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Service Members, Get Hired! Part IV(e): Resume Tailoring

Resumes & Cover Letters

Folks, we are on the home stretch of the marathon that is resume writing! You’ve created your master resume. You’ve gotten feedback on it from numerous people. However, you can’t just submit that master resume to all the jobs you’re interested in and expect to start landing interviews. Instead, you need to tailor it to each and every job that you apply for. Remember Parts II and III, when we discussed focusing your interests on one particular field or industry, and then prioritizing what you want from a job to help narrow it down to just a handful of job opportunities? This is why. Because after all these hours just creating a master resume, it’s now time to spend about 2-4hrs on average tailoring it. Yes, folks, it’s about a 2-4 hour process from start to full submission of your application (to include a cover letter and supporting documentation). Looking at federal jobs? You’re looking at up to 8hrs of tailoring from start to complete submission. Looking for a job is a full-time job.

Anyhow, enough of the doom and gloom. Let’s get into what I’m talking about.

So, why advocate so strongly for such a painstaking and time-consuming process as a 4-hour resume tailoring session? Because if you haven’t heard during your TAP session, there are computer programs out there that screen your resumes for the relevance of your resume to the job description. I call them buzzwords and buzzphrases. If this screening program is used, then your resume is assigned a score based on the amount of buzzwords/phrases from the job announcement/description that it contains, which helps the recruiter/hiring manager rate and pare down the applications.

Now, does this mean you have to use entire lines pulled from the job description with no deviation? No! You still want to have all of the substantiations from your bullet development. What I am saying is you need to bridge the gap from their buzzwords to your experience.

If you're sure the organization isn't using one of those screening programs (usually called ATS), you still want to follow these steps to tailor your resume. Let me explain why. Your average recruiter sometimes isn't overly versed in the job they're recruiting for - they're HR, not a cyber guru that's been a keyboard warrior, or whatever specific field you're applying for - and so they're going to be looking for those same keywords and buzz phrases that an ATS program would be searching for. Even if they're versed in the field that you're applying for, remembering back to the fact that they're likely only going to give your resume about a 5-10 second initial look, they're still looking for those keywords and buzz phrases.

Another important point to consider is that quite often you’re going to find that industries and even certain companies have their own set of terminology and lingo. The key is that just because there's all this fancy lingo it does not mean that you haven't done it during your time in service. Case in point, you may come across requiring Technical and Program Management Reviews (T&PMRs). Have you ever conducted a T&PMR? Well, you may not think you have, but have you ever held a meeting with your folks about the status of the Family Readiness Program, or some other unit program like SAPR/SHARP? Then you’ve conducted a T&PMR! Haven’t been a leader of one of those meetings, but been a part of one? Well, you can’t necessarily say you conducted, but you can at least say that you’ve been intimately involved.

See how it’s all about bridging the gaps and using their verbiage instead of your own? Now, I’m NOT talking about lying! If you haven’t done it, then don’t list it. However, what I am saying is that the key is taking their terminology and replacing yours wherever possible without losing the meat that you already have!

Now, I’ve talked to a lot of hiring managers and recruiters in my days about these screening programs, so please allow me to address some rumors/misnomers. You may have heard from folks that there are certain ways to “circumvent” the algorithm of a screening program, such as putting buzzwords/phrases in white font so the program picks them up without having to tailor your resume. I’m here to tell you that a) most of today’s screening programs have been programmed to catch this, and b) at some point it’s going to see human eyes, so even if the program doesn’t flag the resume as deceitful, they’ll likely pick up on it during the closer review. In other words, don't do it!

Other things you’ll hear are, “All job applications have to be reviewed by the recruiter/hiring manager regardless,” “All Federal jobs use the screening programs,” or some other type of warning. I’ll say is this: Nothing is absolute. The truth is that every single instance is different. It’s true that not all federal jobs do use a screening program, and some civilian companies do.

It’s also true that some companies/agencies have policies that a certain number or percentage of resumes have to be viewed by human eyes. Some leave it up to the discretion of the hiring manager or recruiter to determine how/why resumes get reviewed. At the end of the day, you just don’t know. So just put in the time to bridge the gap between your resumes and the job announcement/description using the buzzwords/phrases. It’s time-consuming, but I promise you, between the meat you put in your resume, and the tailoring you apply to your resume, you’re going to start getting interviews!

Now, there is a chance that you’re going to come across a job application submission site where you’ll be asked to upload your resume, and then be asked to rebuild your entire resume all over again. This is infuriating! I get it! However, as much as I despise when employers do this, if the job you’re applying to requires it, then you must do it. Chances are they’re doing it because they’re using a screening algorithm. Regardless of why, if you come across this – as frustrating as it is – you, unfortunately, have to fill it all out properly. Otherwise, you will likely never move on to the interview. If it bugs you as much as it does me (which I’m sure it does), then make your grievance known once you’ve already got the job.

Congratulations! Your resume is finally done and ready to be submitted! However, before you do, there’s one more item to include: The cover letter. This is a vital element that may put you over the top to land an interview. Just like a “thank you” note after an interview (which will get to in Part V), this is your chance to be a little more personable with the hiring manager and/or recruiter and show that you’re willing to go above and beyond for the position you’re applying to. So what do we want to include and consider when we create our cover letter? Join me next week to find out!

Hopefully, you’ve found some use in Part IV(e) of our Employment chat. If you did, please share it with your fellow service members so that they can also hopefully glean some insight into the various aspects of transition. And of course, join me next week for the bonus installment, Part IV(f) of the Employment chat, as we talk about creating your cover letter!

Until next time, be safe, stay healthy, and remember that you’re not in this alone!

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