I get it. You’re about to leave the military (or have already left) and you want to secure that first job. So you send in a resume for every open position you see online. You’ve been cutting and pasting your resume so many times you wonder if it still makes sense, but you hope one of them will land on the desk of a recruiter who calls for an interview.
The problem with this approach is that you may have easily missed three important questions that need to be answered before you submit for a job and send your resume. If you miss these, the chances of your information getting the attention of the right person go from slim to none.
1. Have I met the minimum and preferred requirements?
In the posted job description, employers will list out the minimum skills, certifications and experience needed to be considered. They’ll write it as, “Minimum 5 years of experience in the industry…” or “Must have attained the PMP certification…” and so on. This means that candidates who do not have that experience are at risk of being passed over.
The employer will also post preferred requirements for the job. While not mandatory, these requirements give candidates who possess them an extra edge. Preferred requirements might look like, “Master’s degree in finance preferable…” or “Previous experience in pharmaceutical sales is a plus!” and so on.
Ensure your experience aligns with the minimum and preferred qualifications the employer seeks. If necessary, modify the language of your military experience to meet these requirements so they stand out.
2. Do I understand the business, goals, mission and culture of the company?
Beyond the requirements of the job, ensure you are clear about what the company does and why they care about their work. Whom do they serve? Why were they founded? What are they committed to fulfilling/selling/delivering? Why does that matter to them? Who are their competitors? The answers to these questions will enlighten you on the types of people who work there and the kinds of people they like to hire. You’ll make sure your resume, online profiles and interview responses match up (where they authentically do) to what the company seeks.
To get this information, you’ll do informational interviews, online research and talk to people you know. Try to understand as best you can what motivates and drives the company and what they seek as a “cultural fit”. Then, ensure your resume aligns in tone and passion to get their attention.
3. Did I customize my resume?
With an understanding of how you meet the requirements (minimum and preferred) and what the company’s business, culture and goals are, it’s important to tailor your resume to get their attention. Leave off things that are irrelevant to the job or the company, focus in on the specific requirements and achievements you’ve attained that they care about and use keywords to filter through online scanning software.
Companies care about keywords — the terms, words and language that they’ll search for. If they write “project coordinator” and your resume lists “logistician” you’ve missed the keywords. Use their language whenever possible to show alignment with the job requirements.
There are many other questions to consider as well, such as “Do I know someone who can network me into the company?,” “Have I researched the teams I’d be working with?,” “Who can I do an informational interview with in advance of sending in my information?” and so on. But the three listed are the most critical to assess before ever hitting “send” on the keyboard.
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