Writing a Veteran Resume

By Joe Stein

For many veterans, the most frustrating part of their military experience may just be their attempt to find employment once released back to civilian duty.  You would think that employers would be fighting over the candidates with military experience, but (regretfully) the opposite is sometimes the case.  Very often, however, this is not due to anything else but ignorance from the employer towards how valuable a veteran can be to the organization.

For a veteran seeking civilian employment, the key is to sell the unique attributes of your skills/experience, while debunking any myths associated with your background.  Like with most Job Seekers, a key is your resume. So, today, let’s look at your document and how you can tailor it towards your candidacy.

 -  Translate – The military sometimes uses words, terms, and phrases that are not used in the civilian world.  Often times, however, there is a common term in the outside world that means essentially the same thing.  Make it easier for the Recruiter by writing in an easily understood style.  A way to ensure this would be to have a friend or family member read your resume to ensure it makes sense to them.  The filter should be to assume whoever will be reading your resume and assessing your candidacy does not have any prior military experience.

 -  Error Free – This advice applies to really anyone, but especially for those in the military.  One of the key strengths of a veteran is “attention to detail”.  It is something that is required in everything that is done in the military.  Typographical and grammatical errors serve to dispel this positive perception of your candidacy based on your background.  Once again, having a friend or family member reviewing your document will be a huge assist.

 -  Emphasize the Relevant – There are many career skills and behaviors developed in the military that are relevant in the civilian world.  The confidence/poise you have now, your ability to communicate, your attention to detail, and your process discipline can all be much desired traits.  You may have also gained experience in areas such as leadership, mechanical maintenance, and engineering that will provide you a competitive advantage.  Just like in the civilian world, Hiring Managers like to read about individuals who have been promoted and increased responsibility.  If this is you during your military service, then make sure your roles are well defined.  All of this can prove to be quite valuable to you if you can write it in a way that the Recruiter or Hiring Manager will easily understand.

 -  Deemphasize the Irrelevant – You may also have learned some skills that are not as relevant to someone in the civilian world.  For example, your exact knowledge of military armory is probably only applicable if you are seeking a law enforcement role or a job in a gun shop.  This pruning will allow you to maintain a resume of reasonable length for your level of experience.

 -  Promote Your Status – Your veteran status should be something to be proud of, so consider noting your status right at the top of your resume, by your name and address.  Many resumes only receive a cursory review, so your veteran status may be missed in the haste of a Recruiter.  Remember - savvy employers know that there are valuable tax credits available for hiring veterans, so why not make it easy for them to identify you out of the crowd?

 -  Focus on Results – As a veteran, your resume should not appear that much different than another in style or content.  Employers want to see documented results on a resume and this is an area that sometimes a veteran will struggle in.  Specifically, they sometimes have a false assumption that their results will not be relevant because it occurred in the military.  Hiring Managers look for “STAR” examples; make sure you address the situation, the task to be completed, outline your actions, and the subsequent result achieved.  Don’t forget to leverage any examples that apply easily to the civilian world, such as budget savings or efficiencies gained.

 -  Your Resume Should Match the Position – For some veterans, a wide “one size fits all” approach” - is applied.  In this situation, one resume is used to apply for many different types of jobs, as the person is trying to land a job in a number of different types of work.  My suggestion is to have a good idea of what type of work you are interested in obtaining, and then customize your resume to best land that position.  Try to have a clearly defined goal regarding what you are seeking.

 -  Work In Progress – Once you have completed your resume does not mean that you are finished.  In the spirit of continuous improvement, solicit feedback while networking or from Recruiters on how you can improve the document.  Tweak the document, as necessary, until you obtain the desired result of a new job.

A Job Seeker holding veteran status should enjoy some advantages that others do not hold.  Unfortunately, this is sometimes not the case.  Writing a winning resume will assist you in opening some doors and minds regarding your candidacy.  If you are a veteran seeking additional job tips, go online @ http://www.wnyjobs.com and search our article database for “Job Tips for Transitioning Military”.

As always, best of luck in your job search!