Transitioning from a military lifestyle to that of a civilian is far from easy.
According to a Pew Research Center study, 95% of veterans seek employment after serving in the military.
26% of veteran respondents, however, found shifting from the military to the civilian lifestyle to be somewhat difficult.
Coincidentally, one of the biggest struggles for veterans is creating a compelling military to civilian resume that’s going to help them get a job that’s well-paid and enjoyable.
To help solve that problem, though, we wrote this guide. Read on to learn everything you need to know to create a compelling veteran resume, including:
- Military to Civilian Resume Example
- How to Write a Military Veteran Resume (8 Simple Steps)
- Free Military to Civilian Resume Template
- Essential (Free) Job-Search Resources for Veterans
In case you’re looking to brush up on the resume basics, watch the video below.
If you’re ready to get started, though, let’s start by reviewing a well-written military to civilian resume example.
Military to Civilian Resume Example (for Veterans)
Compelling, right? Here’s what the above military to civilian resume example does right:
- Follows a functional resume format. The functional resume format focuses more on your skills and strengths rather than work experience. It helps convey how your military experience is going to help you perform well in the civilian role you’re applying for.
- Lists the contact information the right way. It includes the applicant’s full name, email, location, phone number, and even a LinkedIn URL while skipping out on a photo.
- Captures the hiring manager’s attention with a resume summary. The summary on top of the military to civilian resume example offers a brief snapshot of the candidate’s career, instantly showing the recruiter their value.
- Focuses on transferable skills instead of work experience. Instead of mentioning military buzzwords that civilians wouldn’t understand in the first place, the resume example instead focuses on how the candidate's experiences helped them develop valuable skills.
- Mentions achievements when possible. Achievements help convince the recruiter that they’re not just any candidate - you’re an overachiever who plays to win.
- Uses bullet points to make the resume easier to skim. The recruiter doesn’t have all day - they have hundreds of other resumes to review just for a single role. Making the resume easy to skim makes it more likely to be read.
- Includes educational history (in brief). The military to civilian resume example describes the candidate’s educational background, which includes taking a leadership course and basic training.
- Makes use of the optional sections. The achievements and interests sections help shed light on the candidate’s personality outside of work, as well.
Now, let’s talk about how YOU can make your resume as impressive as the example above.
How to Write a Military Veteran Resume (8 Easy Steps)
In this section, we’re going to walk you through the 8 steps to creating a powerful military veteran resume, starting with:
#1. Pick a Functional Resume Format
These are the 3 most popular resume formats out there:
- Reverse-chronological. This format focuses on your work history over education or skills.
- Functional. It focuses less on your work background and more on your skills and how they make you a qualified candidate.
- Combination. This format is a mix of the other two formats. It puts equal emphasis on skills and experiences.
As a military veteran, you’re better off with a functional format.
As you can see above, the resume example focuses more on key strengths instead of just listing out work experiences.
This improves your odds of landing a civilian job for one important reason:
Most recruiters aren’t really familiar with military lingo.
Your experiences in the military might be super compelling, but chances are, most recruiters won’t understand how these experiences make you a good candidate for the role.
By framing your experiences around your skills, on the other hand, your resume becomes more understandable for a civilian.
Once you’ve decided on the format, you also need to sort out your resume style, layout, font, and more. Here’s what this includes:
- Don’t go over one page. Your resume should be concise and to the point. More often than not, if you’re going over one page, you’re probably including information that isn’t relevant for the role.
- Pick the right font and font size. In terms of size, go for 11-12 pt for body text. For the font, pick something like Ubuntu, Times New Roman, etc. That way your resume will look professional AND stand out at the same time.
- Use the military-to-civilian resume template. Want to skip the hassle of formatting a resume? Hit the link and pick from one of our free templates! Our templates are easy to use AND look much more compelling than the conventional black-and-white ones.
#2. Include Contact Information
Now that we’ve got the formatting hassle out of the way, let’s talk about resume content.
The first thing in your veteran resume is the contact information section.
Here, you need to include:
- Full name.
- Descriptive title. This should include your title in the military, as well as the title you’re applying for. Something like “Security Officer Seeking a Role as Customer Support Specialist.”
- Phone number.
- Professional email address. Think, [name][lastname]@gmail.com
- Location. City and state are good enough, you don’t need to include an address.
