20 Tips to Make Your Resume Stand Out

Man with pen and paper
Photo courtesy of Pexels

For every resume in existence, it seems there are 100 articles, webinars, seminars and blog posts about how to improve your resume.

Here, I've distilled down 20 of the best tips I've found for a standout resume in the military-to-civilian transition:

Related: Does your resume pass the 6-second test? Get a FREE assessment.

  1. Sell yourself for the job. Make it easy for the recruiter or hiring manager to see why you are the right person for the job. Tailor your resume to the needs and goals of the employer.
  2. Keywords are critical. Read through the job description to be sure you use the same keywords as the employer. If the employer is recruiting for a business development manager and you use the term "sales" in your resume (instead of "business development"), you might not get their attention.
  3. Key phrases are also critical. Like keywords, pay attention to the phrases they use on their website, job description and marketing materials. If they describe the position as requiring "strong project management skills," use the key phrase "strong project management." If they describe the company as having a "tight knit, family-like" culture, make sure your resume includes those key phrases in describing your desired employer.
  4. Make every word count. Avoid extra words such as, "in order to" when you could use "to." Additionally, ensure every word offers specific value. Saying you are a "strategic thinker" is not as clear as saying you are trained to "analyze and interpret large amounts of complex data."
  5. Clean up the appearance of your resume. Use a basic, easy-to-read font (Arial, Helvetica, Times New Roman), be consistent with the use of headers and bold/italics, and always print on white paper.
  6. Length matters. If you can keep your resume to two pages, that is ideal. A longer resume is warranted if your content justifies it.
  7. Research the company. Understand their hiring practices, goals, vision and competitors and focus your resume to their needs.
  8. Research the hiring managers. Look at their online profiles to get insight into their likes/dislikes and workstyle. This will help to adapt your resume, but also will help you build rapport in the interview.
  9. Culture matters to employers. Study the culture of every company to which you apply. If their culture is more formal and conservative, your resume should reflect that. If they are more playful and fun, your resume can be more casual.
  10. Translate your skills. For many veterans, this is the hardest one. If the employer you're interested in provides a translator on their website, use it. Otherwise, try the tools at Military.com or O*Net to relate your hard and soft skills to the needs of the employer.
  11. Highlight your results. Wherever you can, quantify the results of your past experiences. For instance, did you lead 150 troops and supervise $10 million of equipment? List it.
  12. Prioritize your background. Your resume should include the aspects of your background that are relevant to the job you're applying for. Make it easy for the reader to see how your experience relates to what they are looking for by prioritizing your background.
  13. Make sure it's formatted for email (PDF). You will often email your resume to employers and networking contacts. Be sure to have a version of your resume saved as a PDF, so the formatting stays intact.
  14. Leave some things out. Your resume is not a listing of everything you've ever done. If you throw everything you can into your resume, you make the work harder for the reader. This is a turn-off to recruiters.
  15. Include your contact information. It might sound obvious, but make sure your name, cell phone number and email are listed on every page of your resume. Sometimes pages can get separated.
  16. Proofread it. Have three friends proofread your resume. One typo, formatting error or grammar mistake can turn off a recruiter.
  17. Include volunteer work. If you have done volunteer work during your time in the military or afterward, include it if the experience can showcase new skills, a passion to serve, or value to the recruiter or hiring manager.
  18. List awards and decorations. Be careful listing every single award you received in your military career. This can be overwhelming and intimidating to the hiring manager. Instead, list the ones that are significant either to you or the employer and be ready to talk about them.
  19. Name your resume file correctly. When you save a version of your resume on your computer (to be emailed to a potential employer,) name it JoeSmithResume2019, and not 2019 Resume or Resume v. 221, so the recruiter or hiring manager can find it quickly.
  20. Keep your resume updated. As you acquire new skills, jobs, volunteer opportunities or experience, continually update your resume to keep it current and fresh.

Your resume is a great list of what you have done in the past. When it is clean, current and focused, employers will use it to decide how well you can do the job, fit into the company and add value to the organization.

Related: For the latest veteran jobs postings around the country, visit the Military.com Job Search section.

The Next Step: Get Your Resume Evaluated

Does your resume pass the 6-second test? Get a FREE assessment with Monster.com's resume analysis.

Story Continues