The role of the résumé: 'an introduction' to a job interview

At 24 years old, Kathryn Day is just getting into the early part of her professional career. Currently on Drills Status Guardsman orders with the Air National Guard at Andrews Air Force Base, she’s scheduled to transition out of the military in 2021.

In the interim, Day would like to gain employment in a field of her choice, but she understands the hurdles facing her.

“I would like to find a job in my career field, which is chemistry and math,” she said. “It’s hard to find a job when you don’t have a lot of experience, but you have enough experience to get the job.”

Day was one of dozens of veterans, military spouses and current servicemembers who attended The American Legion’s résumé workshop Feb. 23 during the organization’s annual Washington Conference in the nation’s capital. The information provided during the workshop immediately struck a chord with Day.

“My résumé is still high school and college, sort of,” she said. “I got that it needs to be more adult. I need more detail, more about my ability and my skill. With what I learned, I will probably work on my résumé today.”

American Legion Human Resources Director Rodney Rolland, who provided the bulk of the workshop information, said a résumé isn’t the reason a person gets a job offer. “It is basically your introduction before you get (to the interview),” he said. “(It) summarizes your skills and abilities. It is to get a job interview.”

Rolland said that while there are multiple résumé styles to use, the best is the target résumé. “Most companies … like to be separated from everybody else,” he said. “This is when you absolutely know the company (you’re) interested in … and the positions (you) want. When they post the job, be smart and look at the job and make sure it reflects your résumé. That’s the best way to do it.”

Rolland said to prepare three résumés: one for the job that you absolutely know you can do, one for the “shooting for the stars” transition into another job, and one catch-all résumé best-suited for when someone has been out of work for a while and now is looking at potential jobs not looked at previously.

Keep your résumé basic, Rolland said. Include a name, address, phone number and an email address that looks professional. Hone in on skills and abilities, and brag about your best qualities. “If you know you’re mediocre, don’t put it in there,” he said. “The summary is about what you do best: what separates you from everybody else who’s applying.”

Ely Ross, director of Veterans Affairs in the office of Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, told attendees that the terms they used or still use in the military don’t always translate to the civilian workforce.

“It wasn’t until I cracked the nut of how to communicate all of my skills (gained in the military) did I really find the success I was looking for,” Ross said. “You’ve got to learn a new language. Everything you’ve done up to this point – you’ve got to be able to translate those skills in a way that people are going to understand.”

Rolland reiterated that point. “It’s as simple as if you’re applying for a cleaning job, don’t say, ‘We did a lot of field days,’” he said. “Nobody knows what a field day is as a civilian. We know in the military. But if you’re applying for a cleaning job, it doesn’t relate, so it creates barriers.”

Geoffrey Maynard, who will retire this spring after 24 years in the U.S. Navy, attended the workshop and came away impressed with the information provided. “(Rolland) was really good,” he said. “He was speaking my language because my field is H.R. To hear him talk about how to talk (civilian) language, as opposed to what the military has, was absolutely useful to me … as I’m starting this transition.”

A financial literacy workshop facilitated by Greater Washington New York Life’s Judy Viccellio followed the résumé tutorial. Viccellio offered up planning advice that included analyzing your current cash flow and net worth, while developing a save-first, spend-last approach.

“Never borrow on what depreciates,” Viccellio said. “Evaluate your needs vs. your desires. Allocate expenses in advance. Review your income and expenses regularly. This is not a one and done. This is a continual discipline you begin to put in your life. And pay cash as much as you can.”

The day’s events also featured a networking lunch panel discussion that included representatives from Amazon, Hilton, AARP and Philips Healthcare.

Retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. Raphael “Ralph” Hernandez, the Senior Community Engagement Program Leader at Amazon, said his company’s leadership principles resemble that of the military. “I think one of the reasons Amazon has been so attractive … to the military community is that our values and leadership principles align very closely with culture and that we’re accustomed to,” he said. “We’re given a mission, we’re given some resources to get it done, and then we’re let loose to try to go make it happen. Amazon is that type of culture.”

And Brian Armstrong, also a Marine veteran and the Military Recruitment Manager for Hilton Worldwide, said Hilton had to make a concerted effort to go after veterans. “(Hilton hiring managers) support the military, but do they understand what makes us tick?” he said. “We had to come internally and say, ‘How do you interview a veteran? How do you approach a veteran? How do you build a rapport with a veteran? How do you become truly veteran-friendly?’ That’s something that was important to us.”