Why military hard skills matter

Hard skills matter more than you might think in your job search. If you don’t have the hard skills required by potential employers, your job search will suffer.

What is a hard skill?

A hard skill is one that can be learned. For example, a hard skill for a warehousing worker might be 3PL Warehouse Manager or Asset Panda. Not to be confused with a soft skill, which is more like behaviors, such as persuasion or collaboration.

Why hard skills matter

When you apply for a job, many employers first filter applicants by hard skills. In fact, most companies have an application tracking system (ATS) that does just that, without any human intervention at all. If your skillset doesn’t match those in the job posting, it’s the equivalent of your resume going straight to the trash.

Even if a company doesn’t use an ATS or prefers to involve a human along the way (perhaps even meeting a hiring manager at a career fair), one of the first professional evaluations to occur is a review of your hard skills. If you have what they need, your chances of getting that job just increased.

Let’s say you get that interview and are a top candidate. Who will get the offer? Most likely, the person with the closest hard skills match.

Converting military hard skills

Your time in the military gave you many new hard skills – perhaps even with products not available outside the military. It’s just knowing how to translate them to your advantage in the civilian job market.

First, find a military skills translator, whether on the Web (Google it) or with a skilled resume writer who specializes in veterans resumes. Even if you have someone do the paperwork, you still need to commit similar products to memory so you can talk about it in an interview. If you are asked if you know a particular product, you can respond with “no, but I’ve used a similar product, and since they are so similar, it’ll be easy for me to learn quickly.” That answer showcases your soft skills, such as confidence and ability to learn. Soft skills that employers desire!

Conclusion

While most employers have told me they seek specific soft skills, the entry to barrier will be your hard skills. Without the hard skills employers need, your job search will struggle. Make the most of your career by staying on top of industry trends and taking advantage of any opportunity to add a new product to your hard skillset.

Write a targeted resume to get an interview

Writing your resume is tough enough, but with the odds of your resume being seen by hiring managers so slim, you’ll need all the help you can get. Eventually, the job of your dreams will finally be posted and you’ll want to go the extra mile to get an interview. So now what?

Customize your resume for the position!

Sounds easy enough, but to get past the applicant tracking system (ATS), you’ll need to learn the basics of search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is how journalists and other writers get their work seen by search engines (Google, Bing, etc.). That way, their articles will display in search results. ATS’s work in the same manner. They scan your resume like a search engine and if your resume matches the search criteria, your resume will be selected as a top match. The trick is, knowing how to align your resume with the search criteria. So how do you do that?

Match their job posting requirements!

Although there are multiple methods to do that, I’ll focus on just one to get you started: Keyword optimization. Keyword optimization involves researching and selected the best keywords (hint, they are in the job posting), so that your resume is seen by the ATS. Thankfully, there is a handy free tool available that can provide information to guide you.

How TagCrowd can help

With TagCrowd, you can cut and paste the job description and requirement into the appropriate box. Under Options, next to Show Frequencies? click Yes. After a quick visualization, you’ll get a list of the top keywords used in the job posting.

Visit TagCrowd at https://tagcrowd.com/

(no compensation was paid for my recommendation)

Next step

Your next step is carefully match a few of the top keywords in your resume (I generally aim for the top 5 meaningful keywords). This can be tricky. If the job posting is written poorly, you’ll discover some of the top keywords have nothing to do with the accomplishments on your resume. You’ll have to determine if the open position will actually be a good fit for you. If it is, you may also want to see if anyone in your professional network can put your resume in front of the hiring manager’s eyes.

Just a warning, don’t get too carried away with matching all the keywords exactly. This process, known as “keyword stuffing,” will be recognized as such by the ATS and you’ll be rejected.

Nevertheless, TagCrowd can be an important tool to use in customizing your resume to get your dream job. Use it wisely and you will get that interview!

1 tip to get seen by hiring managers

Recently, one of my resume writing clients vented his frustration with his job search over the last few months. “I feel like I have the skills and qualifications, so why isn’t anyone interested in me?” he disclosed to me. Let me break it down for you.

Initially, hiring managers want someone who can walk in the door and be familiar with their technologies and methodologies right away.

Corporations have applicant tracking systems (ATS) in place to screen out candidates that do not meet this requirement, so this is where it gets complicated. In fact, some of the most perfectly qualified candidates will never be seen by hiring managers. So what can you do?

