life history. Your resume is your sales pitch. It’s goal is to get you an interview. You need to build a case as to why you are a top candidate for a job. Therefore, every item on the resume you submit should be relevant to building your case. So, if you are applying as a software engineer, the yoga class you teach is probably not relevant and should be left off unless you find a way to make it relevant.
- USE KEY WORDS FOCUSED ON DESIRED POSITION. Key words are a familiar concept to those who use the internet. Key words are what search engines use to help identify the relevancy of internet content to what someone is trying to find. Similarly, when reviewers are scanning resumes quickly, they do not read every word (don’t be surprised). They are often just looking for key words from the position description. For example, for a programmer resume they may be looking for words like Java, .net, or C##. Your task is to figure out what the important things a reviewer will be looking for on your resume and make sure that they will find them. This makes our list of top resume tips for veterans because it has such a high impact especially since many initial resume scan are performed by computer software rather than humans, so it is literally looking for a matching of words and phrases related to the job posting. See this previous posting on Applicant Tracking Systems for more information.
- USE DESCRIPTIVE JOB TITLES. You do not need to use your official job title on your resume for each job. In fact, we include this in our top resume tips for veterans list so make sure you know that often better that you don’t since military title often don’t have much meaning outside the military. Create a job title that best defines the role you held and shows how it is related to the position you seek. For example, do not list a job title as First Sergeant because that doesn’t mean anything to anyone without the context, and Sergeant, Transport Logistics would be a better description. Just make sure it reflects the work that you did. This is called a functional job title because it describes the function or role you performed, so it does not necessarily have to be the official job title. This makes your resume easier to read and evaluate and we resume evaluators thank you for helping us out.
- DO NOT INCLUDE AN OBJECTIVE SECTION. In this day and age, it may be surprising that this still needs to be said, but it does. Many, many years ago, it was taught that the first section on your resume after your name should be an Objectives section. This totally useless section took up valuable space – strike that – the most valuable space on your resume, with useless jibberish about life and career goals that no one cared much about. What a waste. If this section exists on your resume, delete it entirely. Send this back to the 1970’s and 1980’s where it belongs.
- DO INCLUDE A SUMMARY SECTION. The first section after your name and contact information should always be a Summary section. This section provides a short 3 or 4 sentence summary of your qualifications for position you are seeking. It is for highlights only and should help generate interest with a resume reviewer so that they will want to read the rest of the resume. Don’t fool yourself by thinking every word on your resume gets read. It does not. Resumes are most frequently scanned. A short summary of your qualifications at the top can grab a reviewer’s attention and keep them focused on your resume longer. However, make sure that the detail of your resume clearly supports any claims you make in the summary.
- EDUCATION. Do not list your high school unless it is specifically requested. Most employers will assume you have graduated high school for the initial screening, but may ask for proof later in the interview process. As a typical rule, the education section is reserved for post-high school education including college and trade schools, or other specialized training.
Top Resume Tips for Veterans Shortcut
Many transitioning military simply do not know where to start on their resume to transition to the civilian labor force. Luckily, there are professionals with proven track records that get you on your way quickly. If you are worried about your ability to turn out a professional, error-free product, you should consider the services of a top resume writer. These services are more affordable than you might think and can yield quick results as many testimonials prove. You can expect to spend typically between $300 and $600 for the typical resume by a top resume writer. Check out our reviews of our top resume writers for 2016 for the ultimate resume shortcut that shifts the burden from yourself to a proven resume professional. The choice is yours. Read the reviews and decide if this option is right for you.