Job Search Guide for Former Military Members

By Lori Norris

Updated November 9, 2022 | Published July 17, 2018

Updated November 9, 2022

Published July 17, 2018

Lori Norris has been educating and supporting military service members to see their career options and market their military skills during their military transition since 2005. Lori considers herself bilingual – she speaks military and civilian language. She is the host of the Lessons Learned for Vets Podcast, the owner of Next for Vets education services and Get Results Career Services company.

Browse military-friendly jobs here.




Related: Job Cast: Job Search for Military Service Members and Spouses

This video will introduce you to job searching on Indeed as a military service member or spouse.

Transitioning from a military role to a civilian job is hard work, and we’re here to help you every step of the way. The resources below will help you find, apply to, interview for and get the job that’s right for you.

If you have questions that aren’t answered by this guide, you may get in touch with our helpful support team. You can find them on Twitter, Facebook, and our help center.

Changing your career path

Making a career change lets you look at the path ahead in a new way. For example, your military job code (MOS) may not necessarily define your civilian career path. You’ll need to translate the skills you’ve obtained in the military into a language your future employers will understand, including the intangible skills you might have such as communication, teamwork, critical thinking and others.

In the civilian workforce, job searching is a regular activity for most people. In a recent survey, 91% of employed adults said they look for jobs at least a few times a year. ¹ Like any activity, you’ll get better with practice. The tips that follow are meant to help you hone your search skills and land the job you want.

An important first step is considering what you really want to do at work. You’ll want to be specific about the job you’re looking for next, both to decide where to focus your search and to confidently answer interview questions about why you’re attracted to a particular role.

Action item tips

  • Take stock of what you’ve accomplished in your career so far, your aspirations and where you want to be next.

  • Think about the skills you feel most confident in and those attributes that make you unique. If those are skills from your military career, make sure you are translating those skills so that any employer understands their value and relevance.

  • Think about your experiences and the underlying abilities you’ve demonstrated. Determine how those experiences and abilities will apply to a corporate job. Assess whether you have measurable accomplishments that you can use to demonstrate your level of proficiency.

  • Before you begin your job search, review your social media profiles and check your privacy settings. Potential employers may look at these pages. It is a good idea to avoid controversial subjects, such as politics and religion, when you are in a job search.

Researching jobs and employers

As you begin your job search, you’ll want to learn about the kinds of jobs that are available or how much you can expect to be paid in different jobs or locations. Indeed provides several resources and tips to help you do this.

Related: The Complete Guide To Researching a Company

Salary trends

If you are transitioning from the military, you may not know what your skills are worth in the private sector workplace. This tool helps you see salary trends for specific jobs. Enter the job title you’re interested in learning more about, and you’ll see the job’s salary range and the average salary at popular companies. You can get the national trend or select individual states and cities.

At the same time, you may start researching companies that capture your interest. There are a lot of ways to research companies. Here are a few tips:

  • Create a target list of employers you’d like to work with. Visit their careers page and their Indeed Company Page to get a wealth of information like reviews, videos, and current job openings. From a Company Page, you can choose to “follow” that employer to get email updates when they post new jobs.

  • Visit a company’s social media pages to learn more about the day-to-day of their business.

  • Use a search engine to search for recent news articles about the company so you’re up-to-date on the latest developments.

  • Use social media sites to reach out to people you know who work at the companies on your target list. Look for common interests such as being former military or alumni of the same school to form those connections. In these conversations, come prepared with specific questions. For example:

    • How did you find your job at this company?

    • How would you recommend I learn more about what jobs are available here and whether I’m a good fit?

    • What is your favorite thing about working here? What are the challenges?

    • What advancement opportunities exist at the company?

    • What is your relationship with your supervisor or manager like?

    • I’ve seen a job that interests me, what is your referral process like? Would you be open to referring me?

Having a contact at a company doesn't guarantee you a job. As a job seeker, you'll want to learn as much as you can from your contacts and turn that information into action. Thank them for their time. If you’re meeting them for coffee or lunch, you might offer to pay.

Searching for jobs

When you begin your job search with Indeed, you have the option of using the Indeed.com job search or the Indeed Job Search app. Here are some tips for using them:

1. Create an account

Regardless of which option you choose for your job search, the best way to get started is by creating a free Indeed account.

2. Save and track jobs

With this account, you can save jobs that you want to apply to later. These jobs will appear on your My Jobs page so you can return to them when you’re ready to apply. And once you’ve applied, you’ll be able to track your status from the same page. It’s the easiest way to keep track of all the opportunities that catch your eye.