First, you need to state the exact name of every technology that you’ve ever used on your resume. Call out the full product name and it’s descriptor, if possible. For example, my client said that he had used Remedy for four years when he worked at a call center. Remedy, itself, is a company name and, in fact, no longer in existence. What did the ATS see? Nothing.

I rewrote the accomplishment with the product name as it is known today, which is “BMC IT Service Management.” Many modern ATS’s are smart enough to know current product names and now will call him out as a candidate with 4 years’ experience in service management software. Some of the older systems aren’t as smart, but you have to keep looking forward.

In summary, do the foot work and research every product name you’ve ever used. Visit corporate websites to find out actual names and use it wisely on your resume. Not only in your “skills” section but also once (just once, not more) under each position that you’ve held in the past.

Why won’t anyone hire a veteran?

It seems a simple concept. In the legal world, it’s called quid pro quo (“this for that”). You fight for our freedom and in return, you should be the strongest candidate for civilian jobs. But why aren’t you getting calls or interviews?

In my discussions with hiring managers, human resource leaders, and even reading articles across the Web, it’s abundantly clear that veterans face tremendous hurdles when looking for a job in the civilian world. Instead of dwelling on the difficulties of the process, here are some things you should know when transforming from the military to civilian workforce.

First and foremost, you are not alone. While it would be easier to simply blame corporations for being so narrow-minded, the reality is, you are a stranger to the hiring manager. We are taught very early not to trust strangers, and hiring managers are no exception. Break down that barrier by giving potential employers something to relate to. One method is to develop a personal brand, which will show your professional values. Employers that share your values are more likely to be interested in knowing more about you. Employers who don’t share your values are those you want to repel. This is a win-win situation.

Hard skills, those that are learned, will be your biggest hurdle. If you are going to apply to jobs through a job board or corporate website, your resume will be submitted to an applicant tracking system (ATS), what I call “the robots.” Hiring managers program the robots to screen out anyone who doesn’t have their desired skill set. Even though you may be an expert on the technology to take out the enemy with a push of a button, an employer might be more interested in your knowledge of JIRA. Find a career professional who specializes in translating military skills to civilian skills. 

When you make it past the robots, you’ll be quizzed on soft skills, or behaviors, in telephone or in-person interviews. Will you get along with your potential co-workers? Do you have similar likes or dislikes? Employers will want to know if you can do the job. In short, if the interviewers see themselves in you, you will be one of the top candidates. Keep your responses relatable. Military or civilian, if an interviewer can relate to your behavior, this works to your favor.

While you may have thrown in the towel on more than one occasion, there are plenty of reasons to have hope. First, many corporations have enacted social responsibility programs, which include efforts to hire veterans. You will have a step-up on other candidates from the get go. Second, there is a growing industry based on serving those who served. They offer you free career services, like resume writing, career counseling, and interview preparation. Organizations who offer job placement services for veterans are your best choice. In addition to being your personal advocate, they are able to bypass the dreaded robots!

Ready to find your dream job? Contact Veterans Job Resources for your free career services and job placement today.

Who are you?

You might think that this is a funny question. Because, I mean come on, we know who we are, right? Sure of course you do, but do you REALLY know who you are?

Your response might be, Soldier, Father, Mother, Gamer, Hunter, Photographer, Civilian, Human, etc.

Let me start with asking you a few basic questions. If it takes you longer then 5 seconds to think of the answer, then you might not know who you are.

What is the most important thing to you?

What is your strongest belief?

What are your morals?

What do you enjoy doing most?

What are your goals in life?

These five questions are basic questions right? Meaning everyone should have a answer to them?

Yes they are somewhat simple but not simple to answer. Let me explain why.

Being in the military as enlisted or officer we are taught and trained to think and act as we are told. Sometimes in the military it is hard to express our own opinions. But, here is the good news, your opinions have developed, we just have to figure out what they are. They have developed because every time you were told to do something or think a certain way, YOU thought of an answer, which may not have been the same one you actually said. Let’s be real, we don’t always speak what we are actually thinking.

Here is what I want you to think about when you try and find answers to each question listed above.

Question 1. What makes you so happy that you cannot imagine life without it.

Question 2. What do you believe is real more then anything else.

Question 3. What do you base all of your decisions on day in and day out.

Question 4. What do you do when you are sad or mad to make you happy.

Question 5. What do you want to be when you grow up.

Yes, I answered the questions with new questions, but we have to get to the truth of who you are and from there who you want to be and what you want to do.

From Chris – Your success is my goal. Remember, Everyone has a purpose.

 

What is your next mission?

What is your next mission?

