As the manager for a military resume writing service, I come across thousands of resumes from a variety of fields and backgrounds. After seeing so many military personnel continue to make some of these avoidable errors on civilian resumes, I decided to share a list of the more common mistakes, as well as practical solutions and advice to help prevent resume shortfalls.
1. Issue: Length of the document is too long or too short.
Solution: Most civilian resumes should aim between one and two pages of content. For those of you struggling to narrow down your 20+ years of experience, go back approximately 10 years using your most recent, relevant work history. Keep in mind that federal resumes are an entirely different document varying between three and five pages.
2. Issue: Poor visual layout.
Solution: Consistency is crucial! If you decide to bold one title, do so for the rest of your positions. Are you unsure of whether or not a word should be hyphenated, abbreviated, or one-word? A good source to use is “The Associated Press Stylebook.” The publication reflects current writing practices and provides a standard application of the English language. Do not use cursive or fancy fonts, stick to size 10 or 12 Times New Roman or Arial.
3. Issue: Use of military jargon.
Solution: Your MOS was a 35F and you were responsible for OEF’s IPB. Great, so what does that mean exactly? It’s necessary that you put information in context for the reader. Translating your military experience into “civilian language” is one of the most difficult tasks you’ll face, but it’s also one of the most essential. If in doubt, explain!
4. Issue: Punctuation/syntax/spelling errors.
Solution: While spell check may help reduce some misspellings, it won’t catch everything. For example, the correct use of their, there, and they’re won’t be picked up by spell check. After writing a resume, you should review for edits at least several times. Have trusted friends check for any blunders you may have overlooked.
5. Issue: Including inappropriate e-mail addresses.
Solution: Hiring authorities are scrutinizing every detail of your resume, and this includes your choice of an e-mail address. Keep it simple and if in doubt, create a professional new e-mail address that uses your name.
6. Issue: Incorporating unrelated information.
Solution: Listing that you enjoy playing golf or collecting motorcycles (yes, I have seen these on resumes) is not going to impress a human resources manager. Focus on industry standards and make sure your resume meets all of the qualifications companies are looking for. If you are targeting your resume to individual jobs, make sure that all the information is factual and not contrived just to meet a job description.
7. Issue: Vague objective statements.
Solution: Too many resumes contain the following statement: Hardworking professional seeking employment that will utilize my skills. If you just submitted your resume for a job opening, of course you want them to hire you. Stop stating the obvious! Rather, list all the applicable skill sets that you possess pertaining to the specific position you’re applying for.
8. Issue: Stating your duties/responsibilities while disregarding accomplishments.
Solution: Use action verbs to describe what you did, and integrate key quantifiable figures that showcase the results. Companies are looking for a history of demonstrated positive impact you brought to previous organizations. For example, discuss the number of personnel you manage, as well as the value of any equipment you oversaw.
9. Issue: Mentioning “references available.”
Solution: It is assumed that you are going to have references, so don’t waste valuable real estate on your resume. If a human resource manager requests references, have a separate document containing a mixture of supervisors, colleagues and personal contacts.
10. Issue: A boring resume.
Solution: I come across many resumes that don’t stand out. Human resource managers are going through hundreds of resumes, and only spend about 15 seconds determining whether or not they want to continue reading. You need to have a wow factor! Think about what attributes you have that distinguish you from a sea of applicants and focus on highlighting them.
All of these suggestions can help you create a winning resume when put into practice. If you are in the process of transitioning, use free expert services such as your service branch Transition Assistance Program office for guidance and feedback.