3. Set up job alerts

Next, set up job alerts as you explore. Job alerts are regular email updates about new jobs that fit the criteria you’re interested in. It’s a convenient way to see new job postings as soon as employers post them.

You can create multiple job alerts to be sent to you either daily or weekly. From your account, you can manage alerts by setting how often you’d like to receive email updates and pausing or deleting alerts.

4. Filter and refine

Next, you can use advanced search techniques to narrow in on the right job. You can search for specific companies or job titles by adding “company:” or “title:” to your search.

You can also use filters to refine your search. If you’re using the Indeed Job Search app, enter the job you’re looking for and then select “Find Jobs.” Your job search results will display on the following page.

To add filters, select the “Filter” button. From there, you can set your search distance, job type (full-time, part-time, contract, etc.), and experience level. Select “Update” to save your filters. You can update these settings at any time during your search. If you’re searching on a desktop, filters will appear on the left side of your search results page.

5. Watch out for suspicious jobs

At Indeed, we work to proactively identify and remove predatory content from search results. For your safety, review these guidelines for a safe job search. Above all, protect your personal information, never accept money for work you have not done, and do not perform any financial transactions on behalf of a potential employer.

If you find a job posting that you believe is fraudulent, contact Indeed immediately to report the listing.

Writing your resume

The next step in your job search is to develop a resume that will translate your most relevant experience and qualifications into an easy-to-digest format.

Read more: How To Write a Military To Civilian Resume (With Template and Example)

1. Use Indeed's resume templates

Indeed Resume is a flexible resume template that lets you fill in your relevant experiences and skills. There are 200 million resumes on Indeed, and employers search this database for candidates with skills that match their job descriptions.

2. Set privacy controls

With Indeed Resume, you can set your resume to “Public,” which enables employers to get in touch with you about new jobs (although your name and other personal information will not be visible). Or, you can set your resume to “Private” if you’d prefer to not be contacted by employers.

3. Choose to upload or create

You can also choose to upload an existing resume or create one directly on Indeed. If you upload a resume, you’ll want to review the formatting to make sure your information has been entered correctly. Indeed Resume formats your resume so that it can be shared with employers on mobile, tablets and desktop.

You can download this document once you save it on Indeed. And, you can use your resume to apply to many jobs on mobile and desktop.

You won’t be prompted to apply to every job with your Indeed Resume. But because you can download it as a file, you can print it or attach it to job applications that allow attachments.

4. Action item tips

  • Create your resume using Indeed Resume.

  • Enter past work experience, skills, relevant education and training.

  • Set your resume to “Public” if you want to be contacted by employers searching for people like you. Your personal information will not be shown.

  • Download this document as a file and print it if you need a hard copy.

Writing a cover letter

Including a cover letter is a traditional part of a job application that is not always necessary these days. As you go through your search, evaluate each job individually to determine if you need a cover letter. If the job posting asks for a cover letter, be prepared to submit a customized letter for that job and company.

In most cases, the purpose of a cover letter is to introduce yourself to a potential employer. You can use a cover letter to call out significant achievements, mention relevant skills and abilities, or explain why you’re attracted to this job and organization. Don’t just regurgitate your resume in the cover letter. Instead, engage the reader by showing your personality and communication style.

Sometimes employers may ask you to answer a specific question in a cover letter. If you come across a job description or application like this, make sure you follow the writing prompt closely. Employers include a prompt like this to assess your attention to detail and written communication skills.

Read more: How To Write a Cover Letter

Applying for jobs

Before you apply for any job, give your resume a final review. At this stage, you want to make sure it’s the best representation of you and doesn’t contain any typos or misspellings. You may want to ask a friend or family member to review it for you. Review the job posting and ensure your resume is targeted and focused on the job and incorporates the research you have done on the company.

Apply on any device

Today, mobile job applications are the norm. In fact, 75% of all job searches on Indeed take place on smartphones. With Indeed, you can search for and apply to jobs on any device.

Job applications may look different for each potential employer. Follow the application instructions within the job description you’ve clicked on. For some jobs, you’ll be able to attach your Indeed Resume and for others, you’ll be prompted to upload your resume as an attachment.

Some employers do not have mobile-friendly applications but if you’re logged in to your Indeed account, you can save a job from your phone and apply to it on a desktop computer later. You can see your saved jobs by going to your My Jobs page within your account.

Submitting your application

Once you’ve filled in an application, submit it. It is highly unlikely that you will be able to edit your job application once it has been submitted, so be sure that you’ve completed it to your satisfaction before taking that final step.

An important part of a successful job search is being targeted in your focus and keeping an open mind to all companies in that industry, whether they are well-known or not. Job search is hard work, and consistently applying is a part of that effort. It’s helpful to set goals for yourself—how many jobs do you want to apply to each day or week? As you meet your application goals, think of a way to reward yourself.

