Tips for Writing Military-to-Civilian Resumes

Introduction

Military veterans enter the civilian working world with a diverse skillset and a wealth of experience, often dealing with heavy, high-stakes responsibilities. Unfortunately, most civilians have no notion (or a skewed view of) what the military is up to or how to decipher military jargon.

A transitioning veteran must build a military-to-civilian resume/CV that describes their experience in a way that resonates with civilian recruiters and hiring managers in order to thrive in a post-military job hunt.

Here are five quick tips to help you write a professional resume that lists your skills and accomplishments while being easy for civilian recruiters and hiring managers to understand.

1. Tell the Truth

Do not exaggerate or deceive. Honesty is telling the truth to others, whereas integrity means telling the truth to yourself. In military-to-civilian resumes, honesty and integrity are essential.

When you were simply the Assistant Battalion Operations Officer, do not claim to be the Battalion Operations Officer. Also, certain clerical and logistical responsibilities should not be omitted. For example, if you are looking for supply chain or purchasing jobs, Unit Movement Officer is a strong resume bullet.

Any recruiter will see the value of your work if you include quantifiable performance measurements (e.g. coordinated redeployment of 500 employees and accompanying equipment without loss; earned a commendation for your team’s outstanding performance).

The interviewer will ask probing questions that will allow you to talk about your abilities while also learning more about the military’s rank system and vocabulary.

Finally, allow yourself to speak freely (or at least less formally); civilian communications are less strict than they are in the military, and it is not considered poor form to take a more relaxed tone on your resume or in an interview.

2. Use Demilitarised Language

Include your title and rank on your resume, but also include some basic information about what that position entails without using jargon – do not assume the recruiter knows what an automated logistical specialist (92A) is.

With this in mind, assume recruiters are not veterans and steer clear of military-specific terminology and acronyms. Determine which job names are used in the private sector to describe the duties you performed in the military. There are a plethora of translation services available to assist you with this.

Further, try to keep it brief. Your resume, as a rule of thumb, should be no more than two pages long. Your resume is not the place to go into great depth about military routines and procedures. Stick to your experience, proofread the document for spelling and grammar errors, and personalise each resume for the position you are looking for.

3. Boasting is OK

Do not be afraid to show off your abilities and skillset.

Whether you briefed a Colonel or a general officer, mention it.

This information is found easily in your military performance evaluations.

Put your awards on the table, especially valour awards or long-term outstanding service honours. However, unless they are directly related to the job you are applying for, things like Physical Fitness Awards or a Mechanics Badge should be left off.

Also, unless you are searching for contracting, security, or law enforcement positions, leave particular military abilities such as HMMWV training or shooting badges off your resume.

Remember, if you do not put a particular achievement in your resume, how does the recruiter know about it? It could be the difference between you getting the job or another.

4. Know Your Options and Use Them

Your veteran status entitles you to unique job-search assistance.

Every branch of the military offers transition training to its personnel.

Many private employers, as well as the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Labour Department, provide resources to help veterans transition to civilian careers.

Some ex-military personnel do not consider themselves veterans if they did not witness combat; hence they have reservations about using these services. This is simply not the case – whether you saw combat or not, you have served your country and have every right to leverage your military experience to help you find a job.

Take advantage of every option available to you. Identifying companies that are actively recruiting veterans and contacting the people in charge of these initiatives is a fantastic approach to get work, even though the idea may make some veterans uncomfortable. Companies looking to hire veterans can be found on Military.com, Veteran Jobs Mission and Hire Heroes USA, to name a few.

5. Refine Your Resume With Feedback

For some veterans, creating a civilian-friendly resume seems like a never-ending task. Start your distribution when you have refined your resume and maintain track of the response rate. Ask for criticism and pay attention to suggestions for improving your resume, and keep modifying the document until it generates job interviews.

It can also be helpful to give your resume to a non-military friend or family member for review and feedback, someone who is familiar with the formalities of applying for jobs in the civilian workforce.

Summary

It is critical to not send the exact same resume and cover letter to each and every potential employer. If you are looking for multiple positions at once, make sure your resume meets the job requirements and be sure to restructure it to provide a relevant, tailor-made application for a particular employer/job title.

When you get a call, start preparing for your interview ahead of time. The skills and discipline acquired during your military experience make you an invaluable asset to the civilian workforce. It is not a matter of if you will be able to find a job, but when.

Good luck.

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