- (Optional) LinkedIn URL. If you have an up-to-date LinkedIn profile, you can include a URL in the contact information section.
And finally, make sure NOT to include a photo in your military to civilian resume. In the US, employers prefer that you don’t include a picture to avoid unconscious bias during the hiring process.
Here’s what your resume contact information section should look like at the end:
Security & Customer Service Professional
#3. Capture the Hiring Manager’s Attention with a Military Veteran Resume Summary
When reading your resume for the first time, the recruiter will spend roughly 7 seconds skimming it to make sure that you’re qualified for the role.
If the resume catches their attention, they’ll give it a more in-depth look.
If it doesn’t, they’ll simply move on to the next one.
This is where a compelling resume summary can come in handy.
A resume summary is a 2-4 sentence “summary” of your past work experience. It helps the recruiter understand your skill-set and whether you’re relevant for the role in a single glance.
Here’s what a convincing military to civilian resume summary looks like:
Dedicated professional with over 9 years of outstanding performance and results in the U.S. Military. Earned three promotions and excelled as a leader. Seeking to apply the skills I gained in the military as a Customer Support Specialist at Company X.
When writing your resume summary, make sure to include the following information:
- Your title in the military and the role you’re applying for.
- Years of experience.
- Top achievements and experiences.
#4. Summarize Your Experiences with a Key Strengths Section
This one’s arguably the most important part of your military to civilian resume.
At the end of the day, the main deciding factor in whether you get invited for an interview or not is if your resume manages to convince the recruiter that you’re capable of doing the job…
And that’s where the key strengths section comes in handy.
To create yours, start by listing out your top strengths as section headers. Then, underneath each header, list your achievements and responsibilities that prove you actually have the relevant skill.
Here’s what this looks like on a resume:
- Promoted within a short period by demonstrating an over-achieving dedication that maximized results for the entire team.
- Proved internal customer service by relating to all personnel in a professional manner that facilitated the development of a diversified group.
- Enhanced soldiers’ individual and professional growth, developing them into independent decision-makers.
- Accounted for the safety of equipment valued at over $1.3 million.
- Secure the personal safety, training, and performance of fifteen U.S. Army soldiers.
Operations and Administration
- Organized schedules for over 45 soldiers.
- Implemented new routes, resulting in savings in gas time and reduced work time.
- Prevented over 10 cancellations and negotiated over 20 contract renewals with the local government.
Applying for a Military or Private Security Role? Do This
Now, in case you’re applying for a role that’s somewhat related to your experience in the military (e.g. in private security), then you can simply create a conventional Work Experience section instead of Key Strengths.
If that’s your case, here’s how you should format the section:
- Create a section header called “Work Experience.”
- Start by listing your most recent role and go backward in time from there.
- For each entry, include your title, company name, dates employed, and 3-5 top achievements.
- For older positions, you can include fewer achievements and responsibilities.
Now, if you want your work experiences to stand out from the rest of the candidates, we recommend you to include achievements over responsibilities.
- Achieved a 99.5% average delivery rate on all assignments, resulting in no losses of materials or assets.
- Conducted deliveries of materials and assets.
The first example shows just how the candidate stands out from other applicants. The 2nd, on the other hand, does not.
#5. Mention Your Education (the Right Way)
On to the next section!
The next step to creating a convincing military to civilian resume is mentioning your educational background.
This is where you mention your higher educational degrees, as well as training (e.g. boot camps) and any personal development courses you’ve taken.
First things first, here’s how you’d go about the formatting part:
- Create a header called “Education”
- Add your latest degree right on top. Then, include older degrees underneath.
- If you have a B.A. or an M.A., you can skip your high school degree altogether.
- You can skip mentioning a GPA. These days, no one cares about your grades.
Here’s how the end result would look like:
B.A. in Communications
08/2016 - 05/2020
Now, if you don’t have the relevant experience needed for the role you’re applying for, you can use your education section to show off your knowledge or skills.
You can do this by including:
- Any honors you might have earned.
- Exact courses you’ve attended.
- Any other way you’ve excelled during your education.
#6. Include In-Demand Skills (For the Industry You’re Applying for)
Another must-have of a military to civilian resume is the skills section.
This is where you list out all of your hard and soft skills and (optionally) grade them by knowledge level.
The key here, though, is not to simply list out random skills like:
- Critical Thinking
- Microsoft Word
Rather, you want to include the skills relevant to the role.
