Resumes: First Impressions Matter

I review hundreds of resumes and Linkedin profiles every week and most are very poorly written.  How someone can expect to get contacted for a position when their resume looks horrible, doesn’t paint a picture of what they’ve done in the past and what they are capable of in the future?  Most job seekers don’t spend the required time to get their resume to where sourcing specialists, recruiters or HR managers would want to look at it…it winds up in the shred box or just passed up.  Putting a good resume together is pretty simple, it just takes time and effort to get it that way.  Here are some things to look at when developing your resume:

Contact Information is correct…simple right, some forget to keep this updated.  Your address is important because recruiters may be looking for a local candidate or may be searching for a specific location and if it’s not on your resume, you won’t come up in the search.  Some job seekers have been advised not to put their address on their resumes for security reasons.  I can understand that, but at minimum, put the city and state that you live so you can come up in a search.  Additionally, keep your telephone number updated and your voice mailbox cleaned out.

Summary of Qualifications:  This should be an overview of your experience and skillset both hard skills, if you are technical, and soft skills, to show of your leadership/management.  It should cover areas listed in the job description using similar key words that jump off the page to the reader.  This is where most people have problems ultimately resulting in it heading to the shred box.

Key Skills:  If you have key skills through training, certifications and experience, you want to make sure those are highlighted.  I recommend inserting them just after the Summary to catch the readers attention.

Professional Experience:  This section can be pretty fluid.  It can me chronological, functional or a mixture of both.  I recommend chronological unless you have a serious gap in your employment history that needs to be delt with.  Remember employment history is the #1 area used for screening out candidates and showing a consistent employment history serves you well.  This is also the section where you highlight your accomplishements, not your responsibilities.  You can be responsible for much and do very little.  We want to see hard core accomplishments.  Start with an action verb, then the situation or task, the action taken and the result.  If you do this for all your accomplishments, your resume will stand out from others.

Education and Training:  List significant education, degrees, certifications and training in this section.  Be sure to review the job description for requirements.  If your education is significantly more than required, this could screen you out.  Some ask why?  Employers fear that you have more education than needed and that you will always be looking for a bigger better deal more comensurate with your education and leave at first opportunity.  So handle this one with care.

Some other things to consider.  Spelling and Grammar; always run the checker and get additional eyes on it.  Read it aloud.  Format and Design; consistent, simple and clean is always better unless you are a graphic designer showing off your work.  No more than 2 pages, no more than 10 years experience.  If there are areas you want to show off that are more than 10 years old, be careful, age discrimination can happen without you knowing it based on years and numbers in the resume.

The bottom line; your resume is your calling card, it is your first impression to a company and reflects your level of effort and professionalism.  If it looks horrible and is poorly written this will define you to the company and most likely wind up in the shred box.

No one cares more about your career than you do, so take the time to put together a solid resume and continue to refine it throughout your career.


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Recruiter/Candidate Communications

Over the last couple years I’ve noticed a trend in candidates not wanting to communicate with recruiters during their job search.  I’ve had potential candidates tell me they only communicate via e-mail…really.  I’ve also had more candidates go dark during the interviewing phase, never to be heard from again even with a potential offer on the table.   I believe this goes back to the influence in social media, or what I call non-social media, in our everyday life as well as the fear people have with conflict.  We are being taught that you can do everything/anything on our computers/personal handheld devices, and to avoid conflict at all costs.  The fact is we are producing a generation that doesn’t understand what it means to be a professional, to learn to talk with people and that bad news is OK.

What we recruiters are looking for is open and honest communications.  It’s OK to tell us what is going on with your job search, your interviewing with another company, and/or accepted a job offer.  A recruiter worth his/her salt is going to understand that you are going to do what’s in your best interest, so just tell us.  Most of us truly want to help you with your career, so why would you want to burn that bridge?  Trouble occurs when there is a lack of communication about things you’ve got going on, or when you go dark won’t answer phone calls, e-mails or texts.  This reflects on your professionalism and you will probably never be able to work with that recruiter again.  When we let recruiters know what is going on, who we’re working with and the companies we are interviewing with, it tells us you are active in your search and if you get offers from those companies and it’s not a suprise.  You keep the relationship in good standing so if anything happens in the future and you need to go back to them, you can.

Communications, however, is a two way street! Recruiters expect candidates to be up front and communicate with them, the reverse is also true for recruiters.  Recruiters must inform candidates when opportunities are available and when they are not.  We must also provide feedback when a candidate interviews so the candidate can adjust and improve if needed.  Recruiters can’t get upset if a candidate isn’t communicating if they aren’t giving the same professional courtesy in return.

The bottom line is be a professional.  Communicate with your recruiter or candidate to improve the overall job search experience.  In the end, both parties will be better off.

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Who Says “You Can’t Go Home”: Pitfalls of moving home after your service is up.

Over the last 5 years, I spoken to thousands of military service members from every service either on the telephone, at job fairs or while attending T-GPS and one of the recurring themes of our younger service members is that they are leaving the service to move back home.  The first question I always ask is, why are you wanting to move back home?  The answer I usually get is…girlfriend/boyfriend, fiancé, family or friends.  What I never get is, “I have a great job lined up.”  So let’s talk about the pitfalls of moving home after leaving the military.

