I was once told that all ex service personnel leaving the armed forces were given exactly the same information in how to structure a Resume.
Personally I don’t believe there is a one size fits all, cookie cutter solution for writing a CV.
Based on the wide variety of experiences you have, I think that’s especially the case when it comes to ex forces personnel.
Why would you want a CV to look like every other person that’s in the same position as you are?
No – you need to give yourself a competitive edge and show your unique skills.
Here are 8 changes I would make straight away to improve your chances of getting that interview.
1. Soft Skills – Forget them.
CVs are littered with phrases like
“Work well under pressure”
“Self-motivated and high level of integrity”
“Excellent communication skills”
“Results and quality-oriented working habits to aim towards company goals”
“Excellent man management skills”
Filling out a CV in bullet points with these “unique skills” just under the name and address section is in my opinion (and other Recruiters I know) a waste of time, and to be honest I generally skip right past it to go to the part I’m really interested in.
Far better to change them for something more technical like
- Re-wired the Comms Systems on Apache Helicopters, or
- Upgraded emergency Diesel generators on XYZ Aircraft Carrier, or
- Diagnosed Faults down to sub system level on Tornado Aircraft
These are tangible things that give me a point of reference and help me to make the leap to see how you may able to do the job that I’m looking for people for
2. Qualifications – List them somewhere near the top.
Start with the highest and work backwards.
- ONC or HNC in Subject 2
- NVQ 3 in Subject 3
- Modern Apprenticeship as etc
And so on
Then move on to the specialist courses again, the most valuable at the top, working down.
- Slinging Course
- Rigging course
- First Aid Course
- 100 metres Swimming Certificate
You get the idea?
While I’m covering qualifications, I would highly recommend that you ensure that you posses anything that is listed on your CV.
I can’t claim that you have a NVQ 3 in Engineering if I haven’t seen it, and often a company will need copies for their records.
As a footnote it can cost currently up to £44.00 to search for a replacement City & Guilds certificate. This can take 3 weeks or more and and the fee is non refundable even if they can’t find it.
3. Reverse Chronological Order – List the most recent job you did first.
Give an overview of the positions you’ve held, and the jobs you’ve done, focussing on the technical details.
This is the area that normally gives me the most information so this is where
“Re-wired the Comms Systems for the Apache Helicopter,” or
“Upgraded emergency Diesel generators on XYZ Aircraft Carrier,” or
“Diagnosed Faults down to sub system level on Tornado Aircraft” needs to be.
This is the first place I will look to establish if you may be suitable for the role I have.
The second third and fourth places I’ll look will be the jobs previous to that.
Bullet any achievements, like
- “supervised team of 12 fitters” or
- “repaired and turned around Merlin EH101 Avionics within 24 hours”
and then move onto the next.
4. Show Me The Relevant Experience
Whatever job you’re applying for, your CV needs to show the relevant experience, using technical keywords.
So if you’re applying for an Electrical Fitting job, focus on that experience on your CV.
Facilities Maintenance? Talk about your experience in this area.
Ex forces personnel often do more than one job, so tailor your CV to show the work you’ve done that gives you the direct experience for the position you’re applying for.
5. Tell Me Where You’ve Been
A lot of the people I deal with are ex-services also.
If I could tell them where you served, the Rank you held etc we both know they’ve probably got a lot of the information to help them make a decision on your suitability.
6. Tell Me More
Here is a typical extract from a CV
Engineering Technician (Weapon Engineer) – 2007 – November 2013
A varied role, adapting to the needs of the Forces. Not only working on ships, also land based. In this time, experience has been gained in fields such as driving, management and administration.
6 Years’ experience of probably the most varied work on earth and it’s summed up in a couple of sentences.
Now I KNOW there is more this person can add.
I can only begin to guess the type of work done, the tools used, and the achievements gained and the reality is, I DO HAVE TO GUESS.
I now have a choice to either pick up the phone and have the conversation, or move on to the next one.
It’s also on my mind that when it comes to the interview and this person is asked “tell me about your last job” that this is an example of the answer that they’ll give.
7. Know What You Want To Do
For me this is probably one of the most important points.
Coming from the services you are likely to have a wide and varied range of practical skills.
Knowing the kind of role you want and then focussing on, and promoting those skills in detail is for me the best thing you can do.
Let’s say you’re looking for a Hands on Electrical Fitting or a Maintenance Role.
There’s less point talking about your management skills, your Health and Safety skills, your Quality Auditing skills, or anything else that’s not related to the job you’re aiming for.
The space you free up by taking out the irrelevant stuff can be filled up with the technical stuff we talked about earlier ☺.
8. Know Where You Want To Do It
Once I’ve got your CV and I believe you may be suitable, I’m going to ask
- Where do you want to work? How far would you want to commute on a daily basis, would you relocate or work away from home?
- What jobs do you want to do?
- How much do you need to be paid?
- When are you available to start work or how much notice do you need to give?
- Are you interested in Permanent Jobs, Contract Jobs, or Temp to Perm Jobs or all 3?
I’ll need to know this as a bare minimum.
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