In a recent article we explored a study that found hiring officials spent more time reviewing two-page resumes than they did on ones only one-page long. As we approach the job search season, here are some tips to ensure the information in your two-page resume is understandable to a reviewer that might not be experienced with military terminology.

1. Civilianize Your Language

Let’s face it, the military speaks its own language. From acronyms, to the NATO phonetic alphabet, to the 24-hour clock, and job titles only found in the military, civilian hiring officials reading your resume will put it in the circular file as soon as they hit these “foreign” words.

As far as translating military terms and abbreviations, a good resource is the DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms. It can help you explain in your resume – for example, what unconventional warfare means in civilian terms – “Activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt, or overthrow a government or occupying power by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary, and guerrilla force in a denied area.”

Another good resource is an article published here at ClearanceJobs is titled Common Military-to-Civilian Translations.

Converting military-specific job titles can be tricky. You don’t want to embellish them to the point that they are no longer accurate, for example calling an Army O3 Company Commander of a unit a CEO when in fact “Director” or Senior Manager” would be more accurate and appropriate.

2. Know the Job

In order to tailor your resume to a specific job, which you should do in most cases, it is important to know all you can about the position – especially the basic qualifications required. If it is in an industry new to you, ask those working in that field about the specifics of the job. At a minimum, you should:

  • Review the basic qualifications of the position
  • Determine if you meet those qualifications
  • Make sure your resume reflects how you meet those qualifications
  • If it doesn’t, either change your resume to reflect how you meet the basics, or if you can’t move onto applying for a different position.

If you can’t meet the basic qualification of a position, you are more than likely wasting your time applying for it. The only real situation where you can get by with a generic resume is if you will be handing them out at a job fair or other employment networking event.

3. Put Your Most Information First

Because resume reviewers spend very little time looking at each resume, you want to put your most important information above the fold or in the top 1/3 of the page. This usually means starting out with a summary where in five or six sentences you encapsulate how your military experience qualifies you for the position.

4. Include Keywords

If submitting a resume online, it is critical to include keywords, where applicable, specific to the industry. Many companies use scanning software to screen resumes and if it doesn’t pick up on any of the keywords it was programmed to recognize, it will skip over your resume, thus preventing you from further resume screening or getting to the all-important interview. You can pick out which keywords are important by looking for ones used several times throughout a job posting.

5. Make it Easy to Read

While a lot of resume writing articles in the past stressed using one format over another depending on the situation, most resume experts now recommend content is more important than format – especially making your resume easy to read. Because most resume reviewers do spend so little time scanning down a resume, make sure yours is easy to understand so they will spend more time on it.

6. Finalize

Now that you have your resume done, there are a couple of last things to do before submitting it:

  • First proofread it out loud a couple of times. Does everything flow nicely?
  • Check for spelling and grammar errors. Errors will get a resume rejected quicker than anything else.
  • Have a civilian read over your resume for errors and to ensure everything is understandable in civilian terms. It never hurts to have a second or even third pair of eyes reviewing it.
  • Make any final changes and submit.

Using these six tips will go a long way to help ensure your resume is the best it can be and accurately reflects what you have to offer. Now comes the hard part – waiting to hear back!

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Kness retired in November 2007 as a Senior Noncommissioned Officer after serving 36 years of service with the Minnesota Army National Guard of which 32 of those years were in a full-time status along with being a traditional guardsman. Kness takes pride in being able to still help veterans, military members, and families as they struggle through veteran and dependent education issues.