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Write An “Unclassified” Resume


Write An “Unclassified” Resume

A solid resume could score you an interview for the job of your dreams, so make sure yours is well-prepared using the following tips and tools.

The job description contains the unclassified treasure map that gives you the clues you need to find the gold – an offer for employment. Just follow the map!koch-industries-recruiting-laptop.jpg

For each job to which you apply, you must have a unique and customized resume. You must introduce only relevant and comparable skills and experiences to those presented in the job description. Then highlight the related outcomes and accomplishments. And, normally, you must eliminate everything from your career experiences that are not presented in the job description.

A recruiter will not have a “top secret clearance” needed to read your “encrypted” or “classified” resume, so include only words and phrases that are common in your targeted career field(s) and that you learned during your informational interviews.

An “unclassified,” customized resume provides a relevant (to the job description) summary of your experiences, abilities and skills. It emphasizes qualitative or quantitative outcomes and accomplishments. And, it focuses on the value you created while doing activities like those presented in the job description.

How Is Your Resume Typically Used?


In combat, it is crucial you understand your enemy and know how they apply their “weapons of war.” Without this knowledge, you won’t know how to beat them. In this transition war, it is critical you understand how your “enemy” – the recruiter and hiring manager – will use your resume. Otherwise, you will not win this conflict.

Only if all required qualifications are met will anyone even access your resume.

Your resume is first touched by the recruiter, and most likely reviewed in under 30 seconds:

  • Recruiter’s Objective: Identify which best-qualified candidates should undergo additional screening.

  • How: Recruiters do a crosswalk between your resume and the expected skills, experiences and responsibilities presented in the job description.

  • Result: On average, about 1/4 of all applicants will receive additional screening.

If the recruiter determines you are the best-qualified candidate, your resume and additional screening notes will be forwarded to the hiring manager for interview consideration.

  • On average, less than 10% of those candidates who underwent additional screening will be recommended for interview consideration.

The hiring manager is the next to touch your resume and will most likely study your resume.

  • Hiring Manager’s Objective: Identify which best-qualified candidates should be invited to an in-person interview.

  • How: Hiring managers will complete a comprehensive review of your resume along with the recruiter’s notes developed from the additional screening.

  • Result: On average, around 1/3 of those who underwent the additional screening (less than .5% of all candidates) will be extended an invitation for an in-person interview.

Everyone on the interview team will be given your resume to prepare for your interview.

  • Interviewer’s Objective: Confirm that your professed skills and experiences are truly relevant and comparable to those required in the job. Also, and usually more importantly, confirm your character is consistent with the company culture.

  • How: Interviewer will study your resume to develop situational based as well as direct questions related to your skills and experiences.

  • Result: The company will deliver an offer to only one applicant.


30 Seconds To Make An Impression


Recruiters generally review hundreds of resumes for each requisition they manage. And, they often manage multiple requisitions simultaneously. Therefore, on average, they spend less than 30 seconds scanning each one. They don’t want to wade through long paragraphs, so use bullet points to get noticed.


Present your relevant and comparable skills and experiences so you get invited to an interview.


Recruiters (and hiring managers) will scan and evaluate your professional skills, experiences, and outcomes and accomplishments, so consider these tips:

  • Be as concise as possible.

  • Focus on previous but only relevant accomplishments, skills and experiences.

  • Highlight different skills and experiences in different resumes, emphasizing related outcomes and accomplishments; each should be customized to the job description.

  • Explain how your skills and experiences will achieve what they are asking for in a candidate.

  • More is not better; showcase your most relevant skills and experiences by highlighting the outcomes and accomplishments instead of burying them in wordy paragraphs.

  • Quantifying the value you created with your outcomes and accomplishments is the most convincing approach.

  • You can emphasize critical skills and experiences – relative to the job description – in a short
    paragraph or with more than one bullet point.

  • There should be at least one bullet point per daily responsibilities or expectations presented in the job description; of course, you are encouraged to write more than one bullet point per daily responsibilities.

  • Prioritize your bullet points to ensure the ones associated with the most important job description skills and experiences are near the top of your resume or at the top of the appropriate paragraph or section.

  • When using bullet points, start with a strong, dynamic action verb (in the past tense) followed by a qualitative outcome - e.g. led, directed, managed, organized, executed, produced, responsible for, etc..


  • Write the task and present the outcome

  • Write the activity and what it resulted in

  • Write the experience and the difference it made

  • Write the accomplishment and the value it created


  • Hiring managers will want to know why your experience is important to them, so explain how your skills and accomplishments will achieve the goals they seek and defined in the job description.

  • Explain how your outcomes and accomplishments impacted your previous team’s goals.

  • Focus on the value you created with those accomplishments by providing qualitative outcomes.

  • Qualifying the outcome of each experience will provide the “so what?” of your accomplishments.

  • Start the bullet with a dynamic action verb in the past tense.

