How to Write a Military to Civilian Resume
As a veteran, the experience you gain in the military result in transferable skills that can translate from the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Space Force to a variety of jobs in corporate America. Entering the civilian workforce has its own set of challenges but conquering the military to civilian resume is the first step.
With the Transition Assistance Programs’ issues concerning resumes, many service members walk away from the U.S. Armed Forces confused about how to create a resume. That’s why Empire Resume, the best military to civilian resume writing service headquartered in Utah with nationwide service, is here to provide tips and suggestions on how to write a military to civilian resume.
What is a Military to Civilian Resume?
A military-to-civilian resume is a formal document that showcases and highlights relevant, transferable military experience to civilian jobs. Like a traditional resume, it serves as a marketing tool that “sells” your skills to help land an interview.
The type of information that a resume contains include:
- Professional military experience
- Skills, certifications, and achievements
If you notice, relevant is an important word to consider when creating a military resume. Throughout this article, I will repeat this word. Why? Because you don’t want to make the mistake of including skills that do not connect with the job you’re applying for.
As an example, if you’re applying for accounting positions, your experience as a marksman, and listing that you received a marksman ribbon or badge for weapons qualification, does nothing to show a hiring manager that you can prepare a financial report. However, if you’re looking to be a U.S. Marshal, your weapons training will come in handy.
Now, before you start writing, you need to know the essential elements of your military to civilian resume.
5 Key Military Resume Elements
At Empire Resume, we say every great military to civilian resume has five key elements:
1. Proper formatting:
Ensure your military resume is formatted properly to beat the applicant tracking system (ATS), a software used by companies in the public and private sector, to sort through resumes to find the best qualified candidate.
Additionally, decide which resume format to use. The chronological format is the most common, but you must use the resume format that’s best for your employment situation.
2. Keyword rich:
Ensure the ATSs find your military resume by incorporating keywords from the job description within your resume (don’t overdo it). Referring back to the accounting example above, keywords may include accounts payable, balancing, budget, or cash flow and cash management.
3. Resume summary:
Ensure your resume contains a strong resume summary. This is a brief introductory paragraph that provides an overview of the value you bring to the table. It concisely describes who you are and what you do (your qualifications and expertise). Remember how we talked about the issues with TAPs when it comes to resumes?
At TAPs in certain locations, they may tell you to use a resume objective. Unfortunately, an objective statement can outdate your resume and will sabotage your chances for an interview. Think about it – the hiring manager already knows your objective is to find a job in a certain area, interview, and accept an offer.
Your achievements clearly showcase the value of your performance, how you go above and beyond an employer’s expectations, and what you can offer the company.
5. Two-pages or less:
Your resume should be a maximum of two-pages or less, no matter your extensive background and experience. This includes federal resumes today as well. On average, employers spend just six seconds on the initial screen of a resume. If you don’t catch a hiring manager’s eyes in six seconds, your resume can end up on the bottom of the pile.
Writing a resume is more than just plugging in your military performance evaluation information. Including all five of these military to civilian resume elements can greatly enhance your chances of getting a call back for an interview.
Military Resume Writing Tips
Below are some resume building tips to help you effectively apply for civilian jobs with your military background. It’s helpful for your resume to contain the following:
- Contact information. Your name, phone number, email, and public LinkedIn URL. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, here’s how to create a veteran LinkedIn.
- Resume title. The resume title belongs at the top of the page. This is a job title that coincides with your skillset. For example, Program Manager, Cybersecurity Manager, Project Engineer, Administrative Manager, etc.
- Civilian equivalent. Be sure to translate your military experience into civilian terms. This includes any job titles and skills. Doing so makes it easy for those with no affiliation with the military to understand.
For instance, an MP or Military Police can translate those skills for positions in law enforcement or security. Civilian equivalents can be criminal investigator, detective, or public safety officer. Listing “First Sergeant” for example makes no sense to civilian recruiters, even though it’s clearly understood among military personnel.
- Value added achievements. These specific achievements are distinguished from the job responsibilities and are the most important aspect of any resume. The best way to differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack is to use the quality and quantity method.
You want to identify achievements, not responsibilities, that you can measure qualitatively and quantitatively. The strongest achievements will describe how what you did impacted the team, department, or company. Bottom line is that the strongest achievements will show how you saved money, increased efficiency, successfully lead a project to fruition and its impact, etc.
- Limited experience. In life we say we don’t want to limit ourselves. But in building an effective military resume, you want to limit your experience. No more than two pages, remember? Resist the urge to tell the hiring authority everything about your professional experience. The goal is to target the job you’re applying for and the company. So, don’t go back more than 10 to 15 years of experience in your resume.
Any experience beyond 15 years puts you at risk of age discrimination. If necessary, one way to include your extensive experience that spans more than 10 to 15 years is by adding a section titled “Additional Experience” and including the job titles and companies without the dates.
- Outline your civilian education and relevant certifications. Any degrees or civilian education you’ve received during your time of service will help you stand out to a hiring manager. Certifications impress recruiters and hiring managers, so long as they are relevant to the job you’re seeking.
- No military training. Here’s relevancy again. Do not include military training on your resume unless it’s directly relevant to the job you’re seeking. Medals and awards are acceptable if they make sense in the civilian world. For example, “Won Achievement Award for saving the department $50K monthly by negotiating rates with vendors.” As opposed to “Airmen Basic School,” where it means nothing to civilian recruiters.
Writing a Military to Civilian Resume Doesn’t End
The military to civilian resume is a living, breathing document that will follow you throughout your professional life as a military veteran and requires maintenance. Therefore, you must continually update it because an updated resume opens the door for opportunity when it knocks.
Now, you may be wondering, “How often should I update my resume?” The answer is dependent on how often you change jobs or careers. Keep in mind, you don’t have to update the resume on your own. You can get help from a trusted friend or professional resume writing resource like Empire Resume. The takeaway here is to make sure you keep track of the accomplishments you made while at every stage of your professional career.
Be sure to bookmark Empire Resume’s military-to-civilian blog for the latest resume writing insights for people like you with military experience. We’re always here to help with your career planning needs, after a life of military service, and deliver results, guaranteed!
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Dr. Phillip Gold is President/CEO of Empire Resume and has vast experience writing resumes for both professionals and servicemembers transitioning from the military into civilian roles. He served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and was responsible for leading nuclear missile security. Phillip is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and holds a BA in Communications from The Ohio State University, an MS in Instructional Technology, an MBA in Finance, and a PhD in Finance.