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A Good Military Résumé Helps in the Job Search Trenches

Paul A. Freiberger -- When it comes to the job search, know your target and communicate clearly. Military leadership, professionalism, and intelligence fit well into the civilian sector. Use that military experience to land a job.

Your military career as a grunt, a machine gunner, an ordnance specialist or crew chief will not translate well into civilian fields. The key is to look at that military career obliquely. This is accomplished by highlighting military leadership, intelligence and professionalism to convince an employer that your unique experience will add positive value to the company. Employers love all these military qualities, and these critical qualities must be relayed on a résumé.

The first tip to writing a great résumé is know your target. The business you're applying to for a job is run by a bright, professional executive, devoted to maintaining a profit-making venture for the shareholders and company. This executive will expect the same commitment to excellence from an applicant, which includes intelligence, professionalism and leadership to help the company make a profit. Study your target.

The second tip concerns writing a résumé free of grammar and spelling errors. In the military, delivering a message accurately was critical. Show your potential employer that you relayed information with precision and clarity. Don't misspell the company's name. When talking about yourself, capitalize the word "I." A résumé is not a tweet to your buddy about Sunday's game. "Theirs" and "there's" are two different words. An error-free résumé is the mark of intelligence. An employer looks for intelligent employees who can communicate accurately and without errors. Correct spelling and grammar are signs of an intelligent person.

The third tip is brevity. The hiring manager is a busy person. There may be 200 résumés to sift through. The job may be crucial, and it needs to be filled quickly. A résumé that's six pages long is likely to be tossed on the reject pile. An applicant's job is to deliver a résumé that's packed with information, using only needful words. Toss the fluff. "Works well with people" means nothing. It's a cliché.

The fourth tip relates to the cover letter. Most cover letters are deficient. A good cover letter should relay your knowledge about the company and what value you can add to a company. When an employer considers a potential employee, this person always has one question forefront in mind: How can this person add value to my company? The cover letter is your opportunity to convince an employer that you have the skills, professionalism and leadership to add value. This letter should be brief, succinct and to-the-point.

The fifth tip is to relate your military experience on that cover letter. The failure to explain positive contributions you made to your ship, squadron or company is a sure way to see rejection.

Show your leadership:

As a platoon sergeant, I commanded 70 men who pacified an area in Afghanistan.

I was a hydraulics specialist who maintained a squadron of choppers, making certain they were in top mechanical condition and ready to fly at any time.

That's showing leadership. Employers love it. Military leadership, professionalism and intelligence fit well into the civilian sector. Use that military experience to land a job.


Paul Freiberger is President of Shimmering Resumes, a résumé-writing, interview preparation, and career counseling service based in San Mateo, California. Paul is the author of several books and the winner of the Los Angeles Times book award. He offers résumé writing services, job interview and job search campaign coaching nationwide. He can be reached at:, or, by phone at 877-796-9737. For more information on career improvement, visit his free public interest career-help website.

© 2012 Paul A. Freiberger

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