5 Resume Tips for Vets Transitioning to the Civilian Workforce

Posted April 04, 2012

Resume tips for former vets working as civilians Moving from a military career to a civilian one can be a big change for veterans.  Having a strong resume that emphasizes your skills – both hard and soft – and how they can benefit a civilian employer will put you in a better position to get called for an interview and, ultimately, get a job offer.

The overriding principle is to make a resume accessible to the civilian reader by stripping out the military jargon.

“The thing to remember is that while most employers want to hire veterans -- not because of the tax benefits but because it's the right thing to do -- they are a bit intimidated,” says Bruce Hurwitz of Hurwitz Strategic Staffing.

Here are some tips on making your military resume civilian-friendly:

1. Speak Civilian

“Military terminology is different and you will need to make the translation,” says Pat Lynch, President of Atlanta-based career coaching firm The Frontier Group.

Think about what you did in the military in terms of the skills you used to complete tasks, rather than the tasks themselves.

“Break down your military responsibility into skills and functional groups and then try to match them with the more common civilian and business organizational areas, such as operations, finance, IT, HR,” Lynch says. “What our vets see is that the military definition – for example, supply chain --is actually an inventory management role in the civilian world.”

2. Include Soft Skills

Emphasize soft skills, such as being able to work cooperatively with others, being an effective leader, being able to plan and adapt, strong communication, ability to perform under pressure.

“General skills can translate into a new job,” says Mona Abdel-Halim, co-founder of resume service Resunate. “For example, if you learned how to successfully work as part of a team, that's worth sharing with potential employers. You may have also had to use problem-solving skills while in the military, which comes in handy in many types of jobs in the civilian world.”

Highlight soft skills into your resume through a professional summary at the top of the resume, Abdel-Halim says, “to show the company the value you would bring if they hired you."

[Get more great career advice from CareerBliss]

3. Make it Relevant

When you find a position that sounds like a good fit for you, don’t just send off a generic resume. Each time you submit a resume, be sure it’s as relevant as possible to the specific position for which you’re applying. Take a look at the job posting and tailor your resume to it, such as emphasizing some skills over others or highlighting particular accomplishments to make yourself a more attractive candidate for the job.

4. Use Good Form

Experts have differing opinions on what makes for the perfect resume. But in its most basic form, a resume needs to include your contact information, a list of work experience (this can be various positions you held within the military) and, if applicable, your education (this can include courses and programs completed in the military).

Rick Dacri, of HR consulting firm Dacri & Associates recommends including a “professional accomplishments” section with five or six bullet point items briefly detailing specific accomplishments.

“No fluff,” he says, “just solid things done with clear results.”

CareerBliss partner GetInterviews offers a free resume critique, and here are some great resume writing resources:

5. Don’t Forget the Cover Letter

Be sure to send your resume with a cover letter (or cover email). A cover letter is your first chance to make a good first impression on a prospective employer and begin to build rapport. It’s also an opportunity to match the skills listed on your resume with the job to which you’re applying – it’s the link between your resume and the job posting.

Here are some resources for writing an effective cover letter:

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The CareerBliss Team

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