Resume Recommendations

Most police departments do not require a resume for sworn officers when applying for another position or specialty unit.  If they do, the resume encompasses the officer’s entire body of work which usually requires multiple pages listing everything they did since the beginning of time. Many that I’ve coached will send me their resume that’s eight pages long and include a 20 page training record – single space of course :-).  I may be embellishing a bit but it’s not too far from the truth.  Many cops believe the more information they provide, the more marketable they are.  That’s not really the way it works in the corporate world.  It’s actually the first red flag showing a lack of corporate and business acumen. A resume, or Curriculum Vitae (CV) in the corporate world should be no longer than two pages.  It should be concise, clear, and to the point.  Cops like to showcase their entire body of work and some fill an entire page for just one job assignment.  There are many variations and styles of resumes, but the standard format usually has:

  1. Personal Information
  2. Professional Summary
  3. Areas of Expertise
  4. Professional Experience
  5. Education
  6. Specialized Training

Many cops looking for corporate roles tell me they’ve hired resume services costing up to $300.  I’m sure the service providers are experts in their field but one thing to ask your service provider is: how many people have they actually hired – as a hiring manager – including police officers for a corporate role?  Only people that reviewed resumes and have hired people for many years knows what catches their eye or gets a resume straight to the trash can.

Cops are a special breed of people.  We’ve experienced and seen things most people only see in the movies.  We lived it and we want to tell the whole world all the cool things we’ve done as cops.  Unfortunately, this doesn’t translate well into a corporate role.  You may be the best shot in the world and able to shoot a flea off your K-9’s ass from 200 yards, but unless the corporate job you’re applying for requires you to shoot something, then it’s probably irrelevant and may hurt your chances.  You have to remember that in corporate, you’re not a cop anymore.  The skills you bring from law enforcement need to translate into the corporate world.

There are two ways to get a job in the corporate world:  The Easy Way, and the Hard Way.  The easy way – requires either extreme luck such as being the right place at the right time, or having established yourself with a network that gets you in front of a hiring manager.  The interesting thing is even a bad resume can be forgiven in the easy way category.  I’ll talk more about the easy way in a later blog…

Let’s focus on the hard way category which most people fall into.  The hard way category usually starts with a really coveted corporate security role.  A role that’s been posted for all to see and thousands of people are applying for it.  It’s not unusual for people in the same police department applying for the same job and not knowing it.  This brings up another point of confidentiality.  Many officers are really concerned about confidentiality when applying for corporate jobs. If the job you’re interested in is an executive level corporate security job (recruited confidentially through a head-hunter and not widely posted), there’s usually a mutual Non-Disclosure agreement.  Most corporate security jobs don’t have this and you are taking a risk of a hiring manager making a call to someone who knows someone that knows something about you.  Ask yourself, would you do the same?  Once you put a resume out there be prepared for people to find out you’re looking.  This isn’t a bad thing if you’re prepared (more on this on the easy way).

The hard way category requires you to submit a resume which will most likely be filtered through a recruiting tool that looks for key words.  It’ll keep only the resume/applications that fit the criteria for the job.  You are very fortunate if you make the top 10 that’s given a phone interview and even more fortunate if you make it to an in-person interview. This is why it’s important to have a resume that’s relevant to the job you’re applying for.  Every job you apply for requires a customized resume that’s aligned to the job you’re applying for.  If you’re applying for a Sr. Security Operations Manager in a technology company, ensure that your resume matches the description and words within the job description such as: Operational Program Management, Project Management, etc…  Cops don’t realize that when you investigate a case, it’s actually considered project management.  I guarantee that every role from patrol to specialized units can apply to a corporate security role if it’s just written in a context that’s aligned.

Here’s an example of a typical cop resume job duty description:  Ran the K-9 Unit and commanded eight officers with the highest arrest and capture record in the county.  Our narcotics and bomb specialist K-9 handlers provided services at the airport working with US Customs and other police agencies.  I had the best K-9 (Razor) who made the most captures in the history of our department.  We were featured on the cover of Police K-9 magazine in 2008 and I was interviewed for the article.  We won the state police K-9 five years in a row, and participated in police events showing our capabilities to schools kids. 

Ok, very impressive right?  But how does that help the security director at a tech company?  A hiring manager will not be impressed with your “cop” stuff when looking to hire someone.  They will be interested in your cop stuff and stories later when you’re hired, made a positive impact, and having a beer with you.  Trust me, I’ve been in the corporate world 15 years and I’m still telling war stories although I’m starting to repeat myself as I’m told :-).

