In an oversaturated job market, it is difficult to stand out. Even the most decorated veteran often needs a little assistance translating military experiences into a civilian resume. Whether you are a transitioning service member or have been out of the military for several years, it is never a bad idea to take another look at your resume.
Three common resume mistakes veterans make
- Overusing Military Jargon
As obvious as it may seem, the use of jargon is still one of the most glaring issues with resumes and it can be the deciding factor in whether or not someone gets called in for an interview. Two candidates may have nearly identical backgrounds, but the applicant who translates “war college” to “executive leadership school” or “Senior NCO” to “First-Line Supervisor” will be the one more likely to be interviewed. It is not because the other candidate is not qualified, of course. It is simply because military jargon is a foreign language to many people.
- Submitting the Same Resume for Each Job
One of the biggest mistakes for former servicemembers and civilians alike is using the exact same resume for every job announcement. No, you don’t have to change everything about your resume each time you want to apply for a new position, but you should be changing something for each posting.Job listings tell you precisely what qualifications employers are seeking, so you should make sure that the job requirements and employer’s desires are reflected in your resume. If you see words or phrases repeated several times throughout the announcement, it is a good idea to incorporate those words and phrases in your resume. This is why a “skills” section is a valuable and time-saving addition to any resume. It ensures you can switch out simple words quickly without having to search your entire resume document.
- Failing to Edit Lengthy Resumes
If you have ever used USAJobs, you know they want you to include everything you have ever done which often results in a seven page document that reads more like an autobiography than a resume. However, this is not the norm outside of the federal government. While it is not unusual for a military resume to span four of five pages, in the civilian sector even the most senior executive will have a resume that is less than three pages. The reason for this drastic difference in approach is the purpose each resume serves. A military resume is a comprehensive list of everything you have done during your time in the service while a civilian resume is a marketing tool used to succinctly explain your strengths and accomplishments.A good rule of thumb is to include the last five years or the last five companies. Continue filling out your resume with your work history until you hit the two page limit and begin editing from there. A “skills” section is particularly useful when needing to cut down on information within each job description.
Located in Hampton Roads? Tidewater Community College’s Center for Military and Veterans Education offers courses in Professional Writing that can help you in your job search and beyond.
Batanya Gipson is a project coordinator for military contract programs at Tidewater Community College’s Center for Military and Veterans Education. Gipson worked for several years at Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges and as an education specialist and lecturer at Hampton University College of Education and Continuing Studies, where she advised military and civilian students. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology and english from Georgetown University and a master’s of education in adult education and a graduate certificate in distance education from Penn State University. Gipson is a U.S. Marine Corps spouse.