Tips for Veterans: How to Tailor Your Job Applications

In a 2018 ZipRecruiter study, we collected data on the challenges veterans face when applying for jobs. The two most cited hurdles? Understanding which jobs they’re qualified for and writing and effective resume*.

This isn’t surprising considering how military resumes are typically formatted. If you’re like other veterans, you probably had one comprehensive federal resume that covered your entire work history in detail (similar to a CV). But when it comes to applying for jobs in the civilian workforce, we recommend editing the content of your resume depending on the job you’re applying for. Here’s how.

Include the Job Title on Your Resume

Many job titles have the same requirements and responsibilities, but are called different things, and you don’t want to be passed over for an interview simply because an employer misinterprets your work history. If you’re applying for a job that you’ve previously held but has a slightly different title, write the job title on your resume to match the title in the job listing exactly. This makes it clear to the employer and their ATS that you have valuable direct experience.

Consider the Description

You don’t need to brainstorm ways to tailor your resume content to a job. The solutions are in the job description. Read through the requirements and bullet points in the listing, and integrate any relevant terminology or skills that are mentioned into your own resume. Again, it’s important to not lie about your capabilities or experience, but if the job listing speaks to skills you have, you’ll want to let the employer know.

Cut Irrelevant Information

Remember that your civilian resume should only be 1 page in length maximum, or 2 pages maximum for senior-level positions. That means you’ll probably have to cut out a lot of information, beginning with any information that’s not relevant to the job you’re applying for. Your goal is to make it as easy as possible for the employer and ATS to identify you as a strong match for the role, so only include experiences, awards, or skills that are directly relevant or transferable. It’s a common misconception that extraneous information will make you seem more impressive, but it actually only dilutes your resume.

Get a Second Opinion

Getting a second opinion is always a good idea. Ask a colleague or friend to read the job description and then skim your resume. They’ll probably be able to point out items that should be deleted or holes in your resume that you might have missed. Even better? Ask someone who isn’t a veteran or in the military to review your resume. As a person who isn’t familiar with military jargon, they’ll be able to let you know if anything is difficult to understand.

When you’re a veteran and applying for civilian jobs, it’s important to put your best foot forward with every application. One of the best ways to do that is by making sure your resume is tailored to each position and properly formatted. Happy job hunting!

*ZipRecruiter Internal Data: In a survey of self-identified veteran job seekers, ZipRecruiter asked what the hardest part of their job search was. 41.5% said understanding what jobs I am qualified for, and 14.4% said writing an effective resume.

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