How to Highlight Your Military Accomplishments on Your Resume

Transitioning from the military to civilian employment can come with its challenges. One of the first hurdles to cross is writing a good resume. As with any other type of job or career shift, it's important to tailor your resume in such a way that employers see why they want to hire you. Did you know hiring managers decide in seconds if they are going to even read a resume? That being said, first impressions matter—a lot. To keep them reading, you'll have to translate your valuable military accomplishments, skills, and experiences into a language civilian employers understand.

military resume

Research current resume styles

To get started, do some homework to see what kinds of resume formats are currently being used. You don't want to use an antiquated design you used before you joined the military because chances are it'll be cast aside without even being looked at. Once you find a modern style you like, you can begin to fill in the blanks in a way that will make recruiters and hiring managers sit up and take notice of what you've done and what you can do.

Customize your experience to the job

Many of the skills you've mastered in the military may not easily transfer to civilian jobs because there is no exact equivalent. It's important to narrow down accomplishments you can transfer to civilian positions and put more emphasis on these in your resume. While deployments and field exercises are valuable, the reality is most recruiters and hiring managers won't know the worth of this experience nor will they probably understand how you can apply it to a civilian job.

What you need to do is find ways to demonstrate your qualifications in ways they'll appreciate. When designing your new resume, take your experience and accomplishments and convert them into the corporate equivalent. If you're not sure how to do this or looking to shake up your wording a bit, use a military translator. Take these results and put them into your own voice.

Other tips to customize your work experience:

  • Address employer needs
  • Bullet point accomplishments
  • Be concise
  • Highlight knowledge, skills, abilities
  • Leave out combat details

Include your soft skills

Veterans have strong soft skills employers want. It's common for civilian employers to actively seek these out as the technical stuff of any job can be taught or enhanced with additional training, however, soft skills, not so much. Be sure to incorporate yours into your resume in such a way they pop out to the person reviewing it. Attributes to showcase include:

  • Excellent communication skills
  • Leadership and responsibility
  • Strong ethics/loyalty/dedication/integrity
  • Ability to get things done
  • Well-organized and detail-oriented
  • Able to work under pressure

Numbers highlight your accomplishments

As you know, the military is all about the numbers. After all, figures quantify accomplishments and put a tangible value on a skill, showing employers your level of responsibility, accountability, and your ability to manage and budget. Numbers are always impressive to hiring managers and recruiters, so give them what they like to see.

"The more you focus on money, time and amounts in relation to your accomplishments, the better you'll present your successes and highlight your potential - and the more you'll realize just how much you really have to offer prospective employers," Military Times says.

If you have a security clearance, include this in your resume

Chances are you might be looking at jobs that require a security clearance. If you land a government job, they'll sponsor your clearance. If not, someone else will need to sponsor you–and that is costly. If you already have a clearance from your time in service, be sure to highlight this prominently. Private sector employers often look for people who have already been cleared so they don't have to absorb the expense.

Omit the military jargon

Military lingo and acronyms are second nature to you and everyone else you've probably worked with up until now, but civilian employers will have absolutely no clue of what you're talking about (unless you're applying to work at a military installation or a related job). Jargon will confuse recruiters and hiring managers; you're better off using language anyone can understand. Sometimes the terms you're so comfortable with might not exist in civilian workplaces. Once you've constructed your resume and filled out all the sections, give it a careful read over to ensure no military jargon has crept into it. Then ask a non-military person to give it a read to see if any service-specific terms are distracting from your accomplishments.

Beyond the resume

You've probably already completed the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) offered by the military to get connected to resources and information for veterans to make a more successful transition. After you get that under your belt, start attending the numerous job fairs catering to former military. It's also a good idea to start networking–not just in military circles but with groups in your chosen career field.

When designing your new civilian resume, the trick is to show employers why they should hire you. What comes as second nature to you may not be as easily understood by employers, so be sure to highlight your accomplishments in such a way where they will be eager to call you for that interview.

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