With thousands of fish swimming in the sea of virtual job applications, it’s critical to differentiate yourself from others. With Permanent Change of Station moves, resume gaps and other unique challenges faced by military spouses, standing out for the right reasons can feel especially daunting. As a professional recruiter, I sift through thousands of resumes each month looking for that perfect catch and these are the five ways a resume can catch a potential screener’s eye (or algorithm):
1. Focus on keywords.
When searching for a candidate for a position, recruiters focus on finding someone who meets a specific job description. Often, companies outsource this process to recruiting firms, so the person searching only has the description from which they can operate. Read the job descriptions of positions you are hoping to fill and ensure that those key skills are not just in your resume, but in your online profiles — or you won’t show up in a job search.
If I’m looking for someone who has worked as a database administrator, I’m going to search that skillset instead of something broader like “computer skills” or instead of “journalism” I’m looking for copy editor, researcher, reporter, etc. List your certifications in your profile so that you’ll have a better chance of appearing in job queries.
2. Close the gaps.
Listen, we get it. As military spouses our resumes frequently look like we can’t hold a job or can’t decide on a field. You have a master’s in social work and somehow spent a year as a photographer, two years as an assistant baker and another year as a teacher. Close the resume gaps by finding things you’ve carried between duty stations.
Been an active member of the FRG for four duty stations now, or always serve as the room parent, no matter what school? Use that to your advantage. List it as one item: FRG advisor 2008 – present. The expanded description can be explained in bullet points, but showcasing one thing for a consistent amount of time only works in your favor. Also, speak to the gaps or the different career moves in a cover letter, or profile, if you can. Use words like versatile, agile, breadth of experience to talk about how these pivots enhance your total portfolio.
3. Use assertive language.
Employers want to see leadership, teamwork, dedication, and above all else, that you’ll be a great hire. This is easy to show in reframing your language from passive to active. And use action words on your resume so that instead of merely “improving” your bullet points, you accelerate, amplify, boost, capitalize, and enhance (you get the idea!) them.
Not only do you want to use action words, but make sure you show the impact of your work. Would you rather see that someone developed a software to streamline a process, or developed a software that streamlined our processes, resulting in a $400,000 annual savings for the company (way more impressive!)? Impact is what sets you apart and numbers can tell a story.
4. Make your contact information easily accessible.
A recruiter has found you and you’re an ideal candidate. But, fatal error: we don’t know how to contact you. Many recruiting software platforms, like LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter, etc., limit the number of direct messages you can send to candidates per month, and recruiters don’t know how often you’re checking that platform. Rather, list your cell phone and email directly on the resume or if you’re willing, at least your email in your profile. Make yourself easy to find.
5. Time for new headshots.
First impressions are hard to undo and when talking about virtual encounters, how you carry yourself online makes a difference. A recent, professional headshot is a must, especially in the digital era where everyone is connecting. Yes, we know you looked great at that event, but we can also clearly see there’s a person next to you cropped out. Professional headshots show that you’re a professional.
Don’t have the budget? Check out upcoming hiring events, such as Hiring Our Heroes Military Spouse Professional Network events, which often have a photographer onsite taking them for free.