9 Things Recruiters Look for in a Veteran's Resume

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(DOD/Lisa Daniel)

Recruiters and hiring managers are looking for a lot more than just a resume that’s clean and well-written.

To be clear, they still want it to be clean and well-written, so don’t skip out on transition assistance class just yet,, but there are other things components of a resume they look for first.

Those are the things you should spend time updating now, says Ambra Benjamin, a technical recruiting manager at Facebook and a prolific writer on the subject of recruiting and talent acquisition. She wrote her tips on Quora, the digital Q&A forum.

It all starts with a digital resume, because no one looks at paper anymore -- at least not in the HR department, she says. And while some of these things, like whether your past experience is with a recognizable company, are not things you can go back in time and change, you can tailor your resume to highlight the things she says are important in a recent list of tips on Quora, the digital Q&A forum.

Here are her nine highlights, shared with her permission.

Ambra Benjamin is a Technical Recruiter for Facebook and shares her experience writing articles about her work. (Ambra Benjamin)

1. Your Most Recent Role

If there’s a glaring omission like where you currently work it’s going to puzzle a recruiter. They basically want to know why you’re looking for a new position right now. So be sure to include your current job and tailor the experience to be relevant to the job you want.

“Are they laid off?” Benjamin asks. “Did they get fired? Have they only been in their role for a few months and they're possibly hating it? But most importantly, is their most recent experience relevant to the position for which I'm hiring?”

2. Recognizable Companies

When trying for a job in a competitive environment, Benjamin says recruiters do look for easily recognizable companies and brands. This is not to say that you have to work at Toyota or Proctor and Gamble, but the name recognition helps identify the corporate culture you might be used to. She says when she sees unfamiliar companies, she has to read the resume a little deeper.

“Oh you worked at Amazon? Then you're probably accustomed to working on projects at scale,” she says. “You're at a well known crash and burn start-up? You have probably worn many hats and have been running at a sprinter's pace. There are some pretty blatant if/then associations I can make simply by recognizing a company name.”

3. Overall Experience

Recruiters, especially at higher levels, are looking for career progression in a resume. They want to see increasing levels of responsibility and titles that match the candidate’s work. Most importantly, the responsibilities should match the job to which the candidate is applying.

4. Keywords

If you’re familiar with the “find” function of a word document or PDF, you can rest assured that someone who’s looking to fill a job and has 100-plus candidates to sift through is too. This means that critical skills necessary for the role are going to be the first thing they look for. Benjamin says if she hits ctrl+F and none of her keywords appear, it’s a bad sign for the candidate.

But just throwing in keywords won’t do the trick either.

“Now if you're thinking you should ‘key word’ it up on your resume, think again,” she says. “Keep it authentic. And don't you dare think of putting your resume on the Internet and embedding 250 completely irrelevant to your skill set key words at the bottom in 5pt white text so no one can see. I'm on to you.”

Your keywords should be in the meat of your experience on your resume, she continued.

5. Gaps In Employment

Benjamin says gaps in employment aren’t necessarily disqualifiers, but they should be explained. The absence of an explanation is worse than a bad one, even if you feel uncomfortable saying it in your resume.

“Oh you took three years off to raise your children? Fine by me, and might I add: #respect,” she writes. “You tried your hand at starting your own company and failed miserably? Very impressive! Gap sufficiently explained. Whatever it is, just say it.”

6. Your Online Footprint

If you have any kind of online presence, include it on your resume. You don’t have to be an influencer with a half-million followers, but Benjamin says that this part can be the best part of recruiting. This includes Twitter accounts, personal websites or anything else you might want to list to show a little personality.

7. Location

If the job is in Charleston, South Carolina and you live in Charleston, West Virginia (and it’s not a remote position), this could be a disqualifier. But a recruiter looking up certain baseline criteria is common. The easiest way to DQ someone is finding out they don’t have the right immgration paperwork.

“Location, eligibility to work in the US -- I try to make some raw guesses here, but this is not a place of weeding someone out, more just trying to figure out their story,” she writes.

8. Organization

This is where your Transition Assistance Program training is helpful. This is also where you show you can clearly communicate your thoughts and experience. Spelling, grammar and usage all count here. Most importantly in this step is making your resume reflect the career field you’re in (or entering).

“If you're in marketing and you've lost me in the first three bullets, I have concerns,” Benjamin writes.

9. First Person

Though it may be tempting, your resume is not a narrative. It’s not a book about your employment life. For recruiters, it reads oddly. So when writing, keep everything in one tense -- as if it were an enlisted performance report.

“Pick a voice, pick a tense and stick with it,” she writes. “I’d suggest third person and past tense. If I were you, I’d eliminate pronouns altogether (My, I, She, He)... Go through your resume and remove all the pronouns and rewrite the sentence to make it sound like a bullet point.”

-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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