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Practical Resume Advice for Military Veterans

Switching careers takes courage. And veterans know a thing or two about courage. 

But when military personnel finish serving and look to re-enter civilian life, they need more than just strong nerves to transition to a new career. For veterans, the struggle is often aligning the skills and experiences they’ve gained in the military with the types of jobs that exist outside the military. 

Not to worry. This article is all about helping those that have served in the armed forces create resumes for civilian positions. After talking with recruiters about their experiences hiring veterans, we’ve focused this article on the following areas: 

Best resume format for military veterans 

For veterans, a “functional” or “skills-based” resume format is best.

This format emphasizes skills instead of career progression. This is important for veterans because most of their career will have been spent with one employer: the military. Recruiters with civilian organizations often won’t understand military ranks so don’t worry about documenting how you went from Private to Captain, for example.

Instead, think hard about the skills you developed and proven.

Important resume sections for military veterans

The “Key Skills” section is the most important to veterans. This section should come right after a Resume Summary and should contain the bulk of your resume content.

Under Key Skills, describe skills that are most relevant to the position for which you are applying (more on this below). You can also have an “Additional Skills” section that provides a shorter, less-detailed list of skills you possess.

You should still have a Work Experience and Education section on your resume, but these don’t have to be detailed.

Also, it’s quite common for veterans to have a list of accomplishments, certifications, and courses completed. A good resume builder will make it easy to develop sections for these elements.

How to emphasize skills on a resume for military veterans 

It’s critical that ex-military personnel take a close look at the position requirements of a job to see which skills the organization values most. Based on these needs, veterans can tailor their resumes. 

Keep in mind that with a skills-based resume, it is not enough to just state that you have a specific skill. You need to provide proof of how you have applied that skill in your military career. 

Here’s an example of how someone can list “Leadership” on his/her resume. 

Leadership: Served as (insert ranking) where I directly led and oversaw a team of (insert # of people) officers responsible for telecommunications support for military operations in (insert place) taking place over (insert time period). 

Note that this example tries to be as specific possible. 

Some of the most common skills for veterans to highlight in their job applications include leadership, attention to detail, teamwork, problem-solving, planning, communication, and many more

What military veterans should avoid when writing a resume 

Steer clear of the following: 

1. Avoid military jargon

Assume a recruiter has no knowledge of military terms, including acronyms or commonly-used code names. Describe jargon with everyday language. 

2. Do not include irrelevant skills

Your resume is a strategic document meant to persuade your reader that you are qualified to do a job. Even if you are proud of certain skills, if they irrelevant to the role, don’t emphasize them. 

3. Resist the urge to include an“Objective”

This has gone out of style. In the past, it was used by career-switchers to explain why they wanted jobs in new fields. This may seem applicable to veterans looking for work outside the military, but there are better ways to address this topic – for example, in your cover letter. 

Rest assured, many recruiters already see value in the skill sets that veterans can bring to their organizations. Your mission is to show recruiters why you are the right person for the job. Follow the above advice and you’ll be well on your way. 

Final point: appearance matters. Take advantage of a resume builder to give your resume visual appeal that recruiters can’t ignore.


Adapted with permission from the original article, found here