  • Prioritize your bullets relative to the job description.

Saved money Won contracts or bids
Increased revenue generated Increased individual/team contributions
Improved safety results Increased sales
Increased efficiency in performance or production Rewarded as employee of the month
Enabled continuous operations Commended for mitigating risk to operations
Achieved benchmarks Entrusted with (specify)


15 Resume Tips


Use one of our suggested term translators and these helpful tips to define your skills in terms a civilian recruiter will understand.

Write to the job. Every job description is unique, so each resume should also be unique.

Eliminate the “objective” paragraph to give the recruiter more time on the body of your resume.

Limit your core competencies (areas of expertise or strengths) to four to six. Emphasize strengths suitable for the responsibilities presented in the job description. Any more than four to six and you’ll be perceived as a “Jack of all trades, master of none!”

Highlight any education, teamwork or experiences pertaining to diversity you successfully led, managed or participated in.

Know your audience. Use words that are understood in the private sector, buisness or targeted career field(s) and that you learned during the informal interviews.

Your resume should not look like an efficiency report. Rather than listing previous duties and responsibilities, highlight qualitative outcomes and accomplishments – show how you added value to your organization.

Never allow the recruiter to assume what skills you acquired through your experiences; clearly state them.

Write straightforward, active statements that showcase your relevant skills and experiences aligned with the expectations presented in the job description.

Don’t oversell your abilities. Just because you worked on a high-level staff does not mean you are an executive leader.

Do include specific and relevant leadership and management experiences, especially if you are applying for a leadership or management role.

Other than job titles, remove military references: ranks, organization names, titles, military school names, equipment titles, military jargon, etc.

Highlight your risk management experiences and concentration on safety, emphasizing compliance, including environmental compliance.

Mention teamwork, cooperation and collaboration. Highlight the diversity within your military team along with soft skills the business will most assuredly be looking for, including problem solving and analytical skills.

Be concise. Easy-to-read resumes get read. Reduce the amount of text on the page.

Never use “I.”

Though this list is not all encompassing, it was gathered from the experiences of one military recruiter and verified by numerous hiring managers and recruiters.


Speak Their Language


A resume is your chance to highlight your relevant strengths and accomplishments. Use the following examples and helpful tips to define your skills in terms a civilian recruiter will understand.

Weak: Hold a top-secret security clearance.

Stronger: Integrity, trustworthiness and ability to manage information resulted in being given greater responsibilities, authority and access to highly sensitive data.

Weak: Prepared and disseminated daily activity reports to higher command.

Stronger: Enabled senior management to make timely decisions by increasing their awareness of the organization’s overall performance by collecting relevant information, then drafting succinct reports.

Weak: Commendation Medal awarded by Major General ______, Commander of ______.

Stronger: Commended by the CEO for enhancing operations and increasing the team’s efficiency while performing under pressure, and by meeting the needs of every customer through personal diligence.

Weak: Maintains accounting system associated with supply management.

Stronger: Enhanced management of critical supply chains by ensuring the continuous flow of essential information through successful operation and maintenance of an enterprise-wide information technology system.

Weak: Successfully planned current and future military training exercises for an organization in excess of 1,000 personnel.

Stronger: Expert in analyzing operations and individual performance to identify organizational and individual training needs. Developed multiple training plans and inspections, which improved and sustained the team’s effectiveness.

Weak: Named “Best Leader” in a Company of 150 personnel during a live-fire training exercise resulting in the second highest score in a unit of more than 1,000 personnel.

Stronger: Critical thinking skills, risk management and safety program experience, and superb leadership led to being designated the top leader of 36 peers in the organization.

Weak: Supervises or performs duties involving request, receipt, storage, issue, accountability and preservation of expendable supplies and equipment.

Stronger: Improved the efficiency of several supply chains servicing multiple customers by identifying their needs and establishing priorities of effort. [You could also be more specific by quantifying how many units or customers you served.]

Leader vs. Manager: You “lead” people but you “manage” processes. Use “lead” or “led” when pertaining to people, but use “manage” or “managed” when referring to processes or programs.

Make It Relevant


Want your resume to reach the hiring manager? Customize it – for every role for which you apply. Then, double check your details are relevant to the job description using this easy exercise.

  1. Use a blank sheet of paper.

  2. On the left, list the specified, implied and essential daily tasks from your job description analysis. (earn how to analyze a job description in the "Using the Job Description to Your Advantage" section of the "Aim For The Right Target" chapter of the guide.)

  3. On the right, list the experiences, skills and certifications you detailed in your resume.

  4. Connect the daily tasks on the left to your qualifications and experiences listed on
    the right.

  5. If something on the right doesn’t connect to the left, you should probably remove it from your resume.

Exceptions: Retain quality comments that can quantify the value you created in leadership, management, risk management or diversity.


  • On a solid resume, the job’s daily tasks on the left will connect to a skill or experience you’ve listed on the right. Remember that these skills and experiences came directly from your resume. If they don’t match up, you might not be qualified for the job.

