5 Things Your Resume Must Include

(U.S. Army/Audra Satterlee)

As you prepare to exit the military, you might find yourself writing a professional resume for the first time. If you’ve been out of the military for a while, you’ve likely seen your resume evolve and change as your civilian career has grown.

To ensure your resume meets the needs of your ideal employer, and passes through the screening processes of Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and recruiters, here are five things your resume must include:

  1. Contact Information
    It sounds simple, but surprisingly many job applicants forget to include their contact information on their resume. You should always list your email address and phone number (cell or mobile phone is preferred over a home phone) and while you don't have to include your physical street address, you should list your city, state (and country, if applicable).

    Consider adding a shorthand link to your LinkedIn profile, if you’ve built it to align with your resume (which you should!). Make it easy for someone holding your resume to reach out to you if they’re interested in learning more.
  2. A Clear Narrative
    This shows what you’ve done before supports what you’re looking to do. A resume is more than a list of past jobs and skills. It should frame the story of your background and how it lines up with your future ambitions. If your goals are a departure from your past experiences, such as if you worked as a medic in the Army but want to pursue a project management job in a tech company after military separation, it’s even more important that you frame the narrative around this.

    In every way possible, highlight the competencies, skills and experiences your work as a medic trained you with which would make you a great project manager. It’s your job to connect the dots so the reader can see the same.
  3. Metrics, Results and Accomplishments
    This will be particularly helpful for the ATS an employer might use to screen resumes. List results in similar language to what the job application shows. For example, while you led “troops,” an ATS might look for leadership of “employees” or “direct reports.”
  4. Why Your Previous Work Mattered to You
    I believe it’s appropriate to list why you took each promotion, pursued each opportunity and sought military service. A resume does allow for this, providing you avoid telling a long story here.

    To a recruiter or hiring manager, knowing why you spent time developing the skills and training you achieved can tell a lot about your character, commitment and soft skills. Resist the temptation to overlook your “why” and only focus on your what/how/where on a resume.
  5. Personal Branding
    Your personal brand is how others perceive you. While some perception is outside your control, a lot is manageable and should be driven by you. One way to ensure your brand is consistent is to look across all touchpoints where you promote yourself – from your network of contacts to your LinkedIn profile to your resume – and ensure they all look like they’re representing the same unique and valuable person.

    If you’re serious, focused and brief on LinkedIn, I expect to see the same on your resume and how others speak of you. If you’re more outgoing, friendly and warm in person, I expect to see that online as well. Consistency is critical.

Your resume is one piece of your career toolkit – not everything. When done correctly, your resume looks back on what you’ve done to tell the story of who you are, and what you’re capable of and passionate about.

The author of "Success After Service: How to Take Control of Your Job Search and Career After Military Duty” (2020) and "Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition" (2014), Lida Citroën is a keynote speaker and presenter, executive coach, popular TEDx speaker and instructor of multiple courses on LinkedIn Learning. She regularly presents workshops on personal branding, executive presence, leadership communication, and reputation risk management.

A contributing writer for Military.com, Lida is a passionate supporter of the military, volunteering her time to help veterans transition to civilian careers and assist employers who seek to hire military talent. She regularly speaks at conferences, corporate meetings and events focused on military transition.

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