Many veterans spend countless hours trying to create the perfect resume. They meticulously write, format, edit, and polish until they are left with what they believe is the perfect document. Some people call this product a “resume template” or “boiler-plate resume”—the benchmark of which all other resumes are derived. If you look carefully at the average resume template, you will notice several undesirable characteristics:

1. It is generic.

2. It is difficult to read and extract information.

3. It is too long and unfocused.

4. It is primarily about you.

5. It highlights accomplishments rather than skills.

It is time to ditch this unproductive practice of submitting ineffective “boiler-plate” resumes. Here are some specific resume writing tips:

Companies want specialists, not generalists.

How many job postings have you seen that request a “Jack of All Trades”? Unlike the military, civilian companies don’t want employees who can adequately do everything. Instead, companies hire highly-specialized employees who can do a few tasks very proficiently.

Make it easy to read and derive information.

Often the formatting and content of many resumes make them cumbersome to quickly scan for important information. A study highlighted by BusinessInsider reveals that recruiters only review a resume for a mean duration of six seconds before making a decision about you. Avoid using elaborate formatting or fonts, small text size, or excessively verbose descriptions to improve readability. Use the KISS principle when writing your resume—Keep it Super Simple! Only use acronyms if they are used in the job posting. Be sure to include a short overview section that rapidly summarizes how you meet the knowledge, skills, and abilities required in the job posting.

Keep it short and focused.

As a marketing document, resumes should be short. Think of other marketing tools you encounter in your daily life—television commercials, for example. How long would you listen to a television commercial before tuning it out? Keeping the document short makes sure that important information is not overlooked by the hiring manager. If you have a two-page resume packed with information in size 10 font, your critical skills may be too deeply hidden to be read. Remember, a resume is not designed to tell your life story. Moreover, a resume by itself will not land you a job. Its sole purpose is to pique the interest of the hiring manager enough to offer you an interview.

To help you keep your resume short, be sure it is carefully focused. If your knowledge, skills or abilities are not relevant to the responsibilities listed in the job posting, leave them off the resume! Leaving irrelevant information on your resume camouflages more important, job-relevant skills. When deciding whether to include information on your resume, go back to the job posting and ask: “Does this information provide evidence I can perform the tasks listed in the job description?”

It’s not about you, it’s about the company’s problems.

Managers really don’t care about your biography or career history. Managers care about solving their organization’s problems. I was reminded about this fact after trying to change a tire on my car. I don’t claim to be an effective handyman, so not surprisingly, I possess only few tools. I was able to borrow a jack to lift the car, and was starring at the tire trying to figure out how to remove the lug nuts. Looking in my toolbox, the only implement available was a pair of pliers. After what seemed like endless frustration and no success, I sought a different tool. I went to a neighbor’s house and borrowed the only helpful tool available—an adjustable wrench (don’t come to my neighborhood, as tools are apparently in scarce supply here). Now I’m not certain who tightened my lug nuts during my last tire rotation, but he likely had all the strength of the Hulk. Between my poor tools and tight lug nuts, I was getting nowhere fast. Finally, I cried uncle and made my way to the store in another vehicle to buy what I really needed—a lug nut wrench.

In the same way, companies have specific problems that need to be solved. Take a cold, hard look at your resume. Does it effectively communicate how you are the very best “tool” to solve the company’s problem? Does it address the keywords in the job posting and highlight all of the required skills? Does your resume standout as being the pliers, adjustable wrench, or the lug nut wrench? This is loosely how managers sort resumes: probably won’t work, might work, and should work perfectly.

Explain what you can DO.

Far too many resumes regurgitate job titles, position descriptions, and professional accomplishments without actually addressing what an applicant can DO for the company. Managers don’t care that you led men into combat or were the Airman of the Year. Congratulations—I get you are a great guy or gal based on your listed accomplishments. Now, tell me what skills you have to help solve the company’s problems?! The job posting tells you the secret recipe to get an interview. The more skills and abilities you can present in your resume that match the company’s needs will make it rise to the top of the pile.

Succinctly, managers use targeted resumes to discover specialists with the appropriate knowledge, skills, and abilities to solve specific company problems.

“A poor resume is like a marksman with a shotgun…he can hit a close range-target, but you’ll still have no idea if he is any good.

Our thanks to Ryan Wallace of Aviation Management|Aviation Education & Training|Aerospace Security|E-3 AWACS|C2 Systems

Go to, click on the “Looking for People” tab, then view “Veterans Solutions” to see more for information on our Veterans Solutions for Employers. Please join our LinkedIn group, Veterans Hiring Solutions for Veterans and Companies at If you have specific questions about hiring veterans or the incentives for doing so, contact me at [email protected].