When it comes to a job search, being able to quantify your skills is one of the biggest elements. Having viewed a lot of resumes at ClearanceJobs.com one of the biggest issues is seeing a resume and having no idea the kind of position an applicant is applying for.
Being specific, direct, and making your qualifications for a career immediately apparent is one of the most important steps you can take to land a great job. It’s also a key reason we frequently tell applicants that it’s not just important that you have a great resume, it’s also extremely important that you label it something other than “John Smith’s Resume.”
In addition to being clear, quantifying your skills is incredibly important. Each time you apply for a job you’re being measured against every other applicant. How you stack up to the competition is what will win or lose you the job.
One of the biggest disadvantages veterans, in particular, face in this situation is not knowing how they measure up in a hiring environment. Being given an unfamiliar set of criteria and trying to make a deployment or military career match isn’t easy. But it is vital if you’d like to get the job. Here are a few tips to making your skills more measurable, and to helping you stand out in a crowded applicant pool:
1. Translate your skills. This is the biggest one and something we talk about often. Don’t assume a recruiter or hiring manager knows military terminology. There’s room for some broad defense industry terms, especially if you’re applying with a defense contractor, but avoid acronyms and translate where necessary. I was recently at a veteran hiring event where a government transition assistance leader relayed a recent conversation he had with a civilian hiring manager, who had called him up to ask what in the heck an “ncoick” is – so, don’t list “NCOIC” on your resume expecting they’ll understand the term, or the administrative and leadership skills implied.
2. Write your resume for each job. Most service members come out of the military with a breadth of both leadership and teamwork skills, and a variety of skillsets. And be careful of summary or objective statements – if they explicitly state you’re looking for a specific type of job and you include them in applying for a job with a different scope of work, don’t expect to be considered. Dorion Baker, recruiting manager for intelligence at TASC, noted that he doesn’t consider an applicant who says he or she is looking for a leadership position when the position doesn’t require it. While you may have acquired many skills in the military, edit your resume to highlight just those that apply to the position you’re applying for.
3. Be willing to take a step down to take a step up. If you’re a veteran the phrase “internship” or “fellowship” may make you cringe. The last thing you want to do after a military career or term of service is pour someone coffee. Don’t be fooled by titles, however, many company or government internships or fellowships are the breeding ground for potential career opportunities. Do your homework, and get honest answers on how many interns move into full-time employment post-program. Also be willing to ask for a higher salary or stipend. You may not be able to find yourself in a direct equivalent position in the civilian sector, when it comes to title and stature. Don’t take it personally, and be willing to take on a different opportunity especially if it gives you the chance to build your skills and your civilian credentials.
4. Ask for equivalencies. Veterans can be a bit too honest in their job search. If you look at a job and see a long list of requirements that you don’t meet, you may think the opportunity is lost. If you feel like you’re qualified for a position – despite not having a certain level of education, civilian certification or training program – reach out to the hiring manager and ask if an exception can be made. In companies looking to hire more vets, in particular, a recruiter may be able to work with you, especially considering the unique and coveted skills you bring to the table already. If a bachelor’s degree is required and you only have some college or a certification is required that you don’t have, reach out to the recruiter to see if they’d be willing to consider you anyway.
How you measure up will make the difference in whether or not you land the job. Look for ways you can equate your skills to the civilian world review your resume, and the position requirements, with a keen eye. In a recent survey of companies by the Center for a New American Security, respondents noted that “the tie goes to the vet.” If a recruiter looks at your resume, however, and can’t figure out how to compare you to your civilian counterpart, you’ll lose your chance.