Do you get the feeling that no one is reading your resume? Me, too. As Military.com's transition master coach, I see how veterans and spouses often have a major misconception when it comes to resumes. We all think that recruiters and interviewers and hiring managers actually read our resumes.
News Flash! No One Is Reading Your Resume
When I tell my senior military clients about this strange but wonderful fact, they think I have lost my mind. After all, they put so much work into their resume, they think that other people should have the decency to read it.
This makes sense to me. Your resume feels like the story of your career. It is a helpful list of your accomplishments. Some of you veterans have resumes so packed full of decades of war that the document is practically a historical record. Which is truly amazing.
Yet resumes are not meant to be stories. Or historical. Or judgments upon the sum total of your career. Resumes are meant to do crucial work you cannot skip.
So Why Do You Have to Write a Resume?
You have to write a resume because the resume is a map that leads people to you, which is the essential truth most of us miss. Different people in the hiring process use different parts of the resume to find you.
Recruiters, hiring managers, members of your network, the human resources department and even the applicant tracking system (ATS) all scan – not read – different sections of your resume for their own purposes. Only then do they bring you in for an interview, which is the true purpose of a resume.
If you really want the interview, take a few minutes to review each section of your resume and consider the person who is most likely to be searching that section for crucial information. If you take this simple step, you are much more likely to get found, contacted, interviewed and hired.
So I have identified the five audience zones you need to cater to the most:
1. The Bot Zone
According to research by Jobscan, 98% of Fortune 500 companies use some kind of applicant tracking system – a type of human resources software that automates the hiring and onboarding – to scan the applications they receive on their website or through third-party job boards like Monster, LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor, etc. The ATS is cherry-picking the terms listed in the application, including hard skills, soft skills, keywords, job-related phrases and job titles. The computer is looking for the best match in every section of your resume. So plant the exact terms in your whole resume so the computer can send your application to a human being.
2. The Recruiter’s Zone
We know from studies about recruiter behavior that when recruiters get your resume, they spend most of their time scanning the top third of your resume. They glance at your location to make sure you are local. Then they scan the top for items requested in the job listing: keywords, job-related terms and your security clearance. They might look at your current job title or check the education section to be sure you have the required degree. Recruiters finish this scan in eight seconds or less.
Which is harsh, I know. Keep in mind that the clearer the information is (bulleted lists, short sentences), the more likely the recruiter is to find the information they want. Spend most of your time matching your bullets to the required and preferred items included in the job listing. Other job skills you have done in the past but are not planning to do in the future are clutter in this section if the term is not in the job listing.
If you are going for a job that does not have a specific job listing (often true for senior military working their network), find a similar job in the company or industry that you want and use those terms.
3. The HR Zone
Before you do a phone interview with the HR department, before they set up interview times and before they send you a job offer, the representative from HR must contact you. Don't spend a lot of time worrying about the size of your font or whether you look impressive enough. Use that time to check the accuracy of your email address, your cell number and your geographic region. Be sure to click on the live link to your LinkedIn profile. The easy candidate gets hired faster.
4. The Hiring Manager’s Zone
The person most likely to read your job accomplishments is the hiring manager. Some hiring managers only scan the top third of the resume and then the job titles (which is why it is so important to list both your official title and the civilian equivalent).
Many hiring managers also use the accomplishments listed under your job titles to scan for the necessary experience and to judge your writing ability. Again, the clearer the writing is, the more likely they are to keep reading.
They also can use this section to develop interview questions for you. My personal favorite is when a hiring manager will say, "Walk me through your resume and show me how you have the experience to do the job."
5. The Golden Zone
The most important zone on your resume is invisible to the naked eye. This zone is so powerful that people have been hired without anyone reading a word on the resume. Maybe it is contained in the molecules around the resume. This zone contains your professional reputation.
This is the zone your network wants to use most. When someone you know says "shoot me your resume," they are saying that your professional reputation is excellent and they are willing to send your resume on to someone in their company.
Again, make sure each of the sections of your resume is clear and to the point so that your professional reputation and your resume present a united front.
At the Veteran Employment Project, we know that veterans and spouses are some of the finest workers our country has to offer. That's why we are so eager to help you understand the inside view of the civilian hiring process. When you help each of the hiring professionals get their job done quicker, you can move easily into your next high-impact civilian job.
Learn More About the Veteran Employment Project
To get more tips on how to make a successful military transition, sign up for one of our FREE Military Transition Master Classes today. You can view previous classes in our video library. Questions for Jacey? Visit our Facebook page.
Jacey Eckhart is Military.com's transition master coach. She is a certified professional career coach and military sociologist who helps military members get their first civilian job by offering career-level Master Classes through our Veteran Employment Project and on her website SeniorMilitaryTransition.com. Reach her at Jacey.Eckhart@Monster.com.