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Make Your Military Resume a Winner by Answering These 9 Questions

by Tom Wolfe, Career Coach and Contributing Editor

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A winning military resume presents your past experience in a way that also indicates your future potential. It grabs and holds the attention of the reader and makes him or her want to know more. To know more requires a conversation and that conversation is an interview. Simply stated, a resume is an interview generation tool and, like any tool, it must be well-cared for and appropriate to the task. How well does your military resume measure up to that standard? Answer these nine questions and modify it accordingly.

1. Is it easy to read? When first viewed, your military resume must send the signal that it will be easy to read. This signal involves length, format, font, borders, margins and white space. It must pass the seven seconds test, specifically the reader will pay close attention for that amount of time, at which point he or she becomes either interested enough to keep reading or loses interest and moves on the next one in the pile. White space, i.e., the absence of ink, is critical. Edit out all unnecessary words; choose a font style and size that is easy to read; minimize the use of text boxes, borders and other graphics; dump personal pronouns; cut out adjectives and adverbs whenever possible. Consider using bullets, a technique that will not only make the information easier to find but will also make it easier to read. Make sure it is free of military jargon, acronyms and phraseology.

2. How long should it be? This question is up for debate, but here is my take: you get one page for every 10 years since high school or college but no more than two pages. If you go to a second page, make sure the most important and/or relevant information is on the first page or the reader may never turn to page two. If two pages is impossible, consider using a stand-alone resume supplement or addendum. A well-written cover letter can often eliminate the need for a third page.

3. What style is best for you? There are three styles from which to choose. A chronological format displays the information in reverse chronological order and grouped within sections, the most common of which are contact information, objective, education/training, experience/achievement and additional/personal information. The functional focuses on consolidating specific and similar skills under functional headings, independent of the timeframe in which they occurred. Typical functional headings include Project Management, Command and Control, Operational Leadership, Customer Service, Quality Control, Training and Development and Process Improvement. The hybrid chrono-functional version is good for military personnel with more than 10 years of service. Use the functional format and add an abbreviated reverse chronological experience section, listing only the primary job titles and the years in which these assignments were held. In general, however, the vast majority of military job seekers will want to opt for the chronological format.

For more on military resumes, see military placement specialist Bradley-Morris, Inc.’s instructional video here:


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