Should you worry about how resume red flags keep employers from hiring you? Even before you get the interview, those crafty hiring managers and Applicant Tracking Systems are scanning your résumé for the big red flags that signal you are not suited for the job. No wonder you do not sleep well at night.
Rest assured, no one in the military has a flawless career. Everyone has a few red flags in their past. While most military members do not have to worry about traditional red flags like gaps in employment, job hopping or layoffs, there are a few red flags that can make hiring managers wary. So how can you strategize around those realities and get yourself hired?
I reached out to Dr. Dawn Graham, author of Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers and Seize Success. She says the most important thing for you to remember about red flags is, they usually do not signal you are wrong for the job.
Instead, those red flags are a sign that there will be more risk for the hiring manager -- and hiring managers hate risk. No matter how great you might be at the job, the hiring manager is looking for someone who already has done the exact same job with wild success somewhere else.
We know it is our job as jobseekers in Transition World to make the choice easy for them. Here are three red flags you can strategize around so you can find the right job for you.
- Lack of College Degree
Education can be a red flag for midlevel and senior NCOs who may lack a four-year college degree -- or who have a degree in a less marketable field like a BA in World Pancake Batters or a BS in Miniature Squirrels of the Sierra Madre. This is especially true if the degree is a requirement for the job. Unless the company specifically lists the degree under “preferred” or if they state they are willing to accept experience in lieu of education, those heartless Applicant Tracking Systems will toss out anyone who does not have the required degree.
“That’s not as much of a rule as it once was,” Dr. Dawn cautions. When it comes to tech, she says the lack of qualified applicants to fill all the available jobs creates an opportunity. “If you can do the work, you can get the job. But you have to be able to prove you can do the work.”
- Overqualified for the Job
Often senior military members are told they will have to take a step back in their careers when they join a civilian firm. Consequently, they apply for jobs for which they are overqualified. It sends up a red flag to the employer as the mark of an applicant who won’t stay long.
“They don’t have to take a step all the way back,” Dr. Dawn says. Instead, job level is one of the things you should discuss with your network inside the firm. Or you can scan the job titles on the firm’s website and identify what they mean by associate, manager, senior manager, supervisor, coordinator, analyst and director. It can be different for every employer.
- Too Many Switches at Once
Almost everyone who leaves the military is taking on what Dr. Dawn calls the double switch. The job hunter is switching industries (military to civilian), and they are switching functions (infantry to social media marketer). Dr. Dawn says this double switch is extremely challenging even for civilians. We military folks make it even harder by attempting the triple switch by changing locations, too. A triple switcher represents an extreme risk to the hiring manager.
Dr. Dawn says this is where the pandemic is helpful to career transitioners. Because the economy is changing so much, there are many more people making a switch by necessity. Hiring managers may have more experience and a little more motivation to make it work -- especially if you do your homework and spell out exactly how your military role was the same as your preferred civilian job.
No matter what red flags you might be flying, Dr. Dawn advises, “The key is to appear confident, not apologetic. Confidence breeds confidence -- and confidence is something we all want as part of our brand.”
If you want to find out more about how transitioners can overcome the job market, watch Dr. Dawn’s video on LinkedIn Learning Switching Your Career. It is free to military when you sign up for your one-year free premium subscription to LinkedIn.
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Jacey Eckhart is Military.com’s Transition Master Coach. She is a Certified Professional Career Coach and military sociologist who helps military members get their first civilian job by offering career-level Master Classes through our Veteran Talent Pool and on her website SeniorMilitaryTransition.com. Reach her at Jacey.Eckhart@Monster.com.