Your job search requires a civilian oriented resume

transition from military requires a good resume

Your experience from serving in uniform is a treasure trove of value for an employer. You need to get that across on paper.

You’re getting ready to leave active duty and that big looming task still remains in front of you… getting your résumé in shape for a civilian job. Your military experience has an incredible array of accomplishments, but even someone with a full rack of ribbons and a wall full of commendations needs to figure out how they can communicate that success in terms of civilian hiring managers will understand. Here you’ll find some tips to help you create a résumé with enough punch to show how your military experience is truly transferable for the right civilian position.

Make your civilian job goals clear

It’s difficult to market yourself well for a civilian position if your goals are clearly defined first. Since a lot of people who have served have quite the diverse mix of experience it’s common for them to write résumés that are too general when listing their experience and describing their skills. Before you even start writing the résumés, do a deep dive — check out the positions that appeal to you and narrow it down to a specific path you’d like to pursue. If that part is giving you some trouble, and you’re still on active duty, check with the transition office or try and find a local career coach. If you’re still stuck on a couple of different tracks create résumés specific to each of them

Your résumé should directly address employers’ needs. 

Once you settle on the objective, you’re ready to start writing the résumé that will get you hired. First you need to consider the ultimate purpose for doing so Colin answering the ultimate question an employer will ask, “What can this candidate contribute to our team?”

Hopefully one great way to think about what employers might need is obvious to you: research the target job. Check job sites, company websites, and read a variety of job postings. Get a good take on the types of skills and experiences employers want for that specific type of work. Then think about what parts of your military background are most akin them. 

Anything not directly related to your employment goal should be omitted or at least minimized. This includes any awards training and other accolades. Here’s an example: Shooting expert on the rifle range doesn’t belong on a civilian résumé in most cases. This tends to be one of the most difficult tasks for former members of the military. Perhaps the number one reason it’s common to see the résumés in excess of five pages.

While you’re going through the process deciding what to leave out, ask this question of your self, “will the hiring manager care about this?“ Then limit what you include to the details that will help you get the job.

They’re civilians – figure they have no military knowledge.

Put a civilian spin on your duty assignments, titles and awards. Instead try appealing to civilian hiring managers. Prospective employers without much familiarity with the military won’t get the terminologies and acronyms you are accustomed to. 

Get some of your friends, non-military ones, to have a look at your résumés. Ask them to show you terms that they don’t understand. A good place to help with translating some of the terms can be found on‘s skills translator. This is a good resource for help swapping military terms for civilian keywords

Highlight what you’ve accomplished

Your time in uniform has given you a lot of great training and experience along with advancement. Put some light on these accomplishments when writing your résumé so an average civilian can understand how important all of these are, and appreciate the measurable outcomes. 

Here’s an example of putting a civilian spin on accomplishments:

Recognized for capturing significant budget savings while managing inventory and supply logistics for a military base with a population of 50,000. Specific focus on individual training team building and recognition resulted in increasing retention by 17%. 


Here’s how to express the value of military awards in terms civilians can appreciate:

Received a navy achievement medal for completing 600 field medical evaluations and developing the database to track them. The database resulted in improved tracking and reporting functions, which allowed for an overall reduction in time spent on case management.


Highlight your achievements in uniform 

It’s possible you’ve picked up rumblings about having a résumé that minimizes your military service. Actually the opposite holds true. Time spent in uniform is an excellent asset and needs to be marketed as such. Especially nowadays, employers realize the value of hiring veterans.

Skills and traits acquired in military service include teamwork, leadership, work ethic and being multi-skilled. If you’re afraid an employer won’t understand the true value of your experience, you need to make sure your résumé communicates that for you.

If you have combat experience, don’t go into detail. While serving in such a high capacity is admirable, the truth is graphic accounts of close-combat may be a put-off. The best advice is tone down or remove references of battlefield assignments.


Give it a test-run

Coming up with a résumé that works for you in the civilian community will be an ongoing process. You want to keep tweaking it until it opens the door for interviews. You can find some opportunities to do that on our job search engine.