Here’s an example of aligning your job duties into relevant, corporate language, which tells the hiring manager how you’re a problem solver, leader, “go to” person not just “look at all the cool stuff I’ve done as a cop:” Special Unit Assignment: Strategic planning and development of the K-9 Unit which was slated to be disbanded due to inefficiencies and risks brought on by poor performance and law suits.  Provided executive leadership and developed a team of eight specialized officers.  In less than 10 months, the team received the “Best Division” award in 2014.  Developed information sharing partnerships with the US Customs, State and Local Law Enforcement which led to a significant crime reduction in our city.  Developed a business and community awareness program to bring visibility to our department’s crime fighting efforts.

Little word changes make a big difference:  Instead of “commanded” how about “managed?”  Noticed the corporate buzz words used?  Program, strategic, risks, executive, leadership, partnerships. Here are a little more details I recommend in your resume outline:

  • Personal Information
    • Start with a photo, yes I said a photo.  I get more grief from people who I’ve coached say their $300 resume expert told them don’t put a photo.  I thought the same way until 14 years ago when I got a resume (CV) from someone from the UK and India for an international position.  They both had their photo and I thought that was the coolest thing as I’ve never saw that before.  It’s very common outside of the US to include a photo.  Think about it, 14 years ago, LinkedIn didn’t exist.  What’s the first thing you see on LinkedIn, a photo. Enough said:
    • Let’s talk about the actual photo.  If you have a uniform, gun, assault rifle, nun chucks, throwing stars, punching bag, or dojo anywhere near you in the photo, please change your photo. You should have an executive looking photo with a nice background. I’m not a fashion expert so do your own research on what to wear.  It also depends on the job you’re applying for.  If it’s for a tech company, check out their site and see what everyone’s wearing – including the CEO.  If you’re going into finance and banking security, we’ll you’re probably better off in a suit.  
    • Address – get a PO box if you’re uncomfortable using your home address
    • Phone – Cell # is the best option as many hiring managers may use text for communications if you make it far enough in the interview stages
    • Email Address – be sure you have a non-offensive email.  I’ve seen emails that made me go “really?”  Example JohnCrackinSkullsTheHammer@gmail.com be sure to get a simple email that projects professionalism. 
  • Professional Summary
    • Keep it short and to a paragraph.  This is where you want to highlight information letting the reader know you’re the right person for the job.
  • Areas of Expertise
    • I like bulleted, simple words:
      • Major Event Security Planning and Operations
      • Security, Life-Safety Operations
      • Policy & Procedures Development, Implementation
      • Risk/Crisis Management, Mitigation
  • Professional Experience
    • This is your work experience.  Be very sure you list everything in chronological order.  The first thing I look at is if there are any work gaps.  I also look at how long someone stayed in a position.  If they move around every year or two, that could be a red flag unless you provide caveats to clarify.
  • Education
    • Sounds simple, but I’ve seen resumes where people are not clear if they graduated or not.  Be transparent.  If you went to the University of Arizona for eight years and didn’t graduate, note that you attended the university and was enrolled in the Bachelor of Criminal Justice but have x-amount of credits and did not graduate.
    • Certificates are great so be sure to highlight but keep it short and to the point
  • Specialized Training
    • This could be language skills, etc… just be sure it’s relevant to the job you’re applying for

The most important is you align your resume to you LinkedIn account.  If you don’t have linked in, get one.  It’s the most important social tool today for career networking.  Quick advice.  I get this question all the time:  should I or shouldn’t I connect with the hiring manager on LinkedIn? My advice is if you don’t know this person, don’t.  It may come across as disingenuous and trying to curry favor.  This now leads into the Easy Way which I’ll cover in my next blog soon…

3 thoughts on “Resume Recommendations

  1. This was eye-opening and after ten years of post retirement security work this information will certainly give me the tools to pursue the job that will utilize my full potential!

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  2. Thanks for the information. I am a CFE with a degree and left the Houston Police Department in 2011 after 30-years of service. The plan was to spend a year or two with the family and then go back to work. After 24-job board applications, not a single interview. I have 15-years investigative experience. So if you leave LE, I would make sure you have a job in hand first, because there are no guarantees. I am sure ageism has come in to play as well. Any suggestions?

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    1. Alan – a lot depends on your willingness to move. Many LEOs want to score the primo job in their own town (I’m not saying this is your case) but my suggestion for opening up your options is to be willing to relocate. An example would be in the Seattle area where I live. We have tons of very qualified LEOs but not that many jobs are available and many I spoke to are unwilling to move. Thanks for your comments.

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