In a civilian job interview, your goal is to make yourself interesting to the interviewer, to set yourself apart from the competition, and make the hiring manager feel, "This candidate is a great fit for our company!"
To give yourself the best chance for success, your resume should follow these strategies:
1. Start with the WHY
The most common mistake job candidates make on resumes is listing the what, how and where of their background and military experience but forgetting to communicate the "why". By default, a resume is a list of your past –your professional roles, successes and achievements. But more importantly, a resume should indicate what you are passionate about, how your military experience qualifies you for the open position, and how you will produce results and add value in your next job.
2. Sound like yourself
I've seen many resumes that do not sound or look like the person I'm sitting across from. In some cases, professional resume writers craft the resume's content to the point where the candidate cannot speak to the experience listed.
Be sure you will feel proud and focused when you hand over your resume. Can you speak to every job, result and accomplishment listed? Does your resume reflect your humor, energy, passion and confidence? If your resume looks sophisticated and professional, yet you are relaxed and casual, it will be a challenge to help a hiring manager see that you are the same person listed on the pages.
3. Leave something for the interview
Have you ever seen a 4-page, single spaced resume? Did you read the whole thing? Me neither. Your resume shouldn't include everything you ever did, from grade school forward, or every accomplishment, award and success you've achieved. Your resume should highlight the relevant skills, talents, experiences and value the hiring manager is recruiting for.
Leaving some items off your resume may feel risky. You certainly need to include the certifications and keywords the resume reviewer will need to put you through to an interview, but you do not need to include everything. You have room in your cover letter to highlight some of your background, and can link to your online profiles to supplement your talents and background with even more.
4. Customize to the job requirements
As a job seeker, your resume should be modular -- able to be adjusted and tweaked to fit the job requirements. A one-size-fits-all resume simply is like job seeking with a blindfold on. Hiring managers and recruiters are often overwhelmed with resumes for open positions. The easier you can make their job, the more likely your resume will get reviewed.
For example, look through each job requirement or job description and identify:
- What are the skills needed? Do I have those skills?
- What type of background are they looking for? Does my experience relate to that type of background? Can I make it relate?
- Are there keywords listed in the job requirement? I need to pull those same keywords out in my resume and use them often.
- What is the company culture? Will I fit in there? What makes me a fit? How can I work that into the tone and feel of my resume?
- Do I know someone who works there? Mention them in my cover letter.
5. Leave off the personal info (married, birthdate)
Many military to civilian job seekers make the mistake of including their birthdate (including year), marital status, and medical situation on their resume and online profiles. This information is not required and should never be a way to position you for a job.
It is fine to include a "personal interests" section on a resume or online profile. Veer away from information that can be used to dismiss you and instead focus on hobbies, interests, and talents that relate to the job you seek. For instance, you might say, "I am passionate about environmental causes and sustainability," if you are looking for a career in natural resources exploration.
A resume is a part of your toolkit, not the entire solution. Successful job seekers build their reputation and have a resume that serves as an extension of all that information.