E.g. applying for a role in accounting? You should probably mention payroll tax accounting, cost reduction strategies, budgeting and forecasting, and so on.
You wouldn’t want to mention your Adobe Illustrator skills, for example (even if you’re an expert at it).
So, how can you know which skills are essential to your resume, and which ones aren’t?
The best way to understand this is to read the job ad you’re applying for. More often than not, they include an exact list of skills required for the role, and all you have to do is mention them in your resume (as long as you possess the said skills, of course).
#7. Take Advantage of the Optional Resume Sections
If you still have some space on your military veteran resume, you can take advantage of some optional resume sections.
While these sections won’t land you the job on their own, they can definitely help you stand out from other applicants seeking the same role.
Some optional sections you can include are:
- Projects. Any type of personal project you’ve worked on. This can be a local business you started, a side-gig, freelance work, and so on.
- Certifications. Any type of certification you might possess. If you don’t have the experience for the role you’re applying for, certifications can help show the recruiter that what you do have is the right skill-set.
- Volunteering Experience. If you’ve volunteered in the past, you should definitely include it in your resume. Employers love candidates who love to help others (even if there’s no monetary incentive for it).
- Hobbies & Interests. Including hobbies or interests in your resume helps the recruiter see more of your personal side. While your hobbies won’t land you the job, they might help you build rapport with the interviewer.
#8. Make Sure Your Military to Civilian Cover Letter is as Impressive as Your Resume.
At this point, your military veteran resume should be quite compelling…
But you’re not done just yet!
To have both a complete and compelling job application, you need to pair your resume with a cover letter that’s just as good.
Here are our top tips on how to write a quality cover letter:
- Start the cover letter by addressing the hiring manager directly. Sure, you could go with the default “Dear Sir or Madam,” but mentioning the hiring manager’s name shows that you’ve done your research and really care about working at the company.
- In your introduction, mention the most important parts of your background. E.g. years of experience, key achievements, top skills, and why you’re applying for the job in question.
- In the body section of your cover letter, expand on whatever you mentioned in the introduction. This is where you can also explain how the experiences mentioned in your resume make you a good candidate for the role.
- Conclude the cover letter with a call to action. E.g. “Looking forward to hearing more from you!” or “I’d love to discuss how I can help Company X as a Support Specialist over a call or an interview.”
Want to learn more? Check out our step-by-step guide on how to write a cover letter.
Essential Job-Search Resources for Veterans
There are a lot of free job-search resources for veterans on the internet - everything from dedicated job boards to free tools, programs, and more.
Here’s a comprehensive list of some of the very best resources:
Veteran Job-Search Resources
- Job board that helps you find federal organizations that prioritize hiring veterans over other candidates.
- GI Jobs
- Lots of quality resources to help you transition into civilian life.
- O*Net Online
- If you’re not sure what kind of career you want to focus on, you can use this website to discover different occupations and learn what they’re about.
- Military Job Fairs on Military.com
- Website for finding veteran job fairs in your area.
- VA.gov Free Educational and Career Counseling
- Free career consulting and job search help for veterans.
- ACP Mentoring Program
- American Corporate Partners matches you with a free, year-long mentor to help you build your career.
- LinkedIn Free Premium Career Subscription
- LinkedIn offers its Premium program to veterans for free for a year. You can use the platform to learn new skills, kick-start your career, as well as find and apply for jobs.
- A website dedicated to helping veterans transition into a civilian lifestyle. You can use it to find jobs, discover career events, attend job fairs, and more.
- Job board for US federal jobs. While it’s not specifically made for veterans, the US government prioritizes hiring veterans over other candidates.
- Job board for veteran-friendly roles and companies.
- Silent Professionals
- Job board for roles in the private security industry.
- Military Hire
- Another veteran-only job board.
And that’s all you need to know to create a strong military veteran resume!
Before you go, though, let’s do a quick recap of the key learning points we just covered:
- For a military to civilian resume, use a functional resume format to show off your skills instead of work history.
- Use a “Key Strengths” section to explain how your military experience distills into valuable skills for a civilian role.
- Don’t include every skill under the sun on your resume. Instead, pick the ones relevant for the role you’re applying for.
- Take advantage of the optional resume sections to show the recruiter that you’re an individual and not just a resume.
- Finally, make sure that your cover letter is just as impressive as your resume by following the tips we mentioned above.