The Career Coach on Resume Tips and Federal Job Ops

March 19, 2012 |

Navy veteran and career counselor Tom Wolfe answers your civilian career questions every week — below are answers to this week’s questions. Email your questions to Tom at

Dear Tom,
I read your latest book — very good. I retire from the military in 2013. I have been reading everything I can and seeking advice from smart people, but continue to be baffled by what the ideal resume length is. I keep hearing 1 page is ideal with a cover letter — both geared towards the actual jobannouncement/company applying for. I also hear a 2-page, more descriptive resume with bullets is best….very confusing, and though some would say have both versions handy, when you send a resume in you have to make the call…..I would appreciate your sage advice. I have one other question — do employers really care to see Non-Commissioned Officer reports (evaluations)? Or would that be even more military language/acronyms to explain? Thank you so much.

Dear Mike,
Thanks for the kind words about the book. Your comment about a one page resume with bullets plus a targeted cover letter is on the mark!
The cover letter is an excellent way to tailor your resume to the job opening. In a perfect world you would use a different resume for each job opening, re-written and custom designed to fit that job. That is a tedious approach, so it is good to come up with a base-line resume and then tweak it. You can also use a “resume addendum” or a “resume supplement” or the cover letter strategy. As to performance evaluations, some employers want them, some do not. Have them available just in case they ask, but do not volunteer them. If they do ask for them, then they are expecting the military jargon. One more thing — thank you for your service!
Tom Wolfe

Hello Tom,
I am due to get out of the Marine Corps in approximately one year. I will be 30 years old.  I currently hold a BA in International Relations and Political Science from the University of Florida (GPA 3.5) and MPS in International security and Safety from George Washington University (GPA 3.3).  I am very interested in federal work. I am tested on three languages and currently working on a fourth. I also have a Top Security Clearance. Can you please give me some insight on how I can make myself more marketable or articulate all the skills I have. We do a lot in the Military that would make us outstanding candidates — however, how do we show that on just one resume page. Thank you for your time.

Dear Ernesto,
First, thank you for your service. Second, congratulations on  your academic achievements and developing what appears to already be a marketable profile. Your interest in working for the federal government makes a lot of sense, given Veterans preference status and the ability to apply your TIS to your new career. You might also want to investigate the private sector options while you are at it, especially if you focus on “vet-friendly” companies. As to the length of resume issue, I recommend one page for every 10 years since graduation from high school, but do your best to stick to two pages at most. Just make sure there is enough good stuff on the first page to make the reader want to see what’s on page two. If you go to a third page, then you are probably guilty of TMI — too much information. 
Tom Wolfe

Dear Tom,
I’ve worked for DOD for the past 7 years in contracts. I was in the military for 4 years and worked in many different companies before working for DOD. I want to stay with the federal government but would like to work in a different field. How do I go about having someone look at all my qualifications and experiences and let me know what other type of jobs in the federal government I qualify for? Could you direct me on this please? Thank you for any assistance.

Dear Donna,
Great question, but you need to talk to a subject matter expert in the field of federal employment and that is not me. I suggest you reach out to Kathryn Troutman, at the ResumePlace. She has that expertise. Visit for contact info.
Tom Wolfe




Tom Wolfe is an author, columnist, career coach, veteran, and an expert in the field of military-to-civilian career transition. During his career he assisted thousands of service members in their searches for employment, placing more than 3000 in their new jobs. Prior to civilian life, he graduated from the U. S. Naval Academy and served as a surface warfare officer. He teaches transition courses, gives seminars on career and job change, writes about the career transition process, and continues to counsel current and former military personnel. His book, OUT OF UNIFORM: Your Guide to a Successful Military-to-Civilian Career Transition, was published by Potomac Books in 2011.

About Ho Lin

Ho Lin is an editor at His interests include naval history, the New York football Giants, and loud rock music.


  1. Tim Mason says:

    Tom i had 4 year in the service and 11years in the fire service working for the DOD i also drove a truck for 16 years I would to see about restatement right to get a job at the VA I am 56 now so i can't do the thing I did when i was 20 not very much computer i am fromold school any suggestion
    Please answer by Email Thank you

  2. Lt Col Bob Wagner says:

    Recent returning Afghanistan Campaign Veteran and Active National Guard Member, but presently unemployed. I am in that unique Veteran group that many employers do not want to hire. The are afraid we will be deployed again! The military career is an important part of my credentials. How do I get hired with this dual-career life? Frustrating! Lt Col Bob Wagner

    • Larry Berson says:

      Col, Good for you. Get ahold of some of your old retired unit members. There is a place some where, three times a year where these people get together. They have more power than a strack three star. Noncoms, Warrants, Commisioned Officers and Title Tens will all be there. Wooahh! SSG Berson Washington Army National Guard Retired.

  3. Tom Wolfe says:

    Hi Kathryn — You are most welcome. Please connect with me via LinkedIn.