How To Effectively Market Your Military Experience on a Resume
By Lori Norris
Updated November 9, 2021 | Published January 23, 2020
Updated November 9, 2021
Published January 23, 2020
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.
Related: Job Cast: How to Write a Resume After Military Experience
Indeed hosted this Job Cast to walk through how to build a civilian resume on Indeed as a military service member or spouse.
As a military-experienced job seeker, you have gained valuable experience during your service. As you prepare to make the career transition from military to civilian life, it is important to present that experience in a way that your future employer will understand. Translating your military experience into skills that will add value in the private sector workplace is critical for employers to be able to identify the value of your service to their organization. In this article, we will discuss the value of your military experience, why it is important to translate that experience and how to translate your military skills on your resume for potential employers.
You can also fill out our Military Indeed Resume Review questionnaire to receive personalized feedback from a professional resume writer.
Name and contact information
Summary or objective
a. Company name
b. Dates of tenure
c. Description of role and achievement
Optional (Awards & Achievements, Hobbies & Interests)
Why is your military experience valuable to employers?
Whether you served 4 years or 24 years, you gained skills and experience that can be used to increase your marketability to potential employers. As a former military candidate, your military experience brings a potential employer some of these desirable qualities:
Strong work ethic
Respect for superiors
The ability to work as part of a team
Read more: 21 Benefits of Hiring Veterans
Why it is important to translate your military skills on your resume
No matter how impressive your military experience and accomplishments may be, if the potential employer doesn’t understand your terminology or how it is relevant to the job you are pursuing, your resume will not go very far. You must translate your military skills and relate your military experience to your next career. Incorporate your military experience throughout your resume using the same format as work experience, with the most recent positions listed first.
Here are some key strategies to translating your military experience:
1. Translate your military job titles
The initial read-through of the resume is usually a quick scan. One of the areas that are often looked at first are your job titles to determine if your experience is relevant. The job titles listed on your resume must be free of military terminology and acronyms. Don’t use Non-commissioned Officer in Charge, NCOIC, Chief Petty Officer or CPO when you can simply use the title of manager. Avoid using military codes or your MOS designator, such as the 11B code for Infantryman. Instead, use the title Team Leader or Crew Manager.
2. Organize your military timeline
You may have changed jobs or locations quite frequently in your military experience. However, showing a new or different job each year can be perceived negatively or feel overwhelming to the civilian hiring authority. To overcome this issue, consolidate your experience into larger blocks of time when it makes sense. For example:
Instead of listing each job separately:
Avionics Craftsman, United States Air Force, 2019 to 2021
Avionics Journeyman, United States Air Force, 1/2017 to 7/2019
Avionics Apprentice, United States Air Force, 1/2015 to 12/2016
Consolidate your work history in one block and make it relevant:
Technician / Crew Lead, United States Air Force, 2015 to 2021
3. Don’t overwhelm the reader
Your potential employer does not need to know everything you have ever done in the military. Instead, they only want the details that are relevant to the job for which you are applying at their company. Your resume should not be longer than two pages. Use concise bullet points that are not longer than one to three typewritten lines and contain measurable results to keep the reader interested.
4. Translate and list any additional training you received
During your military service, you receive extensive training and education that can be of value to your employer in the private sector. Much of the training may not be relevant to your next role, but identify what training will add value in your next role. It is important to translate the titles of your training courses which will help employers understand what military education you have received. For example, an Air Force leader may have attended the NCO Academy, but it should be featured on your resume as a 6-week course in leadership and professional communication.
5. Showcase your measurable accomplishments
It is important to use numbers and metrics to help your potential employer understand the scope of your accomplishments and the value of your contributions. Use metrics such as the number of people you supervised, the dollar value of the equipment you managed or inventory you controlled and use percentages to highlight any improvements.
6. Don’t list your military honors and awards
Though your military awards and honors proved your excellence and commitment in the military, in the private sector they add no value if they are not understood. Instead of adding a list of awards and accolades, integrate your military honors into accomplishment statements. For example, instead of NCOIC of the Year, write a bullet that says:
Recognized as #1 of 250 managers in the organization after leading team to exceed production standards by 23% and achieving equipment availability rates 12% above expectations.
