If you look up “how to write a resume,” you’ll get a bunch of links to blogs and how-to sites with all the latest tips and tricks for catching a recruiter’s eye. And while all of that information can be helpful, it can also be daunting — especially for soon-to-be veterans with a unique military skill set that doesn’t apply to most civilians doing that same Google search.
So, we’ve saved you a step. We asked recruiters from six companies on our Best for Vets: Employers 2018 list across a variety of industries to tell us the first thing they look at when they receive a resume.
Here’s what they said.
Name: Holly Harris
Title: Amazon Web Services recruiter
First thing I look for: Does this person meet all the basic qualifications listed in the job posting, such as certifications or experience?
Tips for catching my eye: I specialize in technical recruiting for data center infrastructure roles at Amazon Web Services. The first thing I ask myself when looking at a resume is simple: Does the candidate have all of the certifications or experience required for the role? These requirements are listed in the basic qualifications section for each job description. This is an important thing for veterans to consider as they prioritize their experiences during active duty. What from your military career is relevant to the role you’re applying for? Make sure you highlight that clearly!
Once we determine that, we look for signs that the candidate aligns with our leadership principles. At Amazon we have 14 leadership principles that guide our decision making in just about everything. No matter what company you’re applying for, make sure you’re trying to align your resume to their values. This means tailoring your resumes to each specific role, while highlighting all of the certifications and qualifications that are required for that role on your resume.
Name: Chris Davison
Title: Veteran recruiting and Warrior Integration Program manager
Company: BAE Systems
First thing I look for: Do your skills and experience match up to the job?
Tips for catching my eye: I’m often asked what is the most important thing I like to see on a resume. Well, that depends on the job, of course, as some roles may be more education-driven or some might require more technical expertise. However, there’s one thing that must be evident in your resume: Do your skills and experience match up to the job [for] which you’re applying? I know this sounds simplistic, but you’d be surprised how quickly a resume can be dismissed by the reviewer if there’s no direct linkage to the job description.
Use keywords pulled directly from the job announcement to tailor your resume. Most recruiters will spend less than 10 seconds reviewing a resume if they don’t first see some direct similarities between your experience and the job you’re applying to. As a transitioning service member your goal is to translate your military skills to civilian terminology as best as you can.
Many companies offer military skills translators right on their careers site, so take advantage of this. Plug in your [military occupational specialty] or rating code and see what populates. Then read those jobs announcements to get a better feel for what content your resume should contain.
This will definitely give you a head start when preparing your resume and make it much easier for the recruiter to identify a match. Plus, a lot of companies use software that scans applications by key words or phrases. Resumes that don’t use the right keywords tend to be automatically rejected and sometimes don’t make it to the recruiter’s inbox.
Name: Corrina Hamilton
Title: Human resources representative in talent acquisition
Company: General Motors
First thing I look for: Objective
Tips for catching my eye: Most importantly what stands out in a military resume is the objective — what their end goal is and where they want to go with all the military occupational skills they have achieved. Success cannot be achieved if there is no thought as to what path they want to take in their future. Companies focus on transferable skills and retention. A recruiter just placing a veteran where the military occupational skills match will not produce a long term fit or let a veteran reach their full potential.
Another thing a recruiter looks for on a resume is relocating and moving to different locations. Seeing the veteran’s commitment and sacrifice shows dedication and drive. The ability to follow through with a job change and relocation, then reach success, shows the hiring manager that this candidate has high organizational skills and can easily adapt to change.
Name: Sultan Camp
Title: Military liaison and strategic recruiter
Company: Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries
First thing I look for: The essential elements: name, contact information — including address, because the position may or may not pay relocation — education, clearance and years of relevant experience, industry, past titles and keywords from the job description.
Tips for catching my eye: You've got a maximum of 7.4 seconds to make an impact, according a recent Ladders study of recruiter behavior.
What are we looking for in 7.4 seconds? The study revealed that recruiters spent almost 80 percent of their resume review time looking at just a few essential elements: your name, current title and company, previous title and company, start and end dates for current and previous positions, where you want to work and education. In the 7.4 seconds they spent on these bits of information, they absorbed little else. So whether you want to hear it or not, that narrow focus means that unless you make these ... areas extremely easy for them to find within approximately four seconds, the odds are high you’ll be instantly passed over.
So, when you write your resume or have anyone else help you write it, take the context above to heart. You're not going to make the cut if you're not in the same industry, your job titles aren't familiar, you don't have the years of matching experience, you have significant gaps or your salary doesn't match what the company has budgeted for that position.
Most employers are not interested in your personal objectives for your life and your career. They’re only interested in how you can help their company solve its problems and achieve its goals. That’s why they hire.
Name: Rick DeMarco
Title: Veterans advocate and military field recruiter
Company: Orange County Sheriff’s Office
Industry: Law Enforcement
First thing I look for: Application
Tips for catching my eye: We review both your resume and application. Your application is important to us during your initial screening because it provides us with information about your experience, driving and criminal history. Among the things we look for are documentation of illegal drug use, military training and discipline, and whether you otherwise meet the minimum requirements listed on our website.
For a deputy academy sponsorship position, minimum requirements include that you are a citizen of the U.S., have either an associate degree, two years of active-duty military experience, or four years of National Guard or reserves, or a combination of these. We hire using veterans’ preference.
If you reach the panel board testing stage, you will bring your resume for review, as the panel board raters will look for relevant experience and/or training from your resume that may support your answers to the questions asked.
Once you pass the initial screening and successfully complete any required testing, your application and resume may be forwarded to the supervisor of the section you are applying to, so it is advised that you truthfully tailor your resume to include the skill sets required for the job you are applying for.
Name: Andrea Franzen
Title: Diversity, military recruiter
Company: U.S. Bank
Industry: Banking-Financial Services
First thing I look for: Relevant work experience
Tips for catching my eye: Resumes that come across as the strongest to me typically have these things in common: They are simple, straightforward and easily understood by non-military members.
The number one thing we look for in reviewing resumes is that your work experience relates to the role for which you’re applying. It’s important to communicate your military experience as it translates to a civilian job in language easily understood by a non-military recruiter or hiring manager.
At U.S. Bank, we offer managers resources to help translate military experience into job skills. However, the more you can do up front to simplify, the easier it will be for the manager to understand and the more time the manager will be able to spend evaluating your skills. Your accomplishments should be translated as it relates to the job you are applying to. Consider writing your accomplishments in one of these commonly understood formats: EAR (event-action-result) or STAR (situation-task-action-result).