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Make Your Resume Work for You

Veterans’ resumes often read as a laundry list of duty assignments. Listing responsibilities but not achievements, they fail to answer the question “why should I hire you?” Here’s how to make sure your resume helps you land your next job.

Let’s start by looking at an example of a common veteran’s resume mistake. Note how assignments and
responsibilities are listed with no mention of achievements.

Tank Platoon Leader, 1st Platoon C Co., 2-77 AR, Fort Anywhere, USA
     • Responsible for a 16 man tank platoon and equipment valued at over $1 million.
     • Responsible for overseeing maintenance of all platoon equipment including four M1A2 Abrams tanks and related equipment.
     • Additionally assigned as arms room officer responsible for the security and maintenance of all weapons and sensitive equipment assigned to the company.
     • Responsible for planning and leading gunnery and maneuver training for the platoon.

The above section looks like a fairly standard resume for a Junior Officer in the U.S. Army. But notice how it only tells what our fearless platoon leader was supposed to do. Did he do it well or poorly? We don’t know, and the resume doesn’t tell us. We’ve all seen good platoon leaders, and we’ve all seen bad ones. Which one is this?

Here is an example of how accomplishments rather than responsibilities should be highlighted.

Tank Platoon Leader, 1st Platoon C Co., 2-77 AR, Fort Anywhere, USA
     • Responsible for a 16 man tank platoon and equipment valued at over $1 million.
     • Coordinated training on tank maintenance for all platoon members.Initiated competition for “best maintained” tank in platoon. As a result, our platoon climbed from 13th of 16 platoons to 4th of 16 platoons in quarterly maintenance evaluations.
     • Developed and implemented a plan to improve standards compliance for the Arms Room. Identified areas for improvement, streamlined procedures, improved training, and conducted spot checks to confirm compliance. Annual inspection score improved by 23% as a result.
     • Developed and led a training program to build individual, team, and unit-wide excellence in critical skills. The six month program culminated in team and unit level evaluations. Team scores increased by 17% for an average score of 92%. The unit level score of 95% was the best of 24 units.

The rewritten resume bullets make it clear we are dealing with a top performer. Not someone who just showed up and was “responsible.” Calling out your accomplishments is critical if you want to land a job. This is particularly important for a transitioning veteran because the person reading the resume probably doesn’t understand what is implied by each of your areas of responsibility. Notice, I did leave the first bullet as a summary of responsibilities. That is fine. But every other bullet for a job must show how you excelled at the job and convince the reader to hire you.

How do you apply this to your own resume? Review your resume with a critical eye and ask whether each answers the question “Why should I hire you?” Even better, have a friend who is not familiar with the details of each job perform that evaluation. Then rewrite, rewrite, rewrite until each bullet concisely communicates why you are an excellent candidate for the job!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com


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