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The Resume Riddle: How Recruiters Can Read Between the Lines of a Military Resume

Recruiters and hiring managers are often surprised to hear about the challenges faced by veterans when they’re looking for civilian jobs. Part of the problem is that veterans have difficulty creating a resume that translates their skills into “civilian-speak” – and employers have difficulty understanding them. There are multiple resources available to help veterans convert their resumes into more civilian-friendly documents, but employers could be missing out on excellent hires by not knowing how to read a military resume. Here’s what to look for, and how to “read between the lines,” so to speak.

1.    Take Your Time

Forget about scanning a military resume for keywords. Spend a full five minutes reviewing and try to visualize what each position might have entailed. Make notes to ask for more information on any aspects that are unclear, such as the number of people the candidate was in charge of, or what decisions they were responsible for. You might find the candidate has been all over the world, for example, which would be a great benefit in an organization dealing with global clients.

2.    Read the Cover Letter

Read the cover letter carefully and in detail. Military personnel are often used to keeping resumes brief and tactical, and including information like their goals and values in the cover letter. To get a complete picture of a veteran candidate, it’s important to read everything in the resume package and get a feel for the type of person applying for the position, as well as their background and experience.

3.    Look for Tangibles

When you’re reviewing a military resume, as with any other it’s important to scan for tangible results and benchmarks. Look for dollar amounts that are connected to specific results, achievements, and results delivered. Ideally, these will be highlighted in a bulleted list, but a veteran candidate might not realize the importance of pulling them out so they can be easily spotted. In the military, excellent results could be indicated by decorations and awards, so ask for more details if you see any of those listed.

4.    Check Service Dates

Don’t just look at the start and end date, although that’s a good indicator of the number of years of overall experience. Veterans with 15 years’ military service may have excellent training, milestones and results, while someone medically discharged after only a few years could have the advantage of youth on their side.

5.    Evaluate Deployments

Examine the dates of various deployments. Ask questions about the reason for briefer periods, and get the details of the longer deployments. A candidate with multiple successful deployments on their resume could have more adaptability to new environments, while someone with fewer, longer-term deployments might be comfortable with longer commitments. Ask about the technologies used during deployments. You might not have heard of them, but chances are good that a veteran with a sound background in operating military information technology can master your in-house IT.  

The Bottom Line

Keep in mind that many veterans have never had to apply for work in a business environment before, but just because they don’t know the jargon or use the buzzwords it doesn’t mean they don’t have the right experience for the job. Leadership qualities, the ability to work in a team and take instruction are all equally valuable factors in hiring the right person for the job and becoming a veteran-friendly employer. You might not be used to spending an extra 10 minutes on an individual resume, but when it comes to veteran applicants it could well be worth your time.

Post your vacant positions on our online job board to reach thousands of qualified veteran candidates and do your part to help reintegrate our military service members into civilian society.