Employers: Will You Read a Military Resume?


I recently trained a large group of hiring managers and recruiters on interviewing, hiring, and retaining veteran employees. They were excited to hear about the opportunities and benefits of hiring former military service members, and surprised to hear of the many challenges veterans face when leaving their military careers.

As part of the training, I included an exercise where I divided the audience into groups, distributed different versions of a classic "military resume," and asked them to discuss the answers to some questions. My goal was to see if they could uncover the assets and value these candidates offer their company even though the resumes were non-civilian and, admittedly, very hard to comprehend.

During the discussion which followed, the hiring managers remarked:

  • It looks like this candidate has a lot of leadership experience.
  • I'm not sure what these technologies are that she used but it sounds impressive!
  • This candidate has a lot of decorations and awards. Are they significant?
  • I wish I could understand her background better. I'm sure she's great
  • Wow! A four-page resume?
  • This candidate has been all over the world. That would be helpful in our company because we deal with global clients.

The most remarkable -- and unanimous -- comment was:

  • I would never spend the ten minutes we just spent reviewing and discussing this candidate's resume. I'm simply too busy.

These hiring managers and recruiters hit on a critical issue facing veterans who do not translate or adapt their resumes to the industry, job opening, and company: They are at competitive disadvantage if the resume cannot be read and understood quickly.

What can your hiring managers do?

If your recruiters and hiring managers encounter military resumes, some tips to efficiently review the resume for relevancy include:

  • Allow a full five minutes to read the resume. Knowing that most employers scan resumes quickly, looking for keywords and highlights, I'm suggesting you spend a few more minutes reviewing when you see that the resume represents a military background. Isn't five minutes spent to possibly engage a veteran in your organization worth the commitment?
  • In reviewing a military resume, look at tangible results and benchmarks. Scan for dollar amounts attached to results, accomplishments in leadership, and results delivered. Hopefully, these are highlighted in bullet pointed lists.
  • Consider length of service (look at service dates). A veteran with 20+ years of military service will likely show greater results, milestones, and training than someone medically discharged after three years of duty. Both candidates potentially offer great skills, qualities and value to the company.
  • Consider deployments. While not an indicator of resiliency, multiple deployments can point to flexibility, adaptability and increased skills. Fewer deployments can showcase longer term commitments (assignments) or different levels of responsibility during those assignments.
  • Read the cover letter. Veterans are often encouraged to keep their resumes tactical and express more of their goals and values in the cover letter. Encourage your recruiters and hiring managers to read the cover letters of veteran job candidates, and consider the totality of the cover letter/resume package.

Hiring veterans is challenging for most civilian employers. However, the returns on small investments in awareness and training are huge, and make a solid case for encouraging recruiters and hiring managers to spend a few extra minutes on a resume that indicates prior military service.

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