Make Your Resume Rock
Best practices for building your post-military resume
Now that you know where you belong and the rules of engagement, it’s time to go out there and get the job. To begin, here’s your resume playbook.
The most important thing to know about resumes is that 95% of what people worry about doesn’t matter - fonts, paper stock, etc. That’s because a resume is usually only consumed by two entities:
- An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that just applies an algorithm to grade your words: Do you have the right keywords that line up with the job? If so, nothing else matters.
- A recruiter who spends, on average, seven seconds reading each resume. So he doesn’t have time to grade you on aesthetics, he just needs to know whether you fit his mental model for the job.
So to make sure you focus on what actually matters, grab the Shift template and then focus on these two points:
1) Resumes Need Keywords
As described in the last section, the recruiter doesn’t have time to figure out what you did in the military (and the ATS doesn’t have the ability!). So it’s up to you to feed him the exact words he’s looking for. And where can you find those? Right in the job description written by - guess who? - the recruiter! Here are the most important ones to focus on:
- Job Title - Because recruiting tends to be a risk-averse world (remember the pain the recruiter faces from the hiring manager?), it’s important that you show you’ve done similar work before. For example, even if your military title wasn’t “Operations Manager,” you should make sure to mention examples of operations management in both your Summary and Experience sections.
- Skills - Every job description includes lots of skills, usually spelled out in a Qualifications section at the bottom. For each of the skills you possess (e.g., supply chain management, Six Sigma, lean manufacturing), include those in your Skills section, as well as your Summary and Experience, where appropriate.
2) Resumes Need Results
The other cardinal resume sin is to omit the actual results of your work. Too many applicants just list what they had to do (e.g., “Oversaw project timeline and delegated tasks to teammates”) and gloss over what they actually achieved (e.g., “Oversaw $55 million project with 125 stakeholders, delivering the new equipment 15% under budget and a month ahead of schedule”).
So make sure that every single bullet focuses on what made you special since that’s what will catch the recruiter’s eye in their seven-second scan. Here are three of the most powerful ways to do so:
Quantify - Whether success is measured in time and dollars, like the above example, or lives touched and percentage improvements is less important than the sheer fact you have numbers. Because when a recruiter’s eyes gloss over the sea of words that is a resume, numbers will pop out like almost nothing else!
Qualify - Of course, some accomplishments don’t lend themselves to numerical categorization. In those cases, perhaps there’s another standard by which you were judged. Did you win an award, get the approval of a high-ranking officer, or earn a promotion earlier than expected? Any of these signify to a recruiter that you didn’t just show up - you went well above and beyond the job description.
- Set the Stage - And finally, there will be some accomplishments where the quantities will be underwhelming and the work unheralded, but that really were some of the best work you did in the military. In those cases, it’s up to you to paint a picture for the recruiter. For example, instead of saying, “Increased the number of recruits by 10%,” give the full context: “Increased the number of recruits by 10% in just one month, even with a declining recruitment budget.”
You can get Shift’s complete guide to resumes here. Just note that because recruiters want to see specific keywords and relevant results on your resume (which, in turn, makes it easy to recommend you), you should create a separate version of your resume for each major job category (e.g., Project Management resume, Data Analyst resume).