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How to Write a Civilian Resume6 minute read • March 3, 2020
Your civilian resume is a summary of your background and experience, and it’s likely to be the first information about you that an employer will see. With your background of military service, you already have impressive skills and knowledge. These tips will help you make a resume that will stand out. Also, see below for links to resume building tools.
With a background of military service, you already have impressive skills and knowledge. These tips will show you how to write a resume that will stand out.
Collect your assets.
- Get a copy of your Verification of Military Experience and Training through the Department of Defense.
- Your VMET will give an overview of the skills you’ve gained in the military.
- Make a list of your technical skills.
- Computer technicians, mechanics and engineers have skills that can be easily converted to civilian jobs.
- Convert your military job training into civilian terms. For example, “budgeting” is a critical skill in civilian companies.
- Make a list of your intangible skills.
- Include leadership, discipline and a strong work ethic.
Select your resume style.
There are different ways to organize your resume. Pick a style that highlights your strengths. Your resume should highlight your unique qualifications.
- Chronological resume
- Your employment history is highlighted, starting with the most recent position, and then going back in time.
- Include your responsibilities and accomplishments under each separate job.
- Functional resume
- Your skills are highlighted. Your work history and gaps are de-emphasized.
- Skills and accomplishments should be divided into specific areas of expertise.
- Combination resume
- Your skills earned in a variety of jobs are highlighted, but using a job history format.
- Your specific skills will form the main body of the resume, followed by a concise employment history.
Include these essential components:
- Contact information: In the heading, include your name, address, phone number and email address.
- Objective or job target: In one or two lines, say what kind of job you’re looking or applying for, and what makes you uniquely qualified.
- Summary of qualifications: This is a bulleted section just below the objective in the visual center of the resume.
- Include five or six lines highlighting the skills that qualify you for the job.
- This will include your experience, certifications and related training.
- Title this section “Highlights of Qualifications,” “Summary of Skills” or “Summary of Experience.”
- Employment history: Will vary depending on the type of resume.
- Education and training: List colleges, schools or military training schools you attended. You can list the name of the school and the location, but not necessarily the dates.
- Special skills: Include foreign languages, computer skills or any other relevant skills that will set you apart.
Make your resume unique to you.
You’ve got the basics down. Now use your resume to showcase your unique abilities and accomplishments.
- Target your resume. Change and tailor your resume for the job you’re targeting. Learn what this employer looks for and highlight those qualities.
- Translate everything into civilian terms.
- For example, replace “officer in charge” with “managed.”
- Take out the acronyms and use terms civilians understand. For example, replace “SNOIC for 2d MarDiv G-3, planning and executing all logistics for operations conducted in our AOR.” with “Supervised staff of 15 people. Planned and coordinated operations conducted by various subordinate units within our division.”
- Include your accomplishments. Use numbers to highlight, if possible. For example, “Managed budget of $100K” or “Reduced training time from 26 weeks to 24 weeks.”
- Be concise. Limit your resume to one or two pages.
- Include volunteer experience if it’s relevant to the job. Volunteer experience can add to credibility and character.
- Leave off unnecessary details. Don’t include marital status, height and weight or religious affiliation. Leave off salary information unless it was specifically requested.
- Check spelling and accuracy. Proofread your resume, ask someone else to proofread it, and read your resume backwards to catch typos.
Write a cover letter.
Always send a cover letter with your resume. Your cover letter will explain why you’re interested in the position and how your skills make you the best choice for the job.
- Get the name of the person in charge of hiring. Send your email or cover letter to him or her. Usually you can just call the company and ask for their name.
- Mention the job that you’re applying for in the first paragraph. Focus on describing how your skills and abilities can help the company.
- Keep it to one page. Use a business-letter format.
- Always follow up. Mention that you will call to follow up and don’t forget to do it.
Tap into resume-building tools.
These websites have tools to help you build your resume and translate your military credentials and experience into civilian skills. They reference veterans, but they’re also for active duty.
- Veteran’s Employment and Training Service from the U.S. Department of Labor has an online job exchange with access to employers, skills translator, resume builder, interest profiler and more.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs offers an interest profiler, educational and career counseling and links to other job resources, such as support for veteran-owned small businesses.
- Resumeengine.org through Hiring Our Heroes provides an easy-to-use resume application to service members that will translate military records into a strong resume that civilian employers can easily understand.
Prepare for your job search early.
The earlier you can start your preparation for civilian employment, the better. The Transition Assistance Program office on your installation can help you get started. Military OneSource also offers the Transitioning Veterans specialty consultation to further assist you in transitioning from the military to civilian life.
If you’re pursuing federal employment, upload your resume to the federal resume-building websites. Visit the federal government’s USAJOBS site or your installation Transition Assistance Program for more information.