Sometimes you need to leave your military experience off of the resume. This advice may sound a little shocking, and it typically causes some confusion and frustration. But that’s because veterans are often told that our military background is valuable. We are told that military experience automatically insulates us because we have the following traits; leadership, team camaraderie, and resiliency.
Tailoring Your Resume
But what happens when you find that you are getting more interviews when you remove your time in service? Where does that leave the praise of military skills being highly sought-after? Popular advice from human resource professionals is to tailor each resume to the job you are applying to. If your particular skillsets are not relevant or in alignment with the organizational culture, then sometimes, it is best to rephrase or omit those experiences so that you’re seen as a credible candidate. This can be incredibly challenging when veteran job candidates only have military experience on their resume, or even more so, for those that have spent the last 20 years in uniform.
Shaping the Resume Narrative
The challenge for senior veterans is that they are not able to shape the narrative very far past the truth. The truth is that they are a retired or senior military member and are now in search of a civilian career. In short, what you see is what you get. Either their skills are highly sought-after, as the media and America would imply, or they are not. The only way we are going to be able to address the stigma that surrounds military experience is if we first can admit the truth.
There can be subconscious bias surrounding military service, and the media and misinformation are largely to blame. I would even go as far as to add that some veteran service organizations (VSO’s) and veteran nonprofits perpetuate the misinformation due to a lack of understanding of the veteran population in its entirety. Many of these organizations rely on volunteers and those that may not have had shared experiences with whom they are serving. When you factor in the subconscious bias that impacts how employers see veteran job candidates and the general sense of misinformation within the veteran services community-you find a much larger sum of barriers for veterans to encounter.
It’s a Complex Job Market
Ultimately, the choice of whether to remove your time in service is unique to each veteran job candidate. And it is a choice that should not be taken lightly. Years ago, I began an experiment where I had two resume formats – one with my military service and one without it. I found that the resume with military experience only seemed to resonate with a certain category of employers. The general workforce seemed to prefer the non-military experience resume format. In fact, I received more interviews from the resume without my military experience. This realization opened up a need to further explore the complexity of how the typical job market truly perceived our time in service versus how the media and the community portrayed us. The media oftentimes refers to those that served as heroes. While this may seem like a harmless term of endearment, one could argue that this label is also impacting how civilian employers perceive us–as untenable, war-fighting soldiers that are cut from a very particular cloth and may not be a “good fit” for their organization.