NEWS + ADVICE
Leidos Shares How to Target Your Resume and Ace Your Interviews After the Military
Alex Verhulst, Talent Acquisition Military Program Manager at Leidos, shares resume, interviewing, and cleared career advice with transitioning military and veterans.
Tailor your resume to every position you apply for. First, you need to have a master resume document. There’s a lot of information you can pull from your fitness report to build that master document. Then you can draw from that to pare down a resume for a specific position that you’re applying for.
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time you apply. Look at the mandatory minimum requirements for the position. Then adjust your summary of qualifications and the education and training you have listed. Don’t list education, training, and certifications that aren’t related to the position you’re applying for.
Sometimes I see resumes with 10-15 different training courses listed, but a tailored resume is always going to be better. It’s all about what’s specific to the job you’re applying to. Look at your master document and identify the training you can include that speaks to the experience the position is looking for. As you apply, a lot of the job descriptions are going to start looking the same after a while. You’ll get an idea of the sort of qualification you want to highlight for that type of position.
When you tailor your resume, you’re trying to match it up to the job description. Show how you meet all of the mandatory qualifications. That’s going to be the first thing that somebody looks at when they’re screening your resume against the job description. Make it as easy and straightforward as possible for the recruiter and hiring manager, because it’s all about time. The quicker the hiring manager can see you meet the qualifications, the better chance you have of moving forward.
Don’t Strip Too Much Military Jargon From Your Resume
When you’re focusing on government contracting positions that are working with a specific branch of service or government customer, you want to make sure that you’re speaking to that position. There’s a fine line between putting in extraneous information and stripping out all the military jargon.
Something like your rank isn’t necessarily something that you need to strip away. Oftentimes, we have hiring managers who are looking for somebody who was an O-5 or O-6, or somebody who was senior enlisted. So, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend taking that away from your resume.
However, sometimes I see somebody who was a general officer or colonel, but they put in CEO or COO on their resume to try to civilianize it. Those aren’t really a one-to-one comparison. Find that fine line, where you’re not necessarily stripping away everything. Because we are looking for individuals that have a specific background in the service for a lot of our positions.
Resume Basics to Keep in Mind
When building your resume, I recommend using a reverse chronological format that shows your career progression. As for the length of your resume, it depends on your amount of experience. Try to keep it around that two-page mark if possible.
Location is also important when tailoring your resume. A lot of folks who are separating or retiring from the service may be looking to relocate. If you’re pursuing a position in a specific geographical area, put that geographical region in your resume.
And lastly, you want to make the bullet points under your different duty assignments results-oriented. Focus on your accomplishments and the end results, instead of just a description of your day-to-day duties. What did you accomplish in a specific role? Can you show you saved time or money, or that you work well under pressure? Come up with specific examples and accomplishments that address those things.
Practice Interviewing and Gathering Intel
The best thing you can do to prepare for interviews is interview a lot. Just go through the process and get practice, because all interviews are different. You’re going to get better every time.
You’re going to handle things like features, benefits, and salary with recruiters upfront. Once you get to the interview with the hiring manager, focus on the working environment, day-to-day responsibilities, opportunities for advancement and how the manager measures success. When you answer questions, make sure you provide examples and show how you are the best fit for that position. Use examples from your background and anecdotal evidence of how you meet the soft skills that may be asked about.
Far too often, I see individuals who want to know if they’re going to accept the job prior to applying. Unfortunately, sometimes you may not know that. Go through the process and allow yourself to learn about that company culture – and certainly do your research ahead of time. Once you get through that interview, you should leave being fairly comfortable whether or not you would accept the position, because you had an opportunity to ask questions.
Promote Yourself as an Individual in Your Interviews
When you market and promote yourself to the corporate world, focus on your individual accomplishments. You’re coming from a military environment where you really put the team and the ‘we’ first. But when you’re going through the interview process, it’s all about you as an individual.
Focus on what you individually accomplished. It may even be uncomfortable, but you want to make sure that you’re showing how you individually are the best fit for the role. They’re not hiring the unit you came out of – they’re hiring you, the individual contributor.
On the corporate civilian side, it’s a lot flatter organizationally. There are less supervisory titles and a lot more individual contributors. It doesn’t mean that you won’t lead or mentor, but you’re not necessarily going to have that title coming in the door. There are only so many managers, so you have to show you can contribute both as an individual and within a team environment.
Look At the Bright Side of the Interview Process
Once you get to the interview in the hiring process, you’re over the hump so to speak. The hard part was getting there. Think of it as a numbers game. When you’re applying to a position, there might be 100+ individuals who’ve applied. Plus you’ve got referrals and people who may know somebody within the organization. Once you get to the interview stage, there are likely just a handful of people that are interviewing. Maybe 10 people are chosen for the initial screening process, and five people get an interview. The numbers are arbitrary, but that’s an example of the hard part being done.
When you’re in that initial application and screening phase, unfortunately the recruiter is looking for disqualifiers. They’re looking for reasons why an individual won’t fit. But once you get to the interview stage, you’ve been qualified for the position, and now the company is looking for reasons to hire you. It’s really about what you bring to the table that makes you the best qualified.
Going on the interview may be the most nerve-wracking part of the process. But to be honest, once you’ve reached that step, you’re really in a good position. Even if you’re not selected for that role, you come away with contacts within an organization and knowing that you are qualified for a specific position.
Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket
If you’ve done really well on an interview and you think an offer is coming, don’t feel like that precludes you from going on other interviews with other organizations. As a job seeker, the best position you can be in at the end of the day is having competing offers to weigh against one another. If you have other interviews lined up, go through the process.
I see individuals who are just getting set up for an initial interview and they focus solely on that one. Try to get to a point where you have multiple interviews with multiple organizations. That will help you make the best decision when you do accept a position.
Leverage Your Security Clearance
My biggest piece of advice as it relates to security clearances is, if you think you’re going to want to continue to be in a position that requires a clearance, pursue that after the service. I’ve seen individuals who have pursued education or gone a different route with their career, that have allowed their clearance to lapse. If you’re going to pursue something else, see what you can do to hold your clearance, like transferring to the guard or reserves.
Some individuals leave the service and are 100% sure they’re not going to ever do work in the cleared space again. But if you think you want to move into a career on the civilian side that works within the defense and intelligence arenas, then focus on positions that are cleared. Once you lose your clearance, it’s very difficult to move back into a role that requires a clearance because you’re basically starting from scratch.
Go into your job search after your military exit with as much information as possible. Understand what clearance level you have and when your next periodic reinvestigation is coming. Also know that you can focus on positions at your clearance level and also those below it. In most organizations, Leidos included, even if you come into a role where you aren’t required to have the level of clearance you currently hold, we’ll be able to reset that clearance for you, so that you don’t lose that eligibility. You can always leave the world of defense contracting and the intelligence community at some point, but if you think it’s something you want to leverage, make sure you’re focusing on cleared positions.
Learn about Operation MVP, Leidos’ company-wide initiative to hire and support military veterans and spouses.