Stratify Yourself

One of the items we encourage our military candidates to put on a resume is a stratification of their ranking among their peer group. We know that may not be possible if a ranking is not mentioned in a performance report (we would highly discourage you from doing so if it couldn’t be documented).  Including a ranking is significant because it’s one of the few things you can put on a resume that compares you to a peer group.  And since companies are seeking top performers, such a ranking provides confirmation that you are a top performer. This message is especially important since a hiring manager might not fully understand exactly what you did in the military, but they can definitely understand rankings.  So if you have performance reports that compared you very favorably against a peer group, we encourage you to include that information on your resume. Sometimes a simple statement such as the following will make for a great resume bullet:

  • Rated in the top 3 of 25 peer officers in the organization on annual performance report

However, the way you specify that ranking can be pretty important. You basically have two choices:

  1. Expressing it as a numerical rank (e.g. #3 out of 25), or
  2. Using a percentage (e.g. top 15%). 

While there’s no right or wrong, you want to be smart about how you do it because if you were part of a pretty small peer group, using a percentage may not be very helpful.  For example, if you were the number 1 of 3 officers, then stating “number 1 of 3”  will sound a little better than “top 33%” even though they are mathematically equivalent. Why? You can’t do better than #1, but you can do better than the top 33%? You don’t want to assume the interviewer has good math skills and can tell that the top 33% of 3 means that you were number 1! Or how about this example: Let’s say that on your evaluation you were rated in the top 5% of 20.  That sounds pretty good, right? But do the math and you’ll see that 5% of 20 equals 1.  Effectively that means that you were actually the number one person! So if you put that you were in the top 5% on your resume you are actually cheating yourself out. You should, instead, state that you were the #1 of 20. I find it interesting that some senior commanders tend to express rankings as a percentage on an evaluation when the raw number would send a stronger message to a promotion board.  But then again, I used to teach math for a living and they probably didn’t.