Companies across the country regularly announce their desire and commitment to hiring veterans. They understand that people who serve in the military are hard workers, dedicated to supporting their families and willing to listen and learn. There is a significant gap between companies wanting to hire veterans and veterans landing jobs – particularly in the technology sector. The issue that keeps veterans from getting interview calls is often the resume.
It’s difficult to translate military skills into the tech industry. Hiring managers don’t know how to read military acronyms and don’t understand their significance. Your career prospects start with your resume. Follow these five steps to improve the chances your resume will be noticed by civilian hiring managers.
1. Translate Your Military Experience Into Civilian Terminology
You speak fluently when it comes to military terminology. You understand ranks and concepts that would leave most civilians confused. However, you can’t expect hiring managers to keep up.
“Military veterans are from Mars, civilians are from Venus,” Phillip Gold, Ph.D., former commanding officer in the Air Force and current CEO of Empire Resume, writes. “When military veterans and civilians meet in the middle on Earth and learn to communicate with each other, everyone wins. Unfortunately, as a veteran, you must be the one to initiate the meeting in the middle by translating your military skills to civilian terms.”
Most hiring managers won’t take the time to look up different terms or ask what they mean. If your resume is unclear, they will move on to one that makes sense in their language.
“Too many recruiters and hiring managers, new to hiring veterans, get stuck on the resumes and translating skill-sets,” writes Philip Dana, a former Navy officer and current head of human resources at biopharmaceutical company Dendreon.
In some cases, these hiring professionals might not know how to translate different titles and understand your rank. In other cases, they aren’t sure how one skill affects another they are hiring for.
To “translate” your resume, hand it to someone who doesn’t have military experience. Ask them to highlight terms that are confusing or point out concepts that don’t seem to relate to the tech job you are applying for. This outside perspective can give you an idea of what an HR manager sees.
2. Separate Your Hard and Soft Skills
Another way to get noticed by HR managers – especially if you have a lot of military-specific skills – is to focus on your intangible traits, otherwise known as your soft skills.
“Driving a tank in the desert probably isn’t going to translate to a job in New York City, Bill Sweet, the chief financial officer of Ritholtz Wealth and former captain in the Army, tells NBC News.
However, veterans can look at the skills they acquired while driving that tank, like navigation and problem-solving, and turn them into marketable skills. This turns a seemingly untranslatable task into a learning experience that non-military hiring managers can understand.
The team at Military OneSource, a website created as part of the U.S. Department of Defense’s support network, encourages veterans to start with one list of their technical skills and another list of their intangible skills. These can be used as a guide to create your resume. Soft skills like leadership and communication can easily be translated to civilian jobs, but your challenge is to prove that you actually have these skills and explain how you acquired them while doing your technical military work.
3. Engage People With Your Resume
One challenge that many veterans have is including all of the information about their military careers on their resumes. The military is a detail-oriented, fact-based organization, which means many resumes end up looking like detailed fact-sheets. This is a mistake.
The Texas Workforce Commission hosts an annual hiring event with more than 30 fairs in 30 locations. More than 14,420 businesses have hired 84,153 veterans through these events. To help job seekers, the Commission encourages veterans to take the “sell it; don’t tell it” model of resume building. This means going beyond just stating the facts. Your goal is to win people over and wow them with your accomplishments.
Use the facts as a starting point and then edit the wording to promote your soft skills or identify why the facts are so significant.
“Nobody has the same experiences or some of the unique traits you’ve gained from your time in service,” army veteran Matthew Duarte writes for Gartner. “Own it! Your civilian competitors are leveraging every metric and task they were involved in during their internships and college events. You should, too!”
The work that you did in the military is unique and outstanding, but you need other people to realize this. A hiring manager won’t understand what is truly exceptional if you bury your achievements in a lengthy, chronological list.
4. Focus on the Most Important Information
Taking the space on your resume to sell your skills and provide context to civilian hiring managers means you’ll need to make some cuts to the amount of information you provide. Once again, this is where “selling it” comes in.
“One of the most common challenges for veterans to overcome is their desire to list every single duty assignment, which very few hiring managers will take the time to read,” Colleen Deere, executive director at American Corporate Partners, says.
Think about your resume as a sports highlight reel. An HR manager won’t care about the whole game, but they are interested in a few of your top moments and why they are significant.
Tim Lupfer, author of “Leadership Tough Love,” retired U.S. Army officer and West Point instructor, encourages veterans to tell employers how they can be beneficial now. Fewer employers are willing to hire based on potential and want to know how an employee can immediately jump in and become a valuable resource. As you develop your resume to focus on your best parts, show how they can translate immediately in the workplace.
5. Cater Your Resume to Robot Readers
Creating a resume for the technology sector is a delicate balance between appealing to the human nature of hiring managers and getting noticed by the automated filters that many companies have.
“I always tell my clients that you have to write your resume for three audiences,” Chrissy Littledale, client services manager at Hire Heroes USA, says. These audiences are the hiring manager making the decision, the human resources representative who will review your resume, and the software that scans it in the first place.
Littledale says the job description is your friend in this case. Instead of sending over a generic resume for each job, pull keywords and phrases from the job posting and add them to your resume. This will make it easier for an algorithm to align your skills with the company’s needs.
You may want to consider using a tool like Skillsyncer, a keyword optimization app for resumes. This tool can highlight the main keywords in a job description and make sure they are included in your resume. The software was created by Nick Francioso, an Army veteran who offers mentorship and career training for transitioning vets. He offers a one-year free trial for students, veterans, members of the military, and their spouses.
Additional Resume Resources for Veterans
Along with these tips, there are other tools online that you can use to translate your military resume and make it more appealing.
Sean O’Keefe, a former staff sergeant in the Army and current senior software engineer at Google, has worked to provide insight and resources to veterans who are looking to enter the civilian workforce.
“In 2007, I made the transition to civilian life after serving in the military for five years,” he writes. “Though I was sure my experience as an engineer in the U.S Army would be valuable to employers, I had far less experience writing a resume that would appeal to recruiters hiring for civilian jobs.”
O’Keefe recommends a Google resource with Applied Digital Skills lessons, where you can learn how to create and edit a resume and learn other workplace skills like project management and effective communication.
Additionally, there are organizations that offer programs veterans can use to hone their resumes and prepare to enter the civilian workforce.
For example, the Career Opportunity Redefinition & Exploration (CORE) Leadership Program at Deloitte University prepares veterans to be leaders in the workplace and enter their job fields with confidence. This particular program is held at the Westlake, Texas campus, but all travel and accommodation expenses are covered.
Artificial intelligence may change the job-hunting process for transitioning service members soon. Meanwhile, we recently curated 10 employment resources for veterans seeking work, along with 20 companies actively hiring and supporting veterans. Once you have polished your resume, use those guides to start your job search.
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