A User’s Guide to Resume Criticism

Dealing with criticism ranks pretty low on the “things I’d rather be doing” list of most military job seekers. However, at MilitaryResumes.com, we highly encourage our transitioning military clients to actively seek out criticism from trusted members of their inner circle. Criticism can be hard to swallow, but it can also be a vehicle for propelling your military resume, and you, forward. But keep in mind that the opinions of others’ should not detract you from your intended goals and a resume that you feel confident with. Always make it a point to assess the source of the criticism before altering your military resume or changing your direction. Here are some key questions to consider in assessing the source of criticism:

• Does the critic have specific resume knowledge?

It’s always a good idea to have a certified professional resume writer, particularly one with military experience, write and/or review your military resume. (For more information on professional military resume writing, visit www.MilitaryResumes.com.) But if this isn’t a viable option for you, consider eliciting the help of an on-base transition program such as ACAP or TAP. Ask a counselor who works with transitioning military job seekers on a daily basis if they have formal resume training and, if so, is it up-to-date? The art of resume writing is constantly evolving. Be wary of anyone who suggests representing your experience in a functional format. To me, this suggests outdated resume training.

Seek the advice of members of the corporate world who routinely evaluate resumes and make hiring decisions. This group of critics will shed light on portions of your military resume that may not make sense to the average civilian. For targeting purposes, ask them what they are looking for in a resume. But bear in mind that this group can have a tendency to suggest watering down your military experience almost to the point of being inconsequential.

Finally, look to a recently transitioned friend or coworker with a military background similar to yours. Ask them how long it took them to find a job and what role their resume played in landing them their follow-on career. While some network during their military careers to the point of simply stepping into another job, others go about their post-military career searches with a more traditional approach. Seek out a person with not only a similar military background, but a similar job search strategy as well. Look at their resume. Ask them what worked for them and what didn’t. Are there pitfalls you can avoid?

• What are the critic’s intentions?

Through MilitaryResumes.com, I recently had the opportunity to work with a senior Army officer who has spent many hard-earned years at the Pentagon. I asked him to share feedback on his resume with me from his colleagues. One colleague insisted that he should list exactly who he dealt with in his policy-making initiatives. A marketable concept (developing national policy through collaborative efforts with theatre-level commanders, members of Congress, and top government officials) quickly morphed into an off-putting string of acronyms (CENTCOM, OSD, etc). But because this client had no interest in using his resume to secure a position with the federal government or a DoD contractor, this superfluous information, especially in the form of acronyms, would only confuse his intended audience. Subconsciously, our peers and bosses tend to read a resume as if they were looking for someone to replace themselves. So asking, “What are the critic’s intentions?” whether they be conscious or subconscious, is imperative.

• Are the critic’s comments sincere?

If someone is offering constructive criticism from the heart, listen carefully. Criticism should never be sarcastic. Does the critic genuinely want to see you do well? Be wary of unsolicited advice. Unsolicited advice can come in the form of a contentious coworker. It can arrive via email in the form of a canned resume critique from a company seeking to profit by playing into the insecurities of many job seekers with resumes posted on the Internet. And above all, trust your gut. Because nobody wants to see you succeed more than you do.