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Military Resumes That Get Civilian Jobs

This military resumes “how to” points out the critical components of resumes and cover letters appropriate for use in applying for professional civilian employment.

Military Resumes That Get Civilian Jobs

The objective of your resume and cover letters is the same as everyone else’s: to generate enough interest by key readers to compel them to call you for an interview. In order to achieve that objective, military resumes must immediately begin to establish a professional image and tone. This begins with selection of appropriate resume formatting and extends through writing style, experience content, decisions about presenting additional supporting information, and final checking and printing.

Creation and appropriate targeting of well-crafted military resume and cover letters will result in your obtaining timely interviews with hiring managers who are sincerely interested in learning more about how you can solve their problems.

Military Resumes How To #1 –
Resume Header and Type Font Selection

Select a header format that is substantial and easy to read. Begin with selecting the type font that you will carry through your miliary resume and cover letters. For most mililtary resumes, we recommend Times New Roman. For IT or engineering-related positions, you may wish to use Arial. Either of these can be found on the computers in any office, so on-line recipients or readers will encounter no surprises when they print or read your professional resume.

Since the body of your military resume and cover letters will most likely be comprised of 11-point type (Times New Roman) or 10-point (Arial), your name should be somewhat larger, in bold face. If you hold an advanced degree or a professional designation that is both important and familiar in your industry, consider using it with your name.

Include full contact information in your military resume and cover letters header. Unless your street address is unusually long, spell out all words. Spell out all words in your city and state, too. If you are applying for international positions outside North America, you may wish to add U.S.A. or Canada. Include one or more telephone numbers and your email address.

That completes the header for your military resume and cover letters.

Note: If you are applying for international positions, recipient expectations are sometimes quite different from North American practice. You must understand those differences before you proceed very far. Professional help will likely be required to ensure that this is handled appropriately.

Military Resumes How To #2 –
Qualifications Summary

The recipients of your military resume and cover letters may scarcely note the information in your header when they first receive your documents and begin to peruse them. Your first opportunity to generate real interest comes in the Qualifications Summary. The format for this opening information salvo may vary, but its purpose will not. Within a very few seconds, the reader must begin thinking about how you can satisfy the requirements of the open professional position. To promote this mental engagement, the Qualifications Summary begins with a crisp, informative opening that identifies you and your broadest qualifications. It then proceeds, in a few concise statements, to provide additional key qualification and skills information to provide a well-rounded description of who you are and what you can do in a civilian job environment. When this is completed properly, the hook is set in the reader, and he or she is compelled to continue reading. This is exactly what you want to happen. At that point, the Qualifications Summary has done its job.

Be careful with military terminology, jargon and acronyms in the Qualifications Summary. Non-defense-related employers are unlikely to understand much or any of it. It is important to translate that kind of information that is so familiar to you into terms that a civilian hiring manager or HR resume screener can understand and relate to their job requirements. Otherwise, your resume and cover letters may simply be discarded.

Military Resumes How To #3 –
Professional Experience for Non-defense Jobs

The professional experience section will comprise the larger part of most military resumes. For each duty station, beginning with the most recent, the name, city, state, country (if outside the U.S.) and employment start/stop years are noted.

The next line contains your position title. Each title must be presented in terminology familiar to civilians, such as technician, supervisor or manager. Following citation of your position title, a series of concise, carefully edited paragraphs or bullets is provided for each organization. The series normally begins with something especially impressive and proceeds in a logical sequence. Each sentence or bullet begins with an action verb, the emphasis being on actions and achievements rather than a table of responsibilities.

If you had multiple jobs at the same duty station, the station is not repeated for each job. Instead, each new position title sets off a new series of paragraphs or bullets. Start/stop years are indicated for each job.

Don’t fail to “toot your own horn” in this section. If you are unaccustomed to taking full credit for your achievements, set that aside when you prepare your resume. Be resourceful and unabashed in digging up impressive statistics of any and every kind. Precision in the numbers is not critical, as long as your approximations are close enough to be verified by your references when they are queried. Don’t hold back!

Repeat the above process as necessary to account for your most recent 10-15 years of experience. Unless there is something earlier that is especially novel or impressive, don’t go back much further than that. Hiring managers are unlikely to be interested. If they are, they will ask you. They certainly won’t disqualify you from further consideration because the information didn’t appear in your resume.

Military Resumes How To #4 –
Professional Experience for Defense Contractor Jobs

Military resume work experience is presented a little differently for defense contractor jobs, especially those related to systems technology. For these technology-related jobs, such as product support, hiring managers will be much more familiar with military terminology. They will be interested in seeing specific systems identification and exactly what experience you had on them.

The other guidance in How To #3 applies.

Mililtary Resume How To #5 –
Education

For most military professionals, the education and professional training content of their resume and cover letters is an area of some interest for resume readers. Many service members have a bachelor’s degree, and many have one or more advanced degrees. For many of them, their most recent degree was awarded some years ago.

