Transitioning Military: How to Comprehend a Militaristic Resume

Suppose you have an opening for a sales professional, and you just happen to come across a resume of someone that has sales experience (in your industry/product line) AND served in the military at one time. Jackpot: the best of all worlds! However, how do you identify and tap those DIRECTLY transitioning from the military (taking advantage of their free relocation benefits) for your openings? All too often, military applicants are overlooked for opportunities since their resumes don’t express the candidate’s true potential and skill sets in a language easily understood by a hiring manager without a military background. Attempts by some transitioning military members to “civilianize” their resume may miss the mark due to the applicant’s lack of experience in the civilian world. So how can we make the two worlds mesh? One of two ways. One way is to utilize the experience of some of your existing employees that have served in the military and should be able to interpret for you both resumes and annual evaluation reports of transitioning military. Or if you are not so lucky that you have such a resource, (and not prepared to sign up for a short stint in the military yourself), you may want to read on: In today’s world of resume tracking systems, the all-important “keywords” may not work unless you are specifically seeking someone with military experience in your database. Even then, the keywords that are used, relate to military jargon and equipment, and may not translate well. By developing a targeted military hiring program, you target leadership, core values, and potential; not necessarily an employee that has worked in your industry. This is a transition program, and you are attempting to identify the top performers and recruit the very best of the applicants available. Military applicants can fill a variety of occupations, from sales to engineering, logistics to IT, etc., and at a variety of experience levels. To identify the very best of available applicants, it may be useful to use the same guidelines/criteria that you use for college/MBA programs. Similar to those applicants, military candidates have a lot to learn in your industry yet bring valuable knowledge to a gaining organization. Specifically, one lesson that is hard to teach in a classroom setting is how to develop teamwork to accomplish a mission. Regardless of the industry, this is a valuable skill whether you are the coach/supervisor or the team player/technician, leadership is an acquired skill that is honed quite well under the stressful conditions in the military service. Let’s discuss how you can identify this skill in a military resume: EDUCATION – Look at not only the school the applicant went to, but how they financed their education (service), extracurricular activities (responsibilities), curriculum, and GPA. Look at the military schools the applicant was selected for–these are sometimes very competitive and rank the graduation order. Schools like airborne or ranger training may not have any significance to your industry, but if you understood the rigorous requirements in order to graduate, you would have a greater understanding of the person’s tenacity and drive. RANK – All military applicants will be classified as either an officer, warrant officer, enlisted, or non-commissioned officer/Petty Officer. Within these classifications, there are junior, mid-level, and senior ratings, and obtaining rank unlike in the civilian world is gained primarily through time in grade coupled with proven performance. Officers (O) are usually considered supervisors (all will have a college degree) and senior enlisted or non-commissioned officers/Petty Officers (E) are considered “the backbone” of the military service. In most cases, these individuals have many years of “hands on experience” and acquired a college/graduate degree. Warrant officers are considered the technical experts in a particular field, and are designated so (W). Approximately, within each of these groups, the junior grades (-1 through -3) are within the first 5 years or initial enlistment/service requirement, mid-level (-4 through -5) have between 5-15 years of service and your senior grades (-6 through -10) have served 15-30 years in the military. Considering that military service is entered between the age of 18-21, even after “retiring,” they are at the ripe “old” age of 38, still in their prime, anxious to learn new skills and apply what they have already experienced. Most exit after their first enlistment or service obligation is completed (3-5 years). UNITS/ASSIGNMENTS – Not all are created equal. Some are extremely elite, and you must qualify or be nominated for selection. While in a chosen role, you will receive a formal written annual evaluation ranking the applicant among their peers. Although these evaluations can sometimes be inflated, there is much to be gleamed from the narratives and the rank/profile of the senior rater. ACCOMPLISHMENTS – Usually indicates if the mission was met or exceeded within certain budgets or timelines. If this skill is acquired and demonstrated repeatedly, would it not be a value to your organization even if the parameters of the situation were changed? SECURITY CLEARANCES – The level obtained is an indication of the trustworthiness and credibility of the individual. LANGUAGE SKILLS – Whether native or acquired while serving in a foreign land, also is an indication of cultural diversity understanding/training. Some resumes contain much more, such as awards/decorations, articles written for professional trade journals, technical skills/certifications, and sometimes even ‘keywords’ so their resumes will be picked up in your scan. The next time you have the opportunity to view a military resume instead of eliminating it, look beyond the edge of the resume to consider the true potential of the applicant. Consider the person, the commitment, and their service. Hiring military veterans is smart business.

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Bill Gaul ( is President and CEO of The Destiny Group, an Internet-based recruiting tool that utilizes the latest patent-pending technology (including audio/visual) for organizations to use to source men and women departing the military services. Endorsed by all of the U.S. Service Academy Alumni Associations, and three times selected as one of the "50 BEST" by CareerXRoads, this online system is the easiest and lowest cost method to reach transitioning military worldwide, without a per-head fee.

Bill's articles are Copyright 2001, The Destiny Group.


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