Something that most military personnel are used to hearing. However, can we translate that into our civilian careers as military personnel? That is the real question and I want to have straight talk on the real answer.

First, every mission counts. That is something that all military personnel need to get into their head. Every position, rank or duty assignment they have held counts toward their future. Whatever you did got you experience towards something that will come into play at your next assignment, mission or even civilian job.

What do I mean by this? It’s simple. Not everything that we are told to do in the military is what we want or even what we planned. However, it can be something that we can use. I am going to use my own experience to help this make sense.

I lived in CA after active duty but was offered by first civilian federal position in ND. Yes, ND. So, I moved. A year and a half later I came back for a federal civilian job transfer that I had applied for and that was approved. I remember thinking when I crossed back over the CA border “thank God I’m back”. However, there is a lot the I learned in that year and half that I was away.

Short Story – in a year and a half I took my first federal civilian position, picked up a secondary MOS school, deployed for a year as a activated reservist with a engineer detachment to Kuwait and Iraq and I completed my masters degree. All of which can be applied to my current career path in more than one way.

Conclusion, the opportunity I left CA for was worth it. Sometimes it is very hard to try something new especially when we are so used to being told what to do all the time.

The civilian work force can be scary but it does not have to be. We are hear to help you. We provide resume writing, interview skills and job referrals. Veterans are our priority. We believe in no man left behind.

Contact us to help you make that next step!

– Chris

Military Words vs. Civilian Words

Understanding the Transition: Resume Writing

What is one of the hardest aspects of coming back into the civilian world after serving on active duty?
Truth is, that is a pretty loaded question and the answer will more than likely be different for every person.
However, one of the most challenging parts of the transition stage is finding a job or even more importantly, finding a career.
Why is this so challenging?
Well there are a lot of reasons why it is challenging but let’s start with some of the basic explanations.

Communication between veteran applicant and hiring manager

That seems like a simple fix. Well, sure if you know how to translate your military experience into something that a civilian hiring manager with no military experience or background will understand.
Look at this example below:

Military position: First Sergeant

Duty Description: 20 year Army Veteran responsible for the care and welfare of 50 Soldiers. Held timely formations for accountability and daily reports to higher command. Increased Soldier physical fitness requirements by 90%. Receipt holder for over $50,000.00 worth of electrical equipment. Conducted weekly meetings with squad leaders for training and mission planning.

Civilian translation: Operations Manager

Duty Description: Operations Manager with over 10 years of experience. Managed the care and welfare of 50 military and civilian personnel. Fostered a positive career advancement atmosphere by increasing physical fitness standards by 90%. Responsible for the management, maintenance and accountability of over $50,000.00 of electrical equipment with zero loss. Held weekly meetings with subordinate leaders to develop and implement training, time lines and company objectives for employees.
Let’s break it down
Here are a few questions that a civilian hiring manager is going to want to know if all they get is the military example.
  • You have been a manager for 20 years?
  • What is a formation?
  • Who is higher command?
  • What is physical fitness? (is that a standard)
  • What is a receipt holder?
  • Who are squad leaders?
  • What is a mission?
Can you really say 20 year veteran when you are applying for a management level position? From day one in the military were you a manager? Possibly, but not likely. It depends on your position, rank and experience. It is important to clearly and accurately speak on your military experience.
Most people know what a Soldier is, right? Well I hope so. But, we have to still speak in terms that civilians will understand. Saying military personnel is more understandable and still the truth. In the above example we added civilian personnel as well, because based on past military experience most 1SG also manage/direct a Family Readiness Leader, who are civilian. So we are able to add both.
Having a high dollar amount of equipment on a piece of paper with your name on it means that well if you get out of the military and anything is missing they are taking your pay. But, what does that really mean? It means you are accountable for that equipment by actually taking care of it and covering anything that is lost. In the civilian world that is a BIG deal. If you have been responsible for any equipment as any rank in the military and not lost anything, you better have that on your resume.
As leaders in the military you are responsible to lead junior leaders. It is imperative that we stress leading supervisors on your resume as professional meetings held for strategic and detailed planning.
This example of one of the challenges of veteran resume writing is not to scare you or at all discourage you. However, for veterans it is to help you understand why some companies are not calling you back for an interview. For hiring managers it is for you to better acknowledge the reason you cannot understand all veteran written resumes.

ONE in TWENTY veteran written resumes is understandable by civilian hiring managers.

Together we can make a difference, we can have more veterans in the work place and less homeless veterans.
-Chris