The Education section, itself, is straightforward. Each degree is noted separately, the more recent one first. The name and location of the institution are noted on one line. The title of the degree, the major or concentration, and the year awarded are noted on the next line. The year may be omitted. Additional information may be provided for degrees awarded in the past couple of years. This could include GPA or other special recognitions. It could also include specific, relevant coursework in some cases.

The Professional Training or Professional Development section contains those training courses or certification programs that are relevant to your profession and the positions you are applying for. Military resumes will often contain sizable lists of specific military training courses related to targeted civilian jobs. Basic training is not included. Subsequent training levels may or may not be included, depending on the types of jobs being targeted. Rule of thumb: if in doubt, leave it out.

Military Resume How To #6 –
Technical Skills

Military resumes for IT, computers and software positions may contain a Technical Skills section. This provides a well-focused spot to display technical certifications and various computer-related skills areas, such as software applications, operating systems, networking, etc. For these high tech resumes, this section enhances the technical credibility of the material in the Professional Experience section. This section may actually appear ahead of the Professional Experience section for purely technical resumes.

If your computer-related skills relate to military systems, you may choose to include them here or in the body of your professional experience.

Military Resume How To #7 –
Affiliations

Military resumes contain only those memberships or affiliations that support their professional status. Civic or community service organizations may be appropriate if community activism is a significant part of your target position’s job description. Religious or political affiliations are rarely, if ever, useful. Since this section normally comes at the end of military resumes, entries can be added or deleted without impacting other content, unless space is already at a premium.

Military Resumes How To #8 –
Military Service

Since the body of a military resume has already fully described the most important aspects of your military service, a military service section is usually unnecessary.

Military Resumes How To #9 –
Awards and Recognitions

If you have awards and recognitions that did not find an appropriate home in your Professional Experience section, this is the place for them. Include any that reflect superior performance, including medals for valor. Most items will be noted in one-line entries. Do NOT include a laundry list of all your ribbons.

Military Resumes How To #10 –
Final Document Preparation

Otherwise outstanding military resumes and cover letters can be ruined by careless or unprofessional final document preparation. This includes inadequate checking for spelling and grammatical errors, distracting formatting or style glitches, the cheap appearance of unsubstantial or colored paper, or poor print quality. Final military resume and cover letters documents should look sharp and feel substantial. This professional look and feel comes only with scrupulous editing and laser printing on 24# watermarked white or ivory paper. Nothing less will do.

Military Resumes How To #11 –
Professional Help

Military resumes and cover letters provide an invaluable opportunity to make a favorable first impression on targeted companies. Obtaining appropriate professional resume preparation assistance should be considered. Military resume and cover letters preparation is an extremely poor place for pride of authorship or false economy.

The purpose of military resumes is to enable individuals leaving military service to smoothly transition into civilian employment. The objective is to find a civilian job at or above the level of the one held in the military, or as close as possible. The process is complicated by the fact that a smaller percentage of the civilian community each year has active military experience in their background. They don’t understand or appreciate the level of skill and responsibility inherent in military experience.

Writing successful military resumes requires resume writing skills and experience that most resume writers simply don’t have. That special combination of skills and experience must include prior military service or years of employment in direct contact with the military. This combination enables a specialized military resumes writer to convincingly translate NCO, PO and officer military skills, responsibilities and experience into civilian equivalents that civilian hiring managers can relate to. And that translates into giving the transitioning service member a leg up in the job-hunting game.

Civilian hiring managers reading military resumes welcome straightforward language without military jargon they aren’t familiar with. For military resumes to be taken seriously, they must contain civilian job titles. Experience content must be readily understandable by someone without any military background in order for the job hunter to successfully compete with civilian counterparts. Unless you select someone to write your resume who can make those conversions while maintaining an impressive professional or executive resume format, your new military resume is likely to be unproductive in attracting civilian attention.

Military people seeking defense contractor positions present a somewhat different challenge for the military resumes writer. In this case, it is important to make the conversion to civilian language while still preserving military skills and experience content of interest to defense contractors. This could include the military person’s experience with particular communications, information technology or weapons systems and pertinent DOD performance and quality assurance specifications. It is essential to select a military resumes writer with DOD contractor experience to craft a successful resume for defense contractor employment.

Fortunately, Business Advisors Press has the specialized skills and experience required to create successful military resumes at the professional or executive level for general civilian or defense contractor employment.

David Nelms is an M.B.A. and Certified Professional Resume Writer. He spent four years on active duty as a naval officer, including a full year ashore in Viet Nam drawing combat pay and two years at Naval Air Station, Jacksonville. After that, he spent 25 years with Martin Marietta and Lockheed Martin in the defense electronics and missiles business. He worked in regular contact with active duty members of the Army, Navy and Air Force on state-of-the-art communication and weapon system programs. He knows military terminology, and he knows how to translate it into the civilian equivalent. He also knows when to leave it alone for DOD contractors. This exceptional combination of military resumes writing skills and experience is mow available to active duty and recently separated or retired military members at no additional cost