Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Resume

In my previous article I talked about networking; using your vast array of friends, family, colleagues, and those fortunate enough to back into you in the mall parking lot. But now that you have a network you really need something to give to them…something that sings your praises and extols your virtues. You need a resume.

There are some very well-meaning people out there who will give you lots of free advice on resume writing. I am one of them. Just remember that free advice is worth what you paid for it. On the other hand you could pay someone to professionally write your resume, but if you do that you are probably wasting your money. The professionals at your local Transition Office can help you write a resume that is, in most cases, every bit as good as what you paid several hundred, or even several thousand, dollars for. Is the difference worth it? That is up to you.

If you aren’t made of money, and therefore would prefer to have someone who has helped thousands of vets with their resumes (and been very successful at it…but I don’t like to brag) then listen up. Resume writing isn’t rocket surgery. It is very basic and easy.

First of all let’s start with the basic outline of what you need in the resume; then we will go into some do’s and don’ts of resume writing.

(1) Contact info: name, address, phone number, email address…simple as that. DO NOT USE YOUR MILITARY EMAIL ADDRESS…EVER!

Joe T. Plumber
1313 Mockingbird Lane
Beverly Hill, CA 90210

(2) Security clearance (in bold) with periodic review dates in parenthesis after it. If you don’t know when your last periodic review was completed, find out…it is important and can make all the difference. Remember to spell-out completely the clearance and put the acronym as well:

EXAMPLE: Top Secret Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS/SCI) – (PR: 6 Nov 2007).

(3) Career Summary: Now comes the fun part…what I call the ’30-second elevator speech.’ Can also be called a Career Summary, Summary of Qualifications, etc. Basically whatever you would tell the President of the company you want to work for if you happened to bump into him on the elevator. Most importantly stick to the facts; no Performance Report walking on water stuff, no ‘people person’, ‘can-do attitude,’ or any of that. Stick to the facts: What do you know how to do and how long have you been doing it. NOTE: most recruiters and hiring managers have about 30 seconds to decide if you are a player. This is as far as they will read in making that decision.
Career Summary: Information Technology professional with over 10 years of network administration, systems engineering, programming (C++, JAVA, COLD FUSION), and management experience. Seven years of ever-increasing management experience leading units of as many as 25 people. Certifications include: CISSP, CCNA.

(4) Chronological Review: Now that you have the hiring manager’s attention with your factual elevator speech he or she will scroll down to see where you have been and what you did. This portion needs to cover your entire career; if you said in your elevator speech that you have 23 years of Information Technology experience you had better cover 23 years in your resume. Otherwise they will figure that six year gap at the bottom was time served in the brig…or something. Only go in detail for the most recent ten years or so and list, but don’t put detail, the jobs and locations in the time longer than ten years prior. Most importantly, do NOT put what you were supposed to do, a.k.a. your job description, put what you DID and what was the impact. If you put that you were in charge of a $30 Billion project…so what? Did you bankrupt it? That is why you put the impact of what you did.
EXAMPLE: May 2007 – Present; Chief, Information Technology, 10th Mission Support Flight, US Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, CO.
- Led 25-man team of information technology professionals supporting over 400 staff and faculty members of the Air Force Academy. Networks maintained to 98.5% up time for two years straight. Average help ticket response 1.2 hours. Won “Best Small Communications Unit” in the Air Force for 2006.

(5) Education and Training: put all degrees you obtained (highest degree on top), where you obtained it, and when. Make sure you put Bachelor of Science Degree (BS) in Underwater Basket Weaving, and not just BS. Put all the training you ever had. This can be hugely important because when a company is looking to fill a position, especially in the defense contracting arena, there are often numerous requirements to be met and having training in one or more area can make the difference for both you and the company.
Formal Education:
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in Computer Science, Colorado Technical University, 2004.
- Associates Degree in Information Technology, Community College of the Air Force, 1999
Training and Certifications:
- Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP); 2004
- CISCO Certified Network Administrator (CCNA): 2003
- Air Force Non-commissioned Officer’s School 1999

That’s it. It is not difficult. Follow that format and you have what you need to get and keep the attention of someone who can get you that job you want.

Now, to do and not to do, that is the question.

• Spell-out the acronyms. Recruiters use key word searches and may use the acronym or the whole words…put them both in…just like the security clearance.
• Speaking of Key Words…use them!! If you are applying to a specific job then you need to ensure that the key words in that job requisition are in your resume. If they aren’t then you probably shouldn’t be applying for that position.
• Use a professional email address. Something like is perfect (providing your name is John D. Doe, of course, but you get the idea).
• Make sure that not only do YOU know your elevator speech, but so does your spouse, your older kids, your siblings, your friends, your dog, etc. I helped an Air Force Colonel get a job after meeting his teenage son on the golf course. By the third hole I knew what his dad did, when he was retiring, what he wanted to do, and how much time he wanted to take off to play golf before starting work.
• Have a list of references available. You also need to make sure that the person you use as a reference (1) remembers you, (2) liked your work and (3) knows that you are using him as a reference so he can be ready when called.

