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Marines, Don't Make These Common Resume Mistakes

Your resume is often the first impression you will make on an organization, yet recruiters usually don’t spend more than a few seconds reading it. It’s important to communicate your experience as quickly and clearly as possible. Think of it as your extended elevator pitch. Make it easy for the reader to find your qualifications and clearly see how you can contribute to their organization.

Don’t just copy and paste your billet description.

Yes, your billet description is a good place to start when you begin to develop your resume. But it’s just that: a starting point. Use it as a reference as you draft your action-oriented accomplishments. Speaking of that…

Don’t make it passive.

Are you passive? No! You’re a Marine, for crying out loud! Your resume shouldn’t be passive either. Use action verbs to energize your resume. Describe your accomplishments (using active verbs like “initiated,” “established,” or “constructed”), not your responsibilities (anything beginning with “responsible for” or “responsibilities include”).

Don’t make it generic.

While it’s a good idea to maintain your master resume, tailor your resume to the industry and each specific opportunity. This might mean leaving out some details about an experience that doesn’t relate to the opportunity for which you are applying. It also means tweaking the language in your resume to match the terminology used in the job announcement.

Don’t forget to “translate” it for civilians.

Most civilians don’t have much experience with the military. Using military- or Marine Corps-specific jargon doesn’t help them understand what you bring to the table and might lead them to believe you won’t fit into their corporate culture. Demilitarize the language you use throughout your resume.

Don’t use the wrong format.

There are good reasons and situations to use chronological, functional, combination, or federal resumes. Check out the article, What’s the Best Resume Format for You? for more information on choosing the appropriate format.

Don’t make it too long (or too short).

Typically, civilian resumes tend to range from 1-3 pages. (Usually it’s closer to 1 page.) Often, you will not use all of the content from your master resume, especially if you are mid-career. Instead, you will trim the content in your master resume down to a resume targeted to a specific position. Recognize that federal resumes are often considerably longer than “regular” civilian resumes because generally federal resumes contain a lot more detail.

Don’t make spelling, grammar, or punctuation mistakes.

Spell check is not enough! Definitely run a spell check on your draft, but make sure you ask at least one other person to review it. Seek assistance from your Transition Readiness staff as you develop your resume, or ask the Marine for Life Network on LinkedIn for feedback.

Remember that your resume is going to be compared to the position description. Make it easy for anyone who sees your resume to recognize how well suited you are to the position.

If you are preparing to transition you will learn more about writing a resume in the Transition Readiness Seminar. The Resumes and Cover Letters, and Federal Resume courses are also available at any time through your Installation’s Transition Readiness Program.  

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