5 Veteran Resume Mistakes to Avoid

Military Transition

Translations are hard. Just ask anyone with fluency in multiple languages how easy it is to translate phrases or experiences that happen in one country, and they will affirm the challenge. Military training, certifications, and experiences are incredibly valuable. But when you’re accustomed to speaking one language and operating within those cultural norms, it is difficult to adjust and change your language, expectations, and methods. That’s exactly what has to happen to get a federal job or begin working for a cleared contractor. Your skills, education and experience from the military are advantageous to employers and the opportunities are out there. Make sure your resume isn’t limiting your job search.

Some key mistakes to avoid:

1. Jargon

Jargon isn’t just something veterans struggle with on their resumes. Many organizations have verbiage and project names specific to their organization. The military also has specific terms and acronyms that can easily be misunderstood or unrecognizable to a human resources professional. Focus on identifying your skills and your accomplishments in a way that transfers well outside the military. You don’t want your resume to miss the initial screenings. Once you have a phone call or an interview, you can add context and explain your experiences in the military better, but your resume needs to get your foot in the door. The door won’t open up if you have a resume that is confusing.

2. Contact Information

Don’t inundate potential employers with every single possible number you own. Simplify your contact information, but make sure you have one reliable phone number that has a voicemail and an email address. No need to provide duplicate types of contact information. What you do provide should be reliable, professional and something you frequently check. Online profiles can also be helpful to include on your resume, but not crucial.

3. Discriminatory Information

While you may desire to be personable and friendly, personal information that can be used as discrimination should not be on your resume. Information which identifies your age, race, religion, or disability should not be included on your resume. The exceptions is when listing a service related disability for veterans preference in federal or contract hiring. Let your work get you the job and eliminate any possibility that assumptions are made about you.

4. Long Resumes

If your resume is longer than two pages, you need to start cutting. It’s a hard process, but don’t skip this painful step. The longer the resume, the less likely it will be read. It can feel overwhelming to sift through all of that information. Put your skills, accomplishments, education, and experience on the chopping block and don’t stop trimming until you’ve hit two pages or less. Ask a friend for help – I know from experience that an extra set of eyes from someone I trust helped to rearrange my thought processes and made my resume cohesive and concise.

5. Wacky Fonts and Layout

You want your resume to represent you well and be easily read – that’s the whole goal. Any fonts outside the standard Times New Roman, Arial, or Courier can be hard to read and may not easily feed through automatic readers. Additionally, getting help with your layout can make your resume more pleasant to the reader’s eyes and even help you fit more content on less pages. Sometimes, all that white space can make it hard for people to focus on your resume and you can fit more on to a page when you play with the margins.

The good news is that within the Department of Defense (DoD), there are a number of veterans who can help pull your resume out of the pile and translate for you. But you don’t want to rely on the odds of having a veteran on the hiring team for a desired position. Make sure your resume speaks for itself and do the heavy translating work so your resume stands out for the right reasons.

Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.

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