• Don’t lie on your resume. It will come out in the interview and you are toast with that company…and probably others as well…word gets around.
• Don’t use an Objective Statement on your resume…it only limits your possibilities. If the ONLY job you want is to be a Penguin Skinner in Omaha, then fine put that on your resume. But very often the company will see that you want to be a Penguin Skinner in Omaha and will not call you for that Modeling Judge job in the Virgin Islands even though you are qualified for it. Get the idea?
• Don’t remove your security clearance just because you are applying to a commercial company. A security clearance, especially a high-level one, tells the potential employer that you are honest, trustworthy, and can pass their drug test with flying colors.
• Don’t try too hard to ‘civilianize’ your resume. For example: if you were a squadron commander do not say that you were the CEO of a 200-person organization…you weren’t. Just say what you did and where you did it and if they have questions for clarification they will ask.
• Don’t use funny email addresses on your resume. might be funny to your friends, and might be accurately descriptive, but to an employer this might show immaturity and a lack of professionalism. You would be amazed at some of the ones I have seen.
• Don’t use your military .mil email address on your resume. There are several reasons for this.
o First of all the military network is the warfighter network and those of us employers who are vets do not want to clog it up with resumes and things that could delay vital information getting to the warfighter…period.
o Secondly, the firewalls in the .mil system often kick out the emails that they think are spam. Thus many smaller companies, independent recruiters, etc. can not email you there and won’t even try in many cases. Just put your personal email address and you are fine.
o Third: YOU ARE AT WORK…you shouldn’t be using government equipment to look for a job, you should be completing your mission assigned to you.
• Some people try to fool spammers by making their email address when their name is actually Mary Anne Dontwaddle. Do you really want to confuse the company interested in hiring you? Don’t do this…ever.
• Don’t use a funny welcome on your answering machine. That includes having your 3-year old singing a Christmas carol. Things like this can keep you from getting that interview.
• Don’t put your supervisor’s name, email, or phone number. If they want references they will ask for them.
• Don’t send a long, verbose resume to someone unless they ask. Have a 1-2 page, concise resume that you provide and have a 5-7 page detailed resume that you can provide upon request.
• Don’t use large print, extra spacing, or big tabs to make your resume longer. You do NOT get extra credit for having a multi-page resume…this is not a high school term paper.
• Don’t put your rank on the resume. The recruiter or hiring manager will know if you fit the job by what you did and how long you did it. Your rank no longer matters. What matters is what you can do.
• Don’t put a bunch of key words in your resume and then ‘white them out’ using white color text. This has become very popular lately and it really pisses people off. Don’t lie on your resume…ever.
• And DO NOT put your social security number on your resume. I have seen a lot of these lately and it is insane…there is no reason for anyone to need that on your resume….period. If they need it to verify your security clearance then they can call you. Don’t put it in an email…ever.

A couple of more things about resumes;
The Tailored Resume: Should you have a generic resume or target your resume to specific jobs? The answer is yes. If your resume is truthful and complete you don’t need to target it because it already says what you know how to do and how long you have been doing it. That is what a resume does. However, you can tailor your resume for a specific position that you are applying for by ensuring that the key words in the job notice are in your resume. Basically if the job notices is a question then your resume is the answer.
The problem with tailored resumes is that if a company has 4 jobs they are trying to fill, and you tailor your resume to one of them you might miss out on the other three that you were also qualified for. In most cases when you apply online for a company that is the only resume on file with that company. Therefore if the resume is tailored, and you took out other qualifications you had, then they might not even find your resume in the key word search.
My recommendation is to use the generic resume when you apply on-line. Then once you have a contact with that company (like after HR calls you) then you can send a tailored resume for that job. Very often the recruiter will actually help you tailor it…recruiters are actually very nice people.
The ‘Pretty’ Resume: some people want to make their resumes ‘pretty’ or ‘more professional’ or whatever…DON’T! Do not use tables, charts, embedded images, little ducks flying across, whatever…keep it plain Word document, 12 point, only bold what you have to. Although a resume on parchment or banana leaves might be pretty and make an impression when you hand it to the recruiter at the job fair, it will most likely never make it in the database. When you put things in tables or in the header and footer of the document that information will not be accepted in the databases when the resume is submitted. Just stick with basic factual info in a Word document in paragraph form and you are in good shape. If you want to make pretty ones to hand out at the job fair go ahead; they end up in the trash anyway as soon as they get an electronic copy.
The Electronic Copy: I will cover what to do for a job fair in another issue, but my recommendation for the resume is to bring dozens of copies of your basic, 2-page resume, and another couple of dozen copies of your long-version, detailed resume. If you had the recruiter your short version he or she can peruse it and determine their interest. If they are interested you can then provide the longer version. I suggest that you also bring your resume on a thumb drive so that if the recruiter is REALLY interested, and has his computer with him, you can download the electronic version immediately to him and he can send to his boss. Don’t laugh…I have seen it happen.
I will give the dead horse a break now. I think I have covered the main things that you need to do to make a resume that will tell what you know how to do and how long you have been doing it. That is what is going to get you in the door. Once you are in the door then it is your interviewing skills that will seal the deal.

Ken ‘K-Bar’ Barker
Athena Technical Services