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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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4. Should you include an objective? Yes and no. Yes, you should include it if it focuses on a specific, targeted position for which you are qualified. You must be reasonably certain that the opening exists. No, if you are expressing your objective in vague or general terms. Consider having two versions of your resume. Use the one without an objective when you also include a cover letter that expresses your interest in a specific job. In the alternative, take advantage of the powerful signal that can be sent with a specifically worded objective on your resume. An objective that takes up more than one line is not specific enough.

5. What signal are you sending? You will be hired for one of three reasons: your experience, your potential or a combination of both. To be hired for your experience, you must be the square peg that fits the square hole. It is the combination of jobs, training and certifications on your resume that generated the interview and got you the job. You are selling your past, not your future. Hiring you is low risk, your value-add is immediate and your starting salary will be higher. However, you may also need to sacrifice career and salary growth. Being hired for your potential means the employer believes in your future and will train and develop you accordingly. Your past experience means little and you are basically starting over. Hiring you is risky and your future is unknown. Since your value-add is downstream, your starting salary will be lower. The employer is investing in you way beyond your paycheck. For some military personnel, neither one of those first two reasons is ideal. What to do? Compromise. Go to work for an employer who cares about both your past and your future. To pull this off, make sure your resume focuses not only on what you have done but also on how well you did it. Achievement in past endeavors is a great indicator of your ability to succeed in the future.

6. Will it also succeed as a writing sample? Most jobs require the ability to compose and present information in written format, that is, to communicate well. You will automatically be providing every interviewer with a writing sample - your resume! That document is a direct reflection of not only your writing skills but also your preparation, thoroughness, attention to detail and accuracy. It must be letter perfect. No misspelled or misused words. No typos. No grammatical or syntax errors. Take the time to proofread it several times, frontwards and backwards and ask others to do the same.

7. Have you employed key words? Many companies use keyword scanning software to select resumes. If you have a specific job in mind, make sure your resume contains position- and industry-specific terms. Take them directly from the job description. If your target is a company rather than a specific job, then visit the company’s web site and look for keywords in the mission statement or core values. If you have no particular company or job in mind, then choose keywords that best reflect what makes you tick and what matters to you in your job. Once you have selected your keywords, position them prominently and repeat each one if possible.

8. Include personal information? Your name and contact information must be on the resume, but how about additional personal information? You should not include vital statistics, health, religious or political information. Any reference to marital status and children on a resume is tricky. Some companies prefer to hire married people and some jobs put a severe strain on families. If unsure, omit it. Including things like community service, volunteerism, second language fluency, travel, hobbies and interests can pay dividends because they add a human element to an inanimate document. They also give the interviewer icebreaker material and conversation generators.

9. Did you make any of these mistakes? The words References Available upon Request are a waste of space. Do not include a list of references; that is a separate document. Listing date of availability for employment is a bad idea unless it is immediate. Expressing a willingness to travel and/or relocate is fine, as long as it also happens to be completely true, otherwise you are at best wasting space; at worst being misleading. Do not include your military rank or rating with your name on the resume. If appropriate, you can mention it in the experience section.


There is no such thing as one size fits all when it comes to resumes. I have written, reviewed, edited or tweaked over 4,000 military resumes during my career and have experienced first-hand what works and what does not. Seek the assistance of 10 resume experts and you will end up with 10 different resumes, 11 if you include my guidance above.


Your resume is the most important tool in your transition toolbox. Physically, it is one or two sheets of paper with 400 to 1000 words. Figuratively, it is the bridge that connects your past to your future.

Thanks for your service and good hunting!

Tom Wolfe is a Career Coach, Columnist, Author and Veteran and can be found at www.out-of-uniform.com.


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