Writing an effective veteran resume involves highlighting the unique qualifications, skills, and experiences that you gained during your military service. Here are some steps to guide you through the process:
1. Choose an appropriate resume formatting style.
Recruiters only spend an average time of six (6) seconds when reviewing applicant resumes. That means you only have about five (5) seconds to catch the recruiter's attention. The first and most effective way to do that is by choosing the right resume formatting style.
There are three formats to consider: Chronological, Functional and Combination. Choose a style that best highlights your strengths and qualifications related to the job.
- A chronological resume lists work experience in reverse-chronological order, starting with the most recent position. This format emphasizes work experience by providing detailed summaries of accomplishments for each position.
💡When to use the Chronological Resume?
This format is ideal for those with consistent career progression. If you have gained relevant and long-standing industry experience in and/or out of service, this format is for you. By using this format, veterans can showcase their extensive experience, demonstrate a clear career trajectory, and highlight their professional growth over time.
- A functional resume prioritizes relevant skills over work history. This format highlights the applicant's skill set that is most applicable to the position they are seeking.
💡When to use the Functional Resume?
If you have experienced extended periods of unemployment, have limited civilian work experience, or are in the midst of a significant career change (like transitioning out of the military), a functional resume may be worth considering. This format allows you to emphasize the skills and qualifications that are most relevant to the position you are seeking, rather than an employment history that may not fully align.
- From the name itself, a combination resume combines the chronological and functional resume formats. It is an effective way to highlight both your work experience and relevant skills. The combination resume is a flexible format that allows you to choose whether to list your skills or work experience first, depending on which one is more relevant to the job.
💡When to use the Combination Resume?
If you are making a minor career change or have a varied employment history that may not immediately indicate relevancy to the role you are applying for, a combination resume can be the better option for you. This type of resume is useful if you are applying for a position where you have extensive experience but have never held an official role with the exact job title. You guessed it, this is generally the resume style for transitioning members.
2. Align your resume to the job description.
An effective resume is a relevant one. Do you have the right qualifications for the job? Can you perform the duties listed in the job description? Do you fit the qualifications listed? Do you have matching skill sets? The only way to know is by reviewing the job description. All these questions are important in aligning your resume to the job description.
Additionally, you can create a resume draft where you review the job description and identify the essential keywords. Highlight these keywords and analyze how they relate to your military experience so you can plug them into your resume later on. Adding said keywords can help boost your application when the screening process is done by the ATS systems and can help the hiring manager understand how your qualifications match what they are looking for.
3. Identify relevant contact information.
This section is generally at the top for ease of reference. It is important to include your contact details in your resume so that potential employers can reach out to you. However, many job seekers tend to get carried away with this section and include unnecessary information.
To avoid this, stick to relevant contact information like your name, phone number, email address, and LinkedIn profile (if applicable). If you're applying for a job in social media management, including social media handles like TikTok ID, Facebook ID, Twitter ID, etc. can be relevant. However, for a professional resume, it's best to keep it simple and only include information that's relevant to the job you're applying for.
4. Add a headline or career highlight section.
Remember, you only have about 5 seconds to pull the recruiter into your resume. Your headline can do just this in 3 seconds. A career highlight can draw the reader in and can keep the hiring manager interested in your qualifications.
It is important to distinguish headline or career highlights from objective or summary statements. The latter is different and should be generally avoided. An objective statement generally starts with phrases like "Looking to advance my career in..." or "Aiming to apply my skills..." The hard truth in effective resume writing is that nobody wants to know what you want. Instead, hiring managers want to learn more about what you can offer to their organization.
There are two components to an effective headline: Job Profile and Career Highlights.
- Job Profile condenses your entire career into one to two paragraphs. Use restraint. We get it. It's hard to explain your missions and accomplishments in just a few words or even in a single sentence, but it is important to show restraint and focus on summarizing these accomplishments instead.
- Career Highlight should emphasize the value that you bring to the table. Your resume is not an efficiency report. Instead of duties, you should highlight accomplishments. Demonstrate how you added value to your organization by using quantifiable and measurable terms, while keeping information relevant to the position you are vying for.
When writing a headline for your resume, it is important to be honest about your abilities. While your goal is to impress your future boss, you should never oversell yourself. Just because you held a team lead position in your previous role does not automatically make you an executive leader.
5. Include a skills section.
List the relevant skills that you possessed during and after your military service. Although your skills must match the keywords in the job description, always focus on what is true and relevant to your experiences.
If you can, limit this section from four to six sets of skills. Make sure to focus on the skills that match the job description and avoid listing a basket of generic skills such as "Leadership", "Team Player" and "Hardworking". These are just your opinions about yourself. Employers are more interested in the specific hard skills that you can bring to the organization. For example, you can mention any education or initiatives in diversity that you successfully led.
6. Write your resume for a corporate recruiter.
An effective resume must know its audience. You cannot assume that a recruiter will be familiar with the jargon inside the military. Since your chances rest in the hands of a civilian hiring manager, make sure you use words that the former would easily understand. Find ways to translate military language to corporate language. For example, you can find equivalent civilian titles to your MOS. Unlike in a military resume, you do not need to include ranks, unit names, equipment titles, etc. in your civilian resume. Job titles and skills should be enough.
Your resume is your ticket to getting the attention of potential employers. It is a powerful tool to showcase your qualifications and skills and poke employers' interests. While there are plenty of resources available online on how to write a civilian resume, there are only a limited number of resources available that specifically cater to veterans. The above information aims to help veterans write effective resumes that aid in job hunting after their military service.