How To Write A Resume That Will Get A Hiring Managers’ Attention

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Spc. John Shive, A Company, 505th Engineer BN works on his resume during a Veterans opportunity to Work act nicknamed “VOW” workshop in the Charlotte Armory on May 16, 2013.
Photo by Tech. Sgt. Brian Christiansen

So you’re leaving the military and applying to civilian jobs. You’ve had an interesting and fulfilling career and are struggling to “translate” your work into succinct bullets that will show hiring managers you’re a great candidate for the job. The first thing to remember that the purpose of the resume is not to get you a job; it is to demonstrate the experience that makes you a viable candidate in the civilian world and worthy of a job interview. In order to write a clear and concise resume, there are three tips to focus on:


1. Identify the qualities that the ideal candidate would have.

Once you know what types of jobs you’re applying to, think about what the company needs in order to fill their job posting. If the company needs a project manager, ask yourself what an ideal project manager should be like: organized, able to lead teams with varying work streams, good under pressure, etc. If you don’t know what these skills are, research job descriptions for various project manager roles. What are the core qualifications? Once you know what the company is looking for, then consider your own experiences and how they qualify you for a project manager position.

Related: 6 mistakes you might not realize you’re making at work »

2. Tailor your resume bullets to show that you have the right qualifications.

Writing your resume is about showcasing the aspects of your work experience that relate to the job posting you’re applying for. For example, if you’re applying to be a project manager, you’d have a different resume than if you were applying to be salesperson. Don’t fall into the trap of listing everything you’ve ever done in the military. And don’t think that one resume will fit all job listings. Vets have undertaken a lot of different tasks, and much of that experience may not apply to the specific role you’re targeting. While crafting your resume, cite specific accomplishments to demonstrate that you already have the qualities the role requires.

3. Don’t assume that no one will understand your military background.

Yes, you were in the military. Yes, less than 1% of the U.S. population has served in the military. No, it doesn’t mean that you need a military skills translator to write a resume. Companies are looking for great talent, and hiring managers will understand your military experience if you know how to explain your work. If the role you are applying for requires leadership skills, don’t just say that you were a “squad leader with years of leadership experience in combat.” Instead, show that you regularly monitored and reported your team’s activities, that you checked the quality of your team members’ work, and that you’ve led in changing environments. That’s more useful for both you and the hiring manager.

It’s an exciting time to be a transitioning veteran. Companies value your service, and they’re looking for great military talent. Take the time to research the skills required for the job you’re applying to. If you can explain how your skills are a good fit for that role, the hiring managers will understand.

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