Your Indeed account is a hub for your entire job search. You can refer back to the jobs you’ve saved and keep tabs on the status of each job you’ve applied to. You can also see the recommended next steps for your applications.

Waiting for a response

An inevitable part of any job search is waiting for employers to get back to you. Some employers may send you an email confirming that they received your application and will be in touch if they want to move forward. Others may not get back to you at all.

Read more: What To Do If You Aren’t Hearing Back From Employers

How long should you wait to hear back before moving on? There is no standard answer to this question. The amount of time it takes to review a job application varies for each job and company.

While you’re waiting to hear back, it’s important to continue your job search. Keep researching new opportunities and applying to jobs. Set up job alerts and follow your dream employer’s Company Page to get updates when new jobs are posted.

And don’t forget the power of face-to-face interactions: Take a friend, mentor, or family member to coffee and ask them about their career path—you might be surprised by what you learn and how it inspires you. Stay active in your community to make new connections. Use social networking sites to connect with people who already work for the organization and conduct informational interviews to build relationships that might lead to referrals.

Interviewing

The interview and hiring process is handled differently at different companies. Sometimes you may not have direct contact with anyone before your interview. That’s ok, there are ways to prepare on your own. Visit the Q&A section of this organization’s Company Page to learn about other job seekers’ interview experiences. You can also research common interview questions in your industry and practice your answers. Here are some tips:

Ask for details before you go

If you are communicating with a recruiter before your interview, you can ask them questions that will help you prepare. Here are some examples of questions to ask:

What is the dress code like in your office?

You want to look your best at an interview and knowing what the environment is like at this company will give you some ideas of what to wear.

Besides my resume, is there anything else I should bring to the interview?

For some jobs, employers might want to see examples of your past work. The answer to this question will help you determine what to bring.

How many people will I be interviewing with, and what are their names and titles?

Sometimes it will be just one person or you might talk to several people, one at a time. Other interviews might be conducted by a panel. Knowing their positions will help you prepare well because the questions a supervisor would have for you could differ from those a peer might have.

Why is the position open?

This question will give you insight into the reason they need to fill this job and how soon. It will also tell you about the history of the position and the company’s culture. For example, if the job has been vacated by someone who was promoted, that could indicate they like to promote from within. If the job is newly created, that might mean you’ll be helping to define the job more clearly once hired.

Read more: How To Prepare for a Behavioral Interview

Prepare how you'll answer

In a recent survey of 1,000 hiring managers, we asked them to list the most important attributes of top performers at their company. The top five attributes they named were problem-solving, communication, self-direction, drive and adaptability. ²

As you prepare for your interviews, think of examples from your service experience that embody these attributes and be ready with relevant anecdotes to share. Pairing your experience with what managers care about the most is a great way to make an impression.

Pro tip: Remember to avoid using military jargon. For example, use civilian time instead of military time when confirming your interview. Also, remember that you won’t need to address hiring managers and recruiters as Sir or Ma’am. Instead, address them by their first name.

Action item tips

  • Prepare on your own by visiting the Q&A section of a Company Page.

  • If you are speaking with a recruiter, ask them about what to expect.

  • Pair examples from your experience with the traits that matter most to hiring managers: problem-solving, drive, self-direction, strategic thinking, and initiative.

  • Review salary data beforehand so you’re prepared to talk about compensation.

Starting a new job

You’ve made it through the search and landed the job, congratulations! We’d love to hear your story—share it on I Got a Job.

What to expect on your first day will vary from company to company. At this stage, you should have a line of communication open with your new employer and should ask any questions you have about the job.

For many people, keeping an eye on new job opportunities is a part of continuous career development, even once you’ve found a new job. In fact, 90% of top performers say they search for jobs at least a few times each year. ³ Remember that you can continue to manage your email job alerts from your Indeed account, pausing them or changing how often you receive them.

Preparing for a new culture

The military culture is unique and different from the private sector work culture. No matter how long you’ve served in the military, you are likely to experience an adjustment period. Changing from a military to a civilian workplace involves changing your environment, losing your ingrained military support community, having less formality and more personal freedom as well as adapting to a brand new set of rules and expectations. Tap into the adaptability, flexibility, resourcefulness and persistence that you gained in the military to adapt to your new work culture.
Related: How To Succeed in Your New Job: The First Week, Month and 90 Days

Browse military-friendly jobs here.

¹ Indeed survey, n=1,000
² Indeed survey, n=1,000
³ Indeed survey, n=599

Explore more articles