  • There should be little or nothing in your resume that doesn’t have a line going back to the job description. This ensures you don’t conceal your relevant strengths with a lot of unnecessary verbiage.

Translate Your Military Skills


Swap military jargon with universally understood words using this easy tool.


  • Commander

  • Executive Officer

  • Field Grade Officer

  • Company Grade Officer

  • Warrant Officer

  • Senior NCO

  • Infantry

  • First Sergeant / Senior Enlisted Leader

  • Squad Leader / Lead Petty Officer

  • Supply Sergeant /Logistics Specialist / Material Manager

  • Operations NCO


  • Director or Senior Manager

  • Deputy Director

  • Executive or Manager

  • Operations Manager or Section Manager

  • Technical Specialist or Department Manager

  • First-Line Supervisor

  • Security Force

  • Personnel Manager

  • Team Leader or Team Chief

  • Supply Manager or Logistics Manager

  • Operations Supervisor / Operations Leader


  • AI

  • Combat

  • Company or squadron or wing

  • Medal

  • Military personnel office

  • Mission

  • Military occupation specialty /classification

  • Squad or platoon or flight

  • Reconnaissance or ISR

  • Regulations

  • Security clearance

  • Service members

  • Subordinates

  • TAD or TDY


  • Additionally skilled in

  • Hazardous conditions

  • Company, department or section

  • Award

  • Human resources

  • Task / function /objective – continuous operations

  • Career specialty or career field

  • Team or section

  • Data collection and analysis

  • Policy or guidelines

  • Ability to manage sensitive data

  • Employees

  • Employees or direct reports

  • Business trip


Failed Resume Writing Strategies


Recruiters routinely reject military veteran resumes primarily due to their irrelevance to the job description.

  • Last year, more than 30% of veteran applicants had their applications rejected because of their poorly aligned resumes; they were not customized to the job description.

  • Rejected applicants often presented resumes that highlighted superb skills and experiences, but which had nothing to do with the skills and experiences presented in the job description.

  • Including quantitative data can be a difference-maker, but this is a common shortfall for military veteran resumes noted by recruiters because veterans tend to quantify information related to the task instead of quanitifying the outcomes or accomplishments.


  1. Providing something resembling more of a curriculum vitae – a comprehensive listing of one’s entire professional experiences regardless of the desired skills and experiences presented in the job description.

  2. Attempting to describe complexity by quantifying information related to the task instead of quantifying information related to the outcomes and accomplishments.

  3. Cutting/pasting accomplishments directly from military efficiency reports and award citations.

  4. Including military terms, titles and references that turn the file into a “classified” document intended only for military audiences with a “need to know.”



  • One-size-fits-all approach – every job description is different; therefore, every resume is different.

  • Listing “tasks” you were assigned or “responsibilities” in your previous jobs even when not relevant to the job.

  • Copying expectations verbatim from the job description.

  • Excluding how you added value – to every bullet.

  • Including irrelevant experiences that have nothing to do with the job description.

  • Quantifying your responsibilities instead of your outcomes and accomplishments.

  • Forgetting to proofread.

  • Creating an inappropriate file name for your resume.


Veterans often quantify the wrong things.

  • Military veterans often present military data to address size, scale and complexity of the challange. 

  • Size of units and numbers of soldiers in a military organization does NOT equate to numbers of direct reports, e.g. a platoon leader has three direct reports -- not 30. But military veteran resumes often present "led a platoon of 30."

  • Size of or dollar amounts of military budgets is not relatable to the private sector. Most private sector companies do not manage budgets as in the military; they intend to MAKE profit.

  • Value of assigned military equipment is not comparable to the private sector. Most companies focus more on the ability to maintain equipment to enhance continuous operations.

Business leaders don't understand what military veterans quantify.

  • Business leaders often misunderstand the data because the information is not relevant to the business world.

  • Business leaders often cannot appreciate how this data relates to their needs or to their team’s objective.

    • Remember, 94% of the American population never served in the Armed Forces.

The value you created with an accomplishment is more important to business leaders.

  • Business leaders want to know what value you created and see its relevance to job description responsibilities.

  • They prefer to learn about the "so-what?" of your outcomes and accomplishments.

  • They want to know how your actions contributed to the success of the organization.

  • More importantly, they want to know how you will add value to their team/company.

Recruiters and hiring managers will spend less than 30 seconds on your resume.

  • Numerous studies reveal businesses will spend less than 30 seconds on a resume.

  • It’s preferable to present information that quantifies the value created instead of focusing on quantitative data explaining the size, scale and complexity of the challenge.

It is important to realize recruiters and hiring managers are not only investing money and resources when they select you to join their team. They are also putting their reputation on the line.

It is recommended your resume is not focused on yourself or what you did in the past which you think defines you; instead, make it about the employer’s needs.