Shareem Kilkenny of the Veterans Career Counseling Services posts this article.

A “great” military resume can be the difference between landing the job of your dreams, or spending months wading through the job pool. I’ve created the mnemonic device G.R.E.A.T. to help you remember the key elements to keep in mind when writing your resume. Follow these general guidelines, and you will significantly increase your chances of landing a job.

G – Grammatically Correct

R – Relevant

E – Enticing

A – Achievement-Oriented

T- Truthful

Grammatically Correct. The first rule of resume writing is don’t make any silly mistakes. This means make sure you pay attention to detail. If your resume isn’t grammatically correct it sends an instant red flag to recruiters. Fair or not, they’re going to immediately question your competence. This may sound harsh, but it’s absolutely true. And they may have a point. Unless you’re stuck in a bygone era and still using a typewriter, you’re most likely creating your resume using Microsoft Word or some other word-processing software that has grammar- and spell-check. If you fail to correct these obvious errors, it does at a minimum say something about how much time and effort you put into writing the resume. With this serving as the only frame of reference, the recruiter is left with no choice but to extrapolate about your general work habits. Also, keep in mind that you’re competing with dozens – if not hundreds – of applicants. Why would a recruiter spend time examining a resume that’s full of spelling and grammatical errors, when he/she has a stack of others on their desk? Then there’s the issue of applicant tracking systems (ATS). Pay attention to your grammar and punctuation. Incorrect punctuation could confuse the systems and combine sections that you may not intend to combine, which could lead to ATS rejecting your resume. Read more about how ATS works here.

Relevant. Submit a “generic”, and rest assured that you’ve essentially written your ticket to job-hunting limbo land. The main reason is recruiters just don’t have the time to weed through your resume with a magnifying glass to figure out if you would be a good fit for the position. The average recruiter spends approximately 20 seconds looking at your resume. In fact, many recruiters spend as little as 6 seconds examining your resume. So only put the information that is most relevant to the position you’re applying for on your resume. Make it jump out at the recruiter immediately, instead of asking them to sift through your resume to find it. Also, avoid using terms like Battalion, Brigade, Regiment, etc. on your military resume. Assume that that type of language will get lost on the average civilian recruiter or hiring official. Instead, use generic terms like ‘unit’, or even better, put it in quantifiable terms like ‘unit comprised of over 150 personnel.’ Click here to read “The Myth of the Generic Resume”

Enticing. As you’re well aware, the job market is tough these days; so you can’t take anything for granted. This means that how you present your military experience, is as important as what your military experience is. Consider this analogy: Imagine going to a restaurant and being presented with a plate of food that is poorly plated. Your steak is buried under the mashed potatoes; and the vegetables are scattered all over the plate. Not very enticing right? No matter how good the food tastes (that’s if you haven’t lost your appetite), your experience just won’t be the same. It’s not enough to have all the information in the resume, it must presented (or plated) in a manner that makes the recruiter want to read it. Graphics are not necessary; and overdoing it can hurt you. However, subtle strategically placed graphics can add a touch of elegance, and make your resume stand out from the stack.

Achievement-Oriented. Don’t just list ‘what’ you did on your military resume, but be sure to explain the impact of what you did, and if possible, put it in quantifiable terms. For example: Designed a training program for junior non-commissioned officers that led to a 30% increase in unit physical training pass rate. This tip is even more important for veterans and transitioning military members, because a lot of your experience isn’t easily understood by civilians. So the more you explain the better. It’s not enough to say you were the non-commissioned officer in charge (NCOIC) of XYZ project. Explain what impact your supervision had on the success of the project; and explain the impact of that successful mission on the overall unit productivity. The impact statement is what sets you apart from your competitors – particularly as the herd of applicants thins out. If you make the first cut, or make it past the ATS, you have to assume that all the remaining applicants have similar backgrounds. So the only way you’re going to stand out at this stage is for your work to have had a greater impact on the company’s overall mission.

Truthful. On the surface this seems like a no-brainer. Everyone knows that lying is wrong. However, there’s admittedly a grey area of resume writing that can produce an air of uncertainty. For instance, if a job posting calls for the applicant to have a Master’s degree, and you only have a Bachelor’s, claiming you meet the qualifications would clearly be a lie. However, what if the job posting asks for you to be proficient in Microsoft Excel? You’ve created simple charts and graphs; but does that make you proficient? Not as clear, right? How you answer this becomes more of judgment call; and it’s up to you how you chose to present yourself. One option would be to contact the recruiter and try to get some clarification. You certainly don’t want to blatantly lie on your resume however. Even if you land the job, blatant lies will be exposed eventually, and you’ll probably end up losing your job. Then good luck getting a favorable reference for future positions.

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 feel free to 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].