  1. Things change over time and when you go home, they are not what you come to expect.  How do I know this, when I was in the service I went home while on leave to visit family and friends.  Things were great after the first few days, but when things got going, those who were my friends had grown up, started jobs, started families.  Life was evolving for them, just as they were evolving for me.  It was just not the same and they had moved on without me.
  2. If things haven’t changed there, you have.  Your experience in the service has given you a view of the world that your friends don’t have.  You’ve gained a job skill and been given responsibilities that most of your friends will never see, you’ve most likely been a supervisor or been in charge of teams to get things done, you’ve traveled to different parts of the country if not the world and experience life in a different way.  Your view of life has become much bigger than your friends and family. Once the joy of moving home is over, you will be a fish out of water because you have outgrown your hometown.  How do I know this?  I go back to my hometown and see the same people doing the same things and they’ve not done or accomplished anything near to what I have.  I can’t even image what life would be like if I would have moved home.
  3. Depending on where you live, most jobs/careers won’t equal out to the technology, responsibility and authority you have as a military member.  If your hometown is a major city, you may be able to find the same level of job but it is very rare.  I get calls all the time from former military members looking for new opportunities after they have moved home.  Most of the time it is because they can’t get hired in a similar position they had in the service or they are working for a friend, or at the local store or some other job that doesn’t pay the bills.

So, why am I writing this?  The main reason is, I see too many military service men and women who are leaving the service that don’t understand how important their first job after the service is in shaping the rest of their future.  Not finding the right opportunity can cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime.  If they move home and can’t find a job that is going to improve their lifestyle, give them opportunities for growth and make them happy in the first couple years after leaving the service, the likelihood of them having a promising career diminishes rapidly.

So what is the solution?  When talking with young men and women about their career goals, no matter where they want to go, I always suggest the interim step in their career search.  The interim step allows them to gain career experience in the job that they want and a better than minimum wage salary, while looking for an opportunity wherever it is they want to ultimately move.  It takes the pressure away that is put on them by the hard timeline of their end of service date and opens up a greater variety of opportunities that may not exist back in their home town.


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Language Matters: Clean it up or lose out!

Over the last five years I’ve had many opportunities of speaking to thousands of military members that are leaving the service.  One of the trends that I’ve seen is the use of expletives in day-to-day conversations with those outside the service.  Candidates I am screening for job opportunities are using expletives in normal conversations.  Also, candidates are using these words while in an interview.  There is nothing that will kill an interview quicker than using an expletive when speaking to interviewers or hiring managers.  The use of such language is a direct reflection on you and how you act within the work place.  While I know this type of language is common place in the services, it has no place when interviewing, phone screen, at a job fair or any other place where you are speaking to a company about an opportunity.  This is a friendly reminder!

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Culture Shock: Making a smooth Military Transition

There have been many articles written on how to make a smooth transition from the military.  Advice on how to develop a well written resume, how to apply for positions, how to approach and answer questions during  the interview and the list goes on.  What is not written about or discussed is once you receive and offer and start a new career, the CULTURE SHOCK that occurs during your first year out of the military.

I transitioned from the military back in 2012 and thought I was ready.  I attended T-GPS, worked with Military and Family Readiness and even had a mentor to assist in the process. What I discovered was getting the job was easy, dealing with the culture differences was the most difficult for me.   I went to work  for a DoD contractor, but worked in a department where there was no former military members in it and there was definitely a difference in the work environment.  Here are some of the differences that I noticed.

  1. Work Ethic – The pace of work was much slower than what I was use to.  Most military professionals know one speed and that is GO. When given a task, we take it on, complete it and are on to the next.  I was told several times to slow down that it wasn’t necessary to complete things so quickly.  Coming in early and staying late to get work down was not the norm.  When I showed up 30 minutes early, I was the only one there.  At the end of the day, it was a mass exodus to get out the door.  My norms were not the same as my teammates and this caused tension in the office.
  2. Individualism versus Teamwork – My TEAMMATES tended to work as individuals and had a hard time being a part of a team. Because they have been operating as individuals for so long, the suggestion of teams to accomplished tasks seemed to present a threat to how things are which leads to the last difference.
  3. Change – This was the hardest thing for me to adapt to when making my transition.  The resistance to change and the dismissal of new ideas was discouraging.  I felt that I because I was new I could bring fresh ideas to the table and we could improve our processes.  This was met with much resistance.   In the service, change happens all the time as we know.  Presenting new ideas to improve processes and make things better is always encouraged.  This was not my experience and ultimately led to my decision to move on.

The differences I’ve listed above are not necessarily bad, they are just different.  I prepared for the resume writing, applying for jobs, the interview and the follow-up but not prepared for the life in the civilian work force.  No matter where you go to work, there are going to be some cultural differences to what you are use to.  My suggestion is you find a mentor who has been in the civilian workforce for some time to discuss and prepare you for what you might face.  These were my challenges that I had to work through.  Your may be the same of maybe different, the key is to be prepared with the knowledge and understanding that there are going to be areas that you are not use to and what you’re going to do to overcome them.  Best of Luck!

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