You may think your resume represents a million things you have done in the military. As Military.com's transition master coach, I can tell you there are only five things in any veteran or spouse resume. Three of those things are moving you forward, and two are holding you back. Can you tell which is which?
Most people focus on the wrong five things -- the five things they were taught at TAP (Transition Assistance Program). Your TAP instructors were adamant that the five things on your corporate resume or federal resume should be contact information, education, work experience, certifications and skills.
The problem is that when you think of your resume in terms of those five things, you are bound to get bogged down by a lot of clutter that does absolutely nothing to help you get a job.
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The '5 Things Strategy' for Powerful Military Resumes
After helping more than 14,000 veterans and spouses learn new job-hunting skills and training groups of corporate recruiters who want to hire more veterans and spouses, I look at your resume differently than most people.
What I see on your resume can be reduced to these five things:
- The information the recruiter needs to find you.
- The information the hiring manager needs to desire you.
- The information that makes you feel good.
- The recycling.
- The trash.
When you look at your resume using the "Five Things Strategy," you will be amazed how easily your resume edits itself. Here is how the Five Things Strategy works to power up your lame resume:
1. Information the Recruiter Needs to Find You.
The recruiter's biggest problem is that they cannot find qualified applicants. They know the qualified applicants are there; they are just hard to find.
That is why the most important type of information on your resume is arguably those details the recruiter needs to find you first. This information includes keywords from the job listing featured in your checklist, your education, your certifications and your contact information.
2. Information the Hiring Manager Needs to Desire You.
Once the recruiter identifies you as a good candidate, your resume needs to light a fire inside the hiring manager. You have to make them want to talk to you, you and only you. I call this "candidate porn."
Sadly, most hiring managers do not spend a ton of time carefully reading every bullet point on both sides of your checklist resume. They do, however, spend time scanning your job titles as a representation of your career trajectory. They also read your bullet points from your current job to see how closely they align with the job they have to offer and the skills they need in an employee.
When they see you've got what it takes, their eyes light up with the belief that you are the answer to all their problems.
3. Information that Makes You Feel Better.
Once you have listed the information that hiring managers and recruiters need in the checklist and in the first two or three bullet points, there is a lot of extra space available on the resume. This is where I like to see the skills and accomplishments that make you feel better, stronger, faster.
List here the things that you are most proud of and the things that remind you of the essential strengths and skills you intend to bring to the job -- even if they are not featured prominently in the job listing. I can't emphasize enough that the information that makes you feel better is the information that will power you forward to complete and submit the resume.
While you need to include the first three types of information in your resume, the truth is that no one ever stops there. In the military community especially, we clutter our bullet points until no one can find them.
I think all this resume clutter usually comes from fear of loss -- as if you do not include this bullet point, this entire experience will disappear into the morass, never to emerge again. No wonder you are afraid.
Instead, think of chucking out the good, but not relevant, bullet points as "recycling." You can usually find these at the bottom of every job history. Toss them back into your old resume to be recycled into something new and pertinent on the next job. No true skill is gone forever.
OK, Oscar, here is the thing: Most of the carefully wrought bullet points squirreled away on your resume are riddled not just with clutter, but with trash:
- Lots of three-syllable words that don't mean anything.
- Lots of phrases you pirated from someone else's resume.
- Lots of sentences ChatGPT put together for you that sounded good but are not quite true.
You probably included piles of soft skills dropped here and there like stray shoes and lonely gym socks.
How do you get rid of the trash in your resume? There is only one way: You work with someone else. I know you hate that suggestion. Believe me, if you could do it alone, you would have already done it.
Sit down with a professional coach like me. Or with another transitioning service member. Or with your super smart spouse. Personally, I use a teenager for this task because they are merciless.
Ask your partner to read through your resume out loud with you. It has to be out loud, because otherwise, we skim over trash and say that the resume is fine.
You will know you hit the motherlode of trash, because your reader will stumble over the word like it does not make sense. Or they will ask: What does this sentence mean exactly? Or, is that a thing in the Air Force?
Don't tell yourself their comment does not matter because they don't have the same background you do. Neither does anyone else who is hiring you. Make it clear to a real person, and you can be sure the recruiter and hiring manager will get it, too.
The good news is that once you have had the benefit of working on a resume line by line with another person, you will recognize all your trash and recycling on your own. A fresh pair of eyes make all the difference in the world.
The millions of things you accomplished in your military career really are the things that will help you land your next high-impact job. Don't hide them under a lot of resume clutter, because you are new to the game. Go ahead and use the Five Things Strategy to make your value crystal clear.
Jacey Eckhart is Military.com's transition master coach. She is a certified professional career coach and military sociologist who helps military members get their first civilian job by offering career-level Master Classes through our Veteran Employment Project and on her website, SeniorMilitaryTransition.com. Reach her at Jacey.Eckhart@Monster.com.
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