I have to admit, there are few forms that don’t outright give me a headache. Perhaps the king of these documents is the well-beloved DD-214. Some veterans have compared it to the “Get Out of Jail Free” card in Monopoly (by the way this will definitely NOT get you out of jail, don’t ask me how I know.) This would be the most common comparison. I, however, a man of taste, would compare the DD-214 more to the “Golden Ticket” of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory lore. Especially if the annoying kids from that book all merge into that one d*ckhead in charge who is a walking friendly-fire incident. Sing it, Oompa Loompas!
What do you get from that NCO?
The one with a stick stuck up his a**hole?
Does he know there’s a medal too far?
Private Joe wants to hit him with his car.
They’re all tired of his crap.
Years later, that DD-214 might be framed over your mantle. As it should be. Since leaving the service, you might have taken advantage of your VA education benefits or went right into the civilian workforce. After some much needed R&R of course. That beard and beer belly are marvelous.
This is a long, roundabout way to say, your resume coming out of the service should look one way, but your resume 3+ years out of the service should be different. Maybe you used your GI Bill and went back to school. Maybe you just took the first job you could land and now it is time to go after something you really want to do. I’m going to provide you tips on how to combine and update your veteran resume and make you irresistible to recruiters.
What Are Recruiters Looking for in a Veteran Resume?
According to Glassdoor (plus some I threw in), here are some top things employers or recruiters will look for in your resumes:
- Are you using the correct keywords in your resume?
- Do you have a college degree or comparable work experience?
- Do you have the necessary certifications or skills?
- Does your resume show career progression?
- Outstanding job references?
- Do you have a searchable online presence? A.k.a. a complete LinkedIn profile?
As long as you said yes to most of these, your chances at landing that dream job are a damn good bet.
If you need help on how to communicate these things to a google doc, check out this blog by another vet, Eric Horton, as he handholds you through the process.
Now send in that brand new golden ticket to get the interview! No, I’m not referring to the DD-214, I am referring to your newly crafted resume that includes your experience of the last three years. Don’t worry, that DD-214 blanket will still come in handy on a cold lonely night. It might even get you a few drinks down at a VF-dubya’ — or at least a thank you for your service at the mall. And boy do I hate those people.
Veteran-Proof Tips Will Make Your Resume Irresistible to Recruiters
If you had/have a resume, but it has not been updated in years, you’re going to need to reevaluate it. It already might look sexy, but as stated before the longer you’re out of service the less important your service becomes in the eyes of the civilian sector. Which means you need a new avenue of approach. These tips and tricks could ease your way into it. Give them a look whether you use them or not. As all veterans know, it doesn’t hurt to have artillery support available when you already have an airstrike in your back pocket.
Bite the bullet, shoot the whiskey, embrace the suck, and drive-on.
1. Include Relevant Training or Education
One of the “perks” of being in the military was getting a basically free ride to college. Hope you took advantage of that while you were stuck at your first dead end job out of the military.
Any additional training/education or recent work history takes priority. This one makes more sense when you think about it.
You’re applying for a new or higher position and your discharge was over three years ago. Employers care far more about the recent you than the older you. Veterans know that a ton can change in three months, let alone three years. Therefore, while your service is on your resume, make sure it takes a back seat if at all possible.
A diploma or certification post-service has more weight than anything on a DD-214. Especially with how quickly technology and anything sciences related changes now.
2. Showing Career Progression or Length of Time Worked
Employers will sooner get an interview scheduled with someone who’s worked retail or was a desk jockey then a entry-level manager for years recently, over someone with their military service years prior and nothing else. Consecutive actions, such as working for the same place/position for longer and less gaps without work or education/training in a resume will do wonders.
So while it sucked to work at the first job you landed right out of the service, it still showed you were contributing. That you were a dedicated tax paying member of society. That you acquired new “skills” between being in the service and now.
Employers will dump a lot of money into getting you trained up and contributing to their pockets. Unlike the military who PCSed you every 1-3 years, they won’t feel comfortable hiring someone who has ping-ponged around job after job every 6 months.
3. You Still Should Mention Your Service
That hasn’t changed. You should/need to still mention it, but it’s now the icing and not the cake itself. The time to talk about your service is during the interview. Try having it as a backup to give you an edge over your competition.
Be advised: from personal experience, it can make or break your chances. Unfortunately, there’s still a very real stigma towards veterans and the military that exists. You can thank Hollywood and the rest of pop-culture and the media for that.
Sometimes, you mentioning your service can make you look like a complete bada**. Other interviews, employers will be afraid you’re going to have a breakdown and kill everyone. Be on your toes. Mention it in your resume, but don’t try to highlight “you the veteran or ex-military” over “you the professional.” It’s a sick game, but we all have to play.
You can also learn what not to do from my fellow vet, Joe. He opens up on how it killed his job offers, because he didn’t do it the right way.
3.1. Don’t Rely on Your Service Record
A continuation of point #3, do not overestimate military service, or underestimate how little many employers care about it.
I know how screwy that is. I’ve actually lost more employment opportunities because the potential employers saw that I’m a veteran. Nothing you can sue over or really prove either.
Only a ton of, “We’re looking for individuals with other backgrounds” reasons. That’s a pretty clever way of being a d***head, you d***head.
The stigma sucks, like all stigmas, and as my little brother has told me, “Bigger companies and higher paying jobs/careers will sooner turn you down, because people in the office are afraid you’ll take hostages on your first day.” The guy works for a technology firm and makes about six figures a year, so I tend to give him a little bit of credit with that.
Remember, the vast majority of this country hasn’t been anywhere near a third world country or warzone. When they see something in movies and novels, or hear about something on the news, the things they believe or think are pretty out-there. Too bad they have more power in employing you and getting that dream job than reality does.
I can’t emphasize the number of bulls*** it is, but as we’ve learned plenty, reality can be unfair. This is just how it is. Annoying I know, so accept it and embrace the suck. Get some training or education under your belt, and focus more on the “civilian-you resume” than a “military-you resume.”
Again, people change a lot in years. Just get the job, climb through the ranks, and then fire all those people who questioned it.