Eight Resume-Writing Tips for Veterans
by Marshall McGurk
I recently spoke with a recruiter from my current company and he mentioned the wide gap in quality of resumes he received from veteran applicants. Here are eight tips to bolster your transition success. You do not need to take it as gospel, but these tips work.
1) Do not lie, omit, or embellish. I once read honesty is being truthful with others while integrity is being truthful with yourself. Integrity and honesty are paramount in a resume. Do not say you were the Battalion Operations Officer when you were only the Assistant. The difference is large and will come out in the interview. Do not omit certain military additional duties either. Unit Movement Officer, for example, is powerful resume bullet, especially if your applying for positions in logistics, supply chain, or purchasing.
2) Do not de-militarize your resume. We cannot bridge the military-civilian divide if we diminish what we’ve done during service. People going from Wall Street to manufacturing do not change their previous official positions on a resume, so you should not either. You were not a “Mid-level Logistics Coordinator;” I “logistic coordinate” every time I do a DITY move. Sheesh. You were a “Battalion Logistics Officer (S-4),” responsible for millions dollars worth of equipment, travel funding, and other logistics needs for a high operational tempo military unit of 500-800 people.
Put quantifiable performance measures (e.g. coordinated redeployment of 800 people and associated equipment without loss; received a commendation for the exceptional performance of my team) and any recruiter will see the worthiness of your work. The interviewer will ask pointed questions so you can showcase your talents and they will learn more about the military rank structure and terminology.
3) Do showcase your talents. If you briefed the Under Secretary of the Army or a General Officer, put that down. Your yearly efficiency reports are replete with this information. Try this format: Cause (redeployment), Action (coordinated), Effect (no loss), Reward (commendation).
4) Do review your resume and have someone else review it. Bad grammar, misspelled words, or omitted words are resume killers. Use spell check on the computer, then print it out and go to town with a red-ink pen. This is the type of stuff a mentor is more than willing to do for you.
5) Do put your awards down, especially valor awards or awards for long-term meritorious service. Simply put, Bronze Star with Valor device = Yes, MacArthur Leadership Award = Yes, Army Service Ribbon = No. Items like a Physical Fitness Award or the Mechanics Badge should be left off unless they are relevant to the job you are seeking.
6) Do not list specific military skills out of it, unless your applying for certain contracting, federal, or law enforcement jobs. Simply put, again: CDL or foreign language proficiency= Yes, HMMWV training or marksmanship badges = No.
7) Do list your references in this way: one superior, one peer, and one subordinate. Imagine the power of a corporate recruiter finding that your Battalion Commander, the Captain you shared a hallway with, and one of your NCOs all speak highly of you. The combination of their views can speak wonders. Let it work for you. It shows you are a good employee, a team player, and a leader all at once. If you can only list two, list the superior and the subordinate.
8) Do make your resume a living document. Customize it as needed for various jobs, and highlight different points accordingly. “Leadership in a high-stress environment” creates a stable framework to delve deeper into what you have accomplished. Focus on tangible, specific, quantifiable and consistent results.
Do not think for a second that your military service will not get you the job you want. Leadership under high-stress situations comes in many forms, in training and in combat. Sell yourself. Win.
This article first appeared in The Havok Journal 19 July 2018.
Marshall McGurk is a former active-duty SF Soldier now in the Army Reserve and working in corporate America. His views are his own and do not reflect an official position of the United States Army or his current employer.