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Guide to Writing a Military to Civilian Resume


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military to civilian resume

Making the transition from the military to a civilian job can be difficult, especially in a down economy, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. In fact, many industries are hiring right now, and some industries are even facing a shortfall of qualified workers.

That can be good news for military veterans, many of whom are highly skilled or have the ability to quickly learn marketable high tech skills. The goal for transitioning veterans is to show employers your capabilities, and one of the easiest ways to do that is with a well-crafted resume.

A Resume is the First Step to a New Job

Many people believe the role of a resume is to get them the job. That’s only partially correct. A resume actually serves to get you an interview, not a job. Your goal as a job seeker, is to craft a resume that shows a potential employer that you are highly skilled and have the capacity to continue learning and growing in your professional career. Then you need to package it in a neat one or two page document.

From there, your resume will serve as your introduction to employers and help you land that interview. Let’s get started.

First Impressions Count

You know from your days in the military that a well tailored uniform and shiny boots can go a long way toward creating a good first impression. The same thing applies to your resume.

Most hiring managers receive around 50-100 resumes per job application. The only way they can get through a stack of resumes in a reasonable amount of time is to first weed out those who aren’t an obvious fit for the job. Most managers only give a resume about 30 seconds of their time on their first pass. When you only have 30 seconds, you need to shine.

Attention to Detail is Essential

Many military veterans stand out in the area of attention to detail because it is ingrained into our way of life from day one in the military. You need to treat your post-military resume with the same amount of detail you treated your job while you were in the service. That means spend time proof-reading and double checking your grammar and spelling. After all, some words sound similar, but have different meanings, write right?

You also want to ditch the military jargon and acronyms where possible. You want your resume to be understood by anyone who reads it, not just seasoned military veterans. If you must use acronyms, be sure to spell out the word first, then list the acronym.

The Format is Also Important

There are three basic formats for most resumes: chronological, which lists your jobs in reverse chronological order; functional, which lists your skills first, then the jobs you had after your skills; and hybrid, which is a combination of the two.

The most frequently used resume format is the chronological format, which is the best format for people who are applying for jobs within similar industries. Functional resumes are often used by students who recently graduated, and by job seekers who are moving into a new career field. If your post-military career will be similar to your last military job, then go with the chronological resume format. If your job is in a different field, then you may be better off using a functional or hybrid resume format.

Translate Your Skills

Not every military job has a civilian equivalent (infantry is a great example of a military job without a civilian equivalent). Keep in mind, there are often civil service positions which rate as civilian military jobs, so be sure to check with for those positions.

If you are looking at the private sector, then you will likely need to translate your skills into civilian terms. You can do this with a variety of online tools such as the skills translators at,, and more. These tools take your MOS, AFSC or rating, and put those skills into terms civilians can easily understand. These tools are incredibly helpful for assisting veterans in crafting a military to civilian resume.

Create a Master Resume, then Tailor it for Each Application

Spend some time creating one base resume which lists everything you have done in your career. Don’t worry about the length for this version. The point is to get everything down in one place. Once you start applying for jobs, you will then cut everything from the resume that doesn’t apply.

When you are writing a resume for a specific job, open your master resume and the job description at the same time, and copy the sections of your master resume which closely match the job description, being careful to include some of the keywords that are found in the job description. This will help your resume be found by screening software and help it rise to the top. Be sure to keep track of which resumes you submit to each company and have it on hand in the even you are called in for an interview.

More Tips for Writing a Military to Civilian Resume

Each resume is unique and you need to be sure to take time to craft it based upon your own skills and abilities. Be sure to have friends, family or coworkers review it and offer additional tips or critiques as they may catch something you missed. The following slideshow displays over 30 additional tips and military to civilian resume examples.

Best of luck with your transition to the civilian job force!