5 resumé tips for veterans
Talk about scary: It was Halloween 2009 and Col. Garland Williams was leaving his Army career for civilian life. “It was a little spooky making that transition,” Williams recalls.
Williams now heads the Military Division of University of Phoenix and has tips for veterans who are facing the frightening prospect of creating resumés and facing job interviews. The process is fairly straightforward: Veterans generally prepare two resumés — one for government jobs and one for private sector employers. The government resumé follows a specific form; it’s the other one that tends to stump veterans. They see the lack of a civilian job history as a problem. According to Williams, all they have to do is follow a few guidelines for translating their military experience into private sector language.
- State your mission.
Resumé writers call this an “objective” or “summary.” Experts counsel against stating your personal goals, such as “I’m looking for an engineering position with growth possibilities.” Most employers don’t care what you want. They want to know what you can do for them. “Experienced task-oriented manager with proven track record for completing projects on time and under budget,” for example, would be more compelling to a potential employer.
- Put your education close to the top.
The top of your resumé should include your name and contact information (including a personal email address) with your education information immediately following. Williams advises to always put this close to the top, and that’s especially true if the employer requires a specific degree in a certain field of study and you happen to have it.
- Create a record section.
In resumé-speak, this is called “experience” or “career highlights.” Most veterans believe this is their weakest area because they have, in many cases, had only one employer. But here is where even a young veteran can show off the leadership skills that many civilians lack.
“He at least got to the point where he was leading a team,” Williams points out. “He has shown leadership. He has shown discipline. He has shown the ability to get something done.” Where civilians list past employers, a veteran should lay out a list of tasks or projects accomplished.
- Provide plenty of details.
Break the listings in the experience section down to how many people you led, and how much equipment you were responsible for. Williams says it is also important to point out the budget you worked under. “Highlight the ability to get something done within time and within budget.”
- Toot your own horn.
You have to tell them what you did in the service and don’t be humble, warns Williams. Veterans tend to downplay their military experience that could set them apart from the other applicants. “An average 24-year-old did not spend a year in Iraq where if something he did went wrong (it) would have strategic implications.”
The good news? As a result of these intense experiences, Williams is convinced if a veteran has a good resumé and can get the interview, he’ll get the job.