Create a Winning Resume

Your resume should paint a picture of a well-qualified candidate who can deliver results. It should focus on your skills, achievements and qualifications, and communicate why you are the best candidate for a position. The items below highlight common mistakes that should be avoided, as well as best practices to help put your best foot forward.


These errors can be an immediate disqualifier. First and foremost, errors like this say little about your ability to pay attention to detail and make a poor first impression. For example, your resume says you are a wearhouse supervisor. This type of error begs the question: “Is this person capable of leading a team with such a poor grasp of basic spelling?” Consider too what it says about your lack of attention to detail. As a transitioning or veteran servicemember, attention to detail is a trait you can proudly represent – so make sure your resume and cover letter do that.

Similarly, if this isn’t your first job out of the service, it is never a good idea to misspell the name of a past employer that has signed your paychecks (example: JANE’S PEI EMPORIUM, when you really worked at JANE’S PIE EMPORIUM).

Remember, too, that the spell check feature on your computer may catch a misspelling, but does not catch and correct context errors. For example, it will not catch “Thank you for yours consideration” because technically, all the words are spelled correctly. Proofread it, and then have someone else proofread it!


Your dates must match up and be in order. There shouldn’t be any gaps.

Bravo Battery, 3rd Battalion, 41st Field Artillery, Ft. Stewart, GA, SEP 2012 – FEB 2015 Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 13th Field Artillery, Fort Sill, OK, MAY 2008 – DEC 2011

An employer will wonder, “What were you doing between January and August of 2012?” Worse still, they may disqualify you from consideration without ever asking.


Always think about the email address you put on your resume. If your current e-mail is, consider creating another address just for resumes. Make it a plain email address like

You should also clean up your LinkedIn and Facebook pages. They say a lot about you, and employers check them. It’s okay to be passionate and active, but it’s not okay to be abusive and profane.


Omit phrases such as “Responsible for….,” “Duties include….,” “In charge of….,” etc. These phrases are boring and redundant, and they muddy the clarity of your message. Include concrete data, numbers, and percentages that clearly state your accomplishments. For example:

Before: Responsible for coordinating, planning, and executing Amphibious Raids and Water Survival Training. Served as lead instructor for Staff Planning Course for junior grade officers.

After: Developed and executed numerous realistic high-risk courses for nearly 1,500 personnel per year. Ranked as the number one instructor among fifteen by my superiors on numerous performance reports.

Use strong, active verbs that present your skills and abilities in a few words. For example: - Devised new curriculum for a staff planning course. This new program enhanced the organization’s ability to conduct missions within a shorter timeline, thereby improving efficiency and relevancy on the battlefield.
- Spearheaded the creation of a functional fitness and martial arts training room which increased the instructor’s Marine Corps Martial Arts certification levels by 90%. - Guided seven different joint combat operations with United States Special Forces along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border independent of the higher headquarters.


A cover letter serves as a good preface to your resume by allowing you to discuss your work ethic and ability to function as a team player. It also lets you provide more detail about one or two achievements from your military background or perhaps positions in the civilian world, post-service.

Your cover letter supports your resume—it does not repeat it. Be sure to follow the rules of professional business correspondence in your cover letter, and use the same active voice and terminology you use for your resume writing.


It’s important for civilian employers to understand that your years in the service have prepared you well for the civilian world. However, if they have not served, it may be difficult for them to wade through a series of titles and acronyms they don’t understand.

It’s important to translate your experience and skill sets into civilian terminology. A good test to see if your resume is understandable is to have a civilian read it. If he or she can’t understand what you did in the service, you need to spell it out more clearly. Ask one or more non-serving friends or family members for their perspective on your resume. Do they understand everything you did without needing more clarification? If not, ask them how to better describe it in their view.


  • Use a typestyle (font) that is clean, conservative, and easy to read. Times New Roman is not a preferred font of professional resume writers, simply because it is so over-used.
  • Choose a font size between 10 and 12 points.
  • Use spacing, as well as bold, italics, underlining and CAPITALIZATION to highlight certain information.
  • Some popular font types to consider include: Tahoma, Arial, and Verdana


The transferable skills that you learned in the service are the foundation of your resume. Begin with a Career Summary that lists your skills, qualifications, achievements, and technical abilities. This will capture your reader’s attention and immediately communicate the value you could bring to their organization.

Career Summary

Top-performing management professional with experience in event coordination, finance, supervision, budgeting, planning and food service. Active Secret Clearance (valid through 2015)

From that point, you should list your Professional/Employment Experience, listing your current position first, and then proceeding in reverse chronological order. Next, list your education, credentials and certifications.


  • 1984 Marine Corps University - Leadership, Aviation Maintenance Technology, completed 49 Semester Hours
  • Advanced Noncommissioned Officers Course

Finally, you may also wish to include some “extras” that will distinguish you from other candidates and demonstrate your value to a prospective employer. These areas include, but are not limited to:

Equipment skills and certifications - If you have a lot of these, only list those relevant to the position you're applying to. Example: FCC GROL certification with Radar Endorsement

Technical qualifications - Example: PC Proficient with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint

Languages - Only list those you are fluent in. Example: Fluent in English, Spanish, and German

Honors and Awards – You do not need to list every medal. Only list those that are major and were a result of your individual efforts.

Teaching and Training – If you have special and relevant training qualifications, you can list those. Only do this if they are relevant to the position you are applying for.

Committees and Task Forces – These can be both in the military and in volunteer organizations. Again, only highlight those where you involvement is significant, or it’s relevant to the role you’re interested in.


Your years in the military have given you specific skills, attention to detail and an unparalleled work ethic that make you a desirable commodity in the civilian workforce. Understand and appreciate the value you bring to a prospective employer, and communicate that value. By focusing on your character as well as your achievements, successes, and unique skill sets, you can show that you are “the” someone who will make a difference at their company.

Thursday November 12, 2015