Does Your Resume Slow Down Your Job Search

Posted by Patra Frame

does your resume slow down your job searchHas it been awhile since your last job search? Did you suddenly lose a job? Or have you retired from the military or government service? Have you been searching for months or more?

All these seem to contribute to some very common resume mistakes by cleared job seekers. These mistakes slow your job search even when they do not knock you out of competition.

Are you retiring from military or government service?

Don’t start your resume with this fact. Don’t even include it! Using ‘retired’ signals to many that you do not really want much responsibility or hard work. Some will see it as meaning they can pay you far less since you have a pension. Others will assume you are far too expensive. Some will think you cannot make the transition. All this means many will not even contact you.

Write your resume with a clear focus on the job you want next and use those achievements in your past to support that goal. Keep the focus on the most recent 10-12 years. Don’t give anyone an excuse to ignore you.

Are You in Transition from the Military?

Your military experience is valuable – but only if you can translate it into specifics which are relevant to and understandable by your target employers. You cannot write a useful resume until you know what job you want and what employers you are interested in. Once you know that, you can see what the common requirements are and what a specific employer values. Thus, you can write your history in words and achievements your target understands.

Leave your personal awards off your resume. They are usually not relevant and even in rare cases where they are, few civilians will know what they are. You can put them into your LinkedIn profile with a simple explanation of what each is for.

Skip most of your military training for your resume. If it is directly related to the job you want and is within the past few years, do list it. Otherwise, again, move it to social media profiles. I know, I know – I was crushed when no-one thought my NBC training was critical to an HR job.

Format Errors

Lots of folks have resumes which are grammar and spelling error ridden. The majority of hiring managers in study after study say that is a reason to ignore a candidate. Ask a few people you know to read your resume and catch such errors.

Fancy formats are also a problem when you are submitting them online. Many get messed up by the applicant tracking system and garbage comes out. So have one that is fairly simple with a few Bold or ALLCAP lines but little else. Delete the pictures, graphics, lines, boxes, varying colors and shading.


This one seems so standard yet often people include too much information or the wrong information or include no longer relevant schools. Do note: most government contractors, especially at smaller firms, want to see your education on the first page, before your experience. In other arenas, education only goes first when you do not have related work experience or have just added a useful new degree. Dates are optional.

The standard format for education is:
MA, International Relations, George Washington University, 2004

If you are working on a degree and will get it within 18 months or so, put it on in same format but say ‘Expected Dec 2019’

If you have a Bachelors, you omit your high school and any preceding Associate degrees. If you have many degrees, you may want to omit those which are least relevant as some hiring managers will wonder if you are a solid worker.

If you are a new or recent graduate, you are selling your education. You should include any relevant research projects or papers, internships, subject matter competitions, publications, and such. Toss in your GPA if it is a good one. Many managers also see a value in those who worked during school and thus paid for some significant portion of their costs – so say so: Paid for 45% of all education costs through part-time and summer jobs.

If you include training in your resume, you can include it in the same section. Just be sure you only show relevant, recent training.

The Third Person Resume

Often this reads as if you had simply pulled it out of your company’s RFP resume bin with the ‘Mr. Smith is a wonderful …..’ style and way too long paragraphs and pages.

They do not work. Recruiters and hiring managers think you are too lazy to write your own resume. Nor will they work their way through all the verbiage to find your qualifications. Write about yourself directly using sentence fragments – not ‘I managed large….’ but just ‘ Managed large…’ Your resume needs to show how your recent achievements solve the problems of the job you want at your target employer. Keep it short, crisp, and full of actions and results.

Employment Gaps

Once you hit more than 4-6 months of unemployment, you need to address that up-front. Put it at the top of your Experience section.

If you have been in job search mode all along, consider putting in any gig or volunteer work you have done as well as any training or development you undertook. If you have not done anything like that, start now!

If you were out taking care of family or medical issues, tuck in a short bullet like this:

  • Family medical care, now resolved    2017 – present
  • Care for new baby, now in preschool/after-care    2016 – present
  • If you were dealing with personal health issues, you may wish to list as family medical care and leave the questions for interviews or later.

The Age Thing

Far too often I see people putting total number of years experience in their summary. This is great when you are young enough that you need to show you know the work world. Over your mid-30s, STOP IT. Putting those years right up front makes hiring managers think you are too expensive or too set in your ways or too old. Sure, stereotypes and that last one is illegal. But total years doesn’t really add anything and it can mean your resume gets one-second look and stops there.

When you know a job requires a certain number of years experience in a particular function or technology, then yes you should say that. ‘Over five years program management’ or ‘ Six years Deltek experience including designing specialized reports’ are simple examples of what works.

Thinking Your Resume is the Big Ticket to a Job

Resumes are necessary. But as one of my talent acquisition mentors always said “You should arrive before your resume.” That means networking. Sure you will want a one page highlights resume to give to people you know when you contact or re-connect with them. But far too many people let their networks go when they get a job. I hate how often I hear at resume reviews and other coaching “But I don’t have a network” or worse “But my network is all retired.” We all have networks – we call them friends or acquaintances or neighbors. Start talking to people you know and work on meeting new people. Then you can give out your resume after you have actually talked and ask for any ideas they have. Build a relationship to where you can also ask if they would refer you to their employer if they work for one of your target employers!

Make your resume the best advertisement for you that you can. Research resume practices that worry you. Once you have a decent draft, ask several people to look at it and offer suggestions. Most of us are too close to our achievements to explain them well the first time. Or we try to just update an old resume without thinking about how the job we want now is different from the ones we wanted then. Other people can help you identify and resolve these and other issues. Make your target employers contact you by providing a clear, concise resume that demonstrates the value you offer them!

Patra FramePatra Frame is ClearedJobs.Net’s HR Management Consultant. She is an experienced human resources executive and founder of Strategies for Human Resources. Patra is an Air Force veteran and charter member of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. Follow Patra on Twitter @2Patra.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 17, 2018 10:51 am

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