By Wayne R. Bodie, MBA, SPHR
While reading online posts, I noticed a significant number of unemployed military veterans with vast education and experiences. “What does it take to get hired in the civilian market?” they asked. They have decades of relevant service, noteworthy leadership skills, and their profile pictures are charismatic in formal dress uniform, so what is the problem?
Before I list a few tips that may address some of the questions I have seen, let me preface with two important pieces of information. The quest for jobs in the civilian market takes a long time. For each 10 thousand dollars, you wish to make annually, it may take up to one month to gain employment. So, if you are seeking a job that pays $60,000 it can take up to six months searching.
Next, feedback and notifications back to applicants have all but vanished. For every hundred resumes you send, you may hear little to nothing back. This is important to know because it can be discouraging to hear nothing or simply receive auto generated emails saying, “we have chosen another candidate.” You may be tempted to think the problem is with you. The problem is not with you.
Now, let’s work on getting you that job.
Here are 5 key tips for veterans entering the civilian job market. Human eyes typically no longer see your resume on a pre-screen. When you enter an application online, it typically feeds into an Applicant Tracking System (ATS). This system is designed to house and screen the organizations’ talent pool. It will pull the top candidates based on key words found in the job description or the needs of the hiring manager.
1. Develop an ATS Compliant Resume. Aesthetics here can hinder your job search. Any complicated forms, text boxes, or tables can cause the ATS system to not “see” your qualifications. A simple TXT, Word, or PDF with no advanced graphics is best converted by ATS systems.
2. Use the job description for the position you are applying to find the keywords the employer is looking for. Incorporate those keywords into your resume and in the description of your previous job duties. This can be done by reading the job description or using an online site such as www.wordle.com to scan the job description in which you are applying. You can also google top keywords related to the industry you are specifically seeking employment.
3. “Civilianize” your resume. You want your job descriptions and titles of your previous positions to be perfectly understandable by a lay person. If a civilian recruiter does not understand your title or position, neither will the ATS. This may require you to use “functional titles” versus your official title. Find the position of your civilian counterpart and utilize this in your resume. You can explain your official title and rank during a pre-screen interview.
4. Optimize your social media to reflect all the above recommendations. This will help increase your online ranking and in recruitment searches. If you are using LinkedIn be sure to let recruiters know that you are open to a new opportunity. This link shows a step by step tutorial.
5. Consider a professional recruiter that specializes in a military to civilian transition. There are plenty of online services that will redo your resume or optimize your Linked In profile; however, someone who has walked your walk will take the extra time and energy in successfully getting you hired.
You are born leaders in every way. I cannot begin to express the amount of gratitude I have for all of you who have served our country. You have put yourself in harm’s way every day and have dealt with the tremendous personal sacrifice of protecting our nation’s freedom. We owe you a world of gratitude. The organization that hires you will be infinitely more successful because you are in it. I hope these quick and easy tips will help get you where you want to be.