Read more: Best Skills to Include on a Resume
Additional tips for adding your military experience to your resume.
Proofread your resume. Proofreading your resume helps you identify typos, spelling and grammatical mistakes before you apply for jobs. Correct these problems to demonstrate an attention to detail as well as show your commitment to professionalism.
Ask a non-military contact to read your resume. A non-military contact can identify parts of your resume that may not be clear enough to civilians. Use their feedback to refine your resume so your military experience is clearer to potential employers. If you make substantial changes, you may like to get your contact to read your resume again to confirm that they can understand it.
Related: Words to Avoid and Include on Your Resume
Use plain language. Potential employers should be able to understand the experience you have outlined in your resume. Offer clear explanations for military terminology to simplify acronyms, ranks, duties and accomplishments.
Be clear and concise. A clear, concise resume is easily read and understood by potential employers. Including only relevant details will help streamline your resume. For example, you may focus on your work developing mission plans, as these show your leadership and problem-solving ability, but omit details of your combat missions. Your resume should be between one and two pages.
Include all relevant information. Use your resume to celebrate your achievements. While resumes should be concise, they should include all the information employers need to understand your experience and accomplishments.
Use keywords. Include keywords featured in job descriptions in your resume to show employers you are a good match for their positions. These keywords can also help your resume pass Applicant Tracking System software that searches for specific words and phrases preferred by employers to quickly identify the strongest resumes.
Resume with military experience example
Use this example of a resume with military experience as a guide for incorporating your military history into your resume:
555 Liberty Way
Portland, OR 97035
Aircraft mechanic and crew leader with 10 years of experience leading teams of up to 6 technicians to maintain all aircraft systems of multiple airframes. Dedicated to efficiently balancing productivity, quality and safety to ensure customer needs are met. Active Secret security clearance, renewed 2020.
Aviation Maintenance Team Lead, United States Air Force, 11/2014 to 11/2020
Led team of 6 technicians who performed troubleshooting and problem solving by communicating with F-16 pilots to isolate faults, determine problems and find solutions. Worked quickly, made fast decisions and innovatively solved problems to achieve a personal rate of 100% aircraft flight availability.
Established daily production priorities, created workflow schedule, delegated tasks and ensured an average of 500+ annual maintenance actions were completed on-time with a focus on quality and safety.
Used wire diagrams, signal testing and tracing to conduct root cause analysis of any faults, isolate malfunctions and conduct repairs with 93% QA pass rate.
Constructed, assembled, calibrated, tested, adjusted and troubleshot equipment, components, devices and systems. Unit achieved a 1% repeat rate for mechanical problems, well below the 5% USAF goal.
Worked from engineering drawings, schematics, written or verbal instructions to provide support, repairs and maintenance on flight console, flight control, radar, radar threat warning, displays, circuit boards, wiring and electrical systems.
Maintained detailed logs and documentation of data for tests, procedures and maintenance performed.
Aviation Maintenance Technician, United States Air Force, 11/2011 to 11/2014
Teamed with avionics, electrical and environmental, sheet metal, structural, engines and corrosion control specialists to ensure aircraft received repairs or maintenance needed to maintain its production schedule. Inspected, maintained, repaired aircraft valued at $20M+.
Employed mechanical skills and ability to isolate faults to achieve flight-readiness of 99.5% – 17.5% above standards. Oversaw towing, launch and recovery as well as pre-, post- and thru-flight inspections.
Managed time and prioritized maintenance needs to ensure the aircraft was ready to fly 3,500+ flights per year while achieving a 96.6% on-time maintenance completion rate.
Consistently achieved 100% pass rate on quality assurance inspections while still meeting deadlines; used meticulous attention to detail and proactive approach to problem resolution.
Ensured MSDS, OSHA, EPA and FOD safety standards and guidelines were followed; kept workspace clean and orderly and enforced personal protective equipment (PPE) usage and HazMat handling regulations.
University of Oregon
Bachelor of Science in Political Science
Excellent verbal and written communication
Skilled in organizational policy
Able to work independently
Effective team leader
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Learn five tips to improve your resume and help it stand out to employers!
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