Creating a good résumé is the first step to finding a post-military civilian job. By the time you sit down to write one, you already should know what skills and experience are relevant to the job you want and how your military training translates into the civilian world. It also should be free of typos and grammar errors.
When you finish filling out the page -- résumés always should be one page -- you may think it seems a little thin and be tempted to fill it out a little more. You might make small additions that may not be completely true. You might add unnecessary details. Well, don’t.
People who read résumés for a living have seen it all, and what you might add could cost you. Here are a few of those red flags.
1. Unrelated Work Experience
There’s a good chance that working the cooking line at Red Lobster before you joined the service is not relevant to the job you want now (unless it’s working at a Red Lobster). This is true for any unrelated pre-military job that isn’t relevant to what you’re applying for.
Most of the time, people who include irrelevant work experience on a résumé are trying to fill space. Most human resources professionals know this trick and likely won’t make it past this entry. Since résumés are usually in chronological order, this would kill your chances of even being considered.
2. Flowery Language
When listing your work experience and significant accomplishments in those roles, get to the point. Remember that the person reading your résumé has potentially hundreds of others to get through and is looking to minimize the time spent on each. Clear, quick communication is appreciated much more than vocabulary.
You didn’t “maximize customer service effectiveness by utilizing the acquired skills in your most recent position.” You made customers happy by following your training and doing your job well.
3. No Relevant Skills
One of the most prevalent reasons people aren’t considered for a job is, because of tailoring their résumé for the specific job, they made one résumé and used it for every application. Applicants need to put the skills they have -- the ones that match the position requirements -- front and center. These are keywords, and even computers are programmed to spot them.
If the position you want is at a radio station, but you lead with your ability to swap out tires on an F-16 Fighting Falcon, it’s a red flag. The person reading your résumé might scan further for relevant skills, but likely will move on to someone who made those skills more obvious.
4. Too Many Short-Term Jobs
Too many veterans take whatever job they can get when they leave the military, find themselves unhappy there and find work elsewhere within a year. An astonishing 43% of separated vets do this, and 65% leave within two years. Employers are getting wise to the trend.
If you have too many short-term jobs or any unexplained gaps in your work history, that’s going to catch the résumé reader’s attention. If you leave too many jobs too soon and can’t explain on the résumé why you left, the company will assume you’ll leave them as well, and they’d just be backfilling the job within a year or so,
5. No Education
This isn’t an elitist thing; the education on your résumé isn’t expected to be Harvard or Yale. It doesn’t even have to be Syracuse, but an employer wants to see some kind of education, preferably in a field related to the job opening they’re trying to fill. For many older generations, it was difficult to get anywhere without at least a high school diploma. These days, and for many years now, employers have begun to see a four-year bachelor’s degree as the new high school diploma.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t get a job without one. The education requirements for any job are likely to be clearly listed on the posting. Moreover, many skilled trade jobs require only training in that skill, along with the certifications or licensing required by the location of the job. No matter what education and/or training you have, put it on your résumé.
You never know who is going to be reading your résumé once you submit an application. It might be someone whose sole skills are in hiring and managing personnel. They may not know all the details about the job or field and may be relying on keywords to fill the spot. Then again, it may be a senior employee with extensive experience in that field.
Plan on it being that seasoned employee with decades of experience. Don’t try to inflate your skills, training or accomplishments artificially. Once someone who knows better sees that little fib or outright lie, your résumé will end up in the trash can.
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