by Carolyn Heinze
As silly as it sounds, resumes are a bit like fashion: there are many different styles, many different designers, and even more opinions on what’s in and what’s out. While there is no secret format that guarantees landing a position (or even just an interview), there are a number of elements that job seekers should consider if they want their resume to be placed at the top of the pile.
J. Todd Rhoad, managing director at Bt Consulting in Atlanta, observes that one of the driving forces behind the evolution of resume formats is the fact that professionals no longer remain with the same company for their entire careers. “Before, they didn’t need resumes because they didn’t go anywhere,” he said. And, if they did, their resume probably listed every component of their work history. “In many cases, back then it was OK for a resume to be relatively long.”
Rhoad notes that today – because people tend to change jobs every few years – resumes have dwindled down to one or two pages in length. “It’s not pertinent to list your whole work history,” he said. “Not only has the resume reduced down in size to between one to two pages; it’s really not imperative that you list your full history – recruiters only want to look back a few years.” Bt Consulting recommends a one- to two-page resume that features a summary statement at the top that’s designed to inform recruiters on who the job seeker is – as a person and a professional. A listing of acquired skills would appear underneath.
Kathy Malone, military transition expert and transition coach at Front Line Transitions in Albuquerque, N.M., argues that a resume is, in essence, a marketing tool. “If this is a brochure, then let’s apply some marketing strategies directly to your resume.” The front page, she elaborates, is laid out like an executive summary, with the candidate’s contact information and then a short paragraph that summarizes his/her career. Following that are three to five bullet points, listing the candidate’s accomplishments. “At the bottom of that front page, I put a testimonial from somebody that the individual has worked with. Just like in a brochure, you want to hear what other people think.”
As every transitioning veteran knows, one of the biggest challenges is translating the terminology applied in the service into civilian-speak to give civilian recruiters an understanding of your skills. “If you’re coming out of the military and you’re targeting a civilian organization that is not a prime contractor for the government and that does not do a lot of military work, you must translate what your job titles and skills were into something comparable inside of a civilian organization,” Rhoad underlined. The key, he adds, is communicating the value you can bring to a civilian organization. How can you generate revenue for them? How can you render them more efficient? “You must give examples of how you have done this before.” And, it’s important to focus on the skill sets you have that are applicable to the position for which you are applying.
Tim Dehan, supervisor of field recruiting for Chesapeake Energy Corporation – a 2011 Most Valuable Employer for Military winner based in Oklahoma City – notes that translating transferable skills is important even when dealing with veteran-friendly companies, such as his. “The Number-One thing that is going to help anybody transitioning out of the service is to translate the military jargon,” he said. “I don’t like seeing acronyms – I don’t know what ninety percent of them mean, and the average recruiter isn’t going to unless they have been trained, specifically, on how to decipher them.” He adds that this means that candidates must not only translate what they did in the military into civilian terms, but also emphasize how this applies to the civilian workplace. He urges those veterans that have never composed a resume before to seek professional help in writing one.
While translating your ‘transferable skills’ is necessary when dealing with a truly civilian company, it’s not always necessary – or even wise – to do so when applying for a position with an organization that is not only accustomed to working with veterans, but that is seeking those with military experience as well. “For example, if you are applying for a DoD prime contractor, it’s really not that necessary to try and translate your skills,” Rhoad illustrated. “For the most part – at least in my experience – they are looking for people who have worked on particular programs. In cases like that, you definitely have to list the military jargon, because that contractor will know what that jargon is.”
With this in mind, Jessie Richardson, a candidate recruiter for military placement firm Bradley-Morris, Inc. (BMI) and former director of operations for MilitaryResumes.com, reminds veteran job seekers to understand the difference between government contactors and military-friendly companies. “DoD contractors hire military because they have to. These companies are an extension of the military and they need military tangibles (specific programs and systems). In most cases, companies like the Most Valuable Employers for Military hire veterans because they want to. They like the intangibles (leadership, loyalty, etc.).”
Wes Reel of the military recruiting and outreach department of Waste Management – a 2011 Most Valuable Employer for Military winner based in Houston – emphasizes that in taking the time to tailor military resumes properly, candidates minimize the chances of frustrating recruiters. “Military-experienced applicants must tailor their resume to the job description that they are applying to,” he underlined. “Specific military resumes that are tailored to job descriptions seem more relevant to a particular position.” General, ‘blanket’ resumes make screening recruiters guess at the applicant’s actual qualifications. “Don’t make recruiters guess what you are looking for – be specific and show specific skills and qualifications.”
For recruiters, military resumes are no longer the only tools that they use to determine whether or not a job seeker is worthy of an interview: With the advent of social media, many hiring managers utilize sites like Facebook and LinkedIn to glean data on an individual’s background. “In the old days, you could be rejected based on your resume, and that’s not as true anymore,” Rhoad said. “Today, recruiters are searching social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, looking for candidates. Now, you can get rejected without even sending a resume in.” If your profile features something that recruiters don’t like, the interaction stops there. “If you are going to be out there playing around, realize that people will peruse these sites for job candidates, so make sure that you keep it somewhat professional.”
Above all, it’s important that candidates are confident with the value they can offer as professionals. “When you can be comfortable with who you are and what you bring to the table, and having thought through your experience, skills, value and talent – and be able to articulate that to a hiring manager – they’re going to be a lot more comfortable moving forward with you,” Malone emphasized. It’s this attitude, she said, that will enable you to create a resume that stands apart from the crowd. “Where there used to be 100 people applying for an advertised position, there are now 1,000 people applying for that position. If you are doing what everybody else is doing, you’re going to look like everybody else.”
Carolyn Heinze is a freelance writer/editor.
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