How to Put Military Experience on a Resume
If you’re looking for employment post-service, many resources are available to assist you. It’s important to understand, though, that not all information you come across is written or compiled by experts in the military.
This matters because skills learned in the military can often be difficult to translate into civilian terms. It can also be a challenge to present your experience and background in a way that is broadly understood. Lastly, using trusted and vetted government sources can help you determine which civilian jobs best match your specific experiences.
Building Your Resume
First, ensure you have a copy of your Verification of Military Experience and Training (VMET). Your VMET gives the overview of all the skills you gained during your time in the military. If you need a copy, request it through the Department of Defense.
The components of your resume should include:
- Contact information: Name, address, phone number, and email address go in the header.
- Objective: In one or two lines, explain what kind of job you’re looking for and how you are uniquely qualified for it
- Summary of qualifications: This can be a bulleted section below the objective. Here, you should include a paragraph highlighting the skills that qualify you for the job. Include your experience, certifications, and any related training.
- Employment history: This section will include dates of any specialized positions you’ve held and your responsibilities.
- Education and training: List any schools, colleges, and military training programs you have attended. You do not need to list dates.
- Special skills: Include foreign languages, technical and computer skills, medical training, and other relevant skills that will set you apart. Be sure to include non-tangible skills such as leadership, work ethic, and discipline.
- Volunteer Work: Include any volunteer work you’ve done if it’s relevant to the job you’re applying for or showcases your unique skills.
For help listing your military certifications or licenses on your resume, visit the Department of Defense Credentialing Opportunities On-Line (DoD COOL) website to learn more and locate your service branch’s COOL website.
Use the Veteran’s Employment and Training Service, a U.S. Department of Labor website with an online job board with access to employers, a skills translator, and a resume builder.
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.
Looking for a Federal Job?
The federal government offers unique hiring paths for veterans and active duty service members.
As a veteran, you may get preference over other candidates when you apply for federal jobs. Veterans’ preference does not guarantee that you will get the job; only some veterans will be eligible. In some cases, military spouses may also qualify for preference.
Resumes for Federal Jobs
In most regards, your resume will be the same whether you’re applying for a job in the private sector or with the federal government, but there are a few things you should consider when applying for federal employment.
Are You Qualified?
Ensure you have read the job listing thoroughly and understand the required experience and education before applying.
Federal jobs often require experience in a particular type of work for a specific period. You must showcase how your skills and experiences meet the qualifications and requirements listed in the job announcement.
Always include the dates, level of experience, and specific examples of your work for each of your past job experiences.
Include Volunteer Work
Be sure to include relevant volunteer work or community organization roles that demonstrate your ability to do the job.
Use numbers, percentages, or dollar amounts to showcase accomplishments. Look at your past performance reviews, previous job descriptions, awards, and letters of recommendation. Include specific examples of how you saved, earned, or managed time and money. Using metrics like dollar amounts helps to showcase your accomplishments in concrete terms.
Customize Your Resume
Tailor your resume to each job listing rather than sending out the same resume repeatedly. Taking the time to customize your resume will help you stand out when applying. Emphasize your strengths and include everything you’ve done that relates to the job you’re seeking. Leave out experiences that might not be relevant.
Be Consistent with Your Language
Because your experience needs to address the required qualifications in the job announcement, the hiring party will look for specific terms in your resume to make sure you have the experience they’re seeking.
For example, if the qualifications section says you need experience with “I.T. Management,” you must use the words “I.T. Management” in your resume.
Organize Your Resume
It would help to organize your resume in reverse chronological order to list your experiences, starting with your most recent experience and working your way back.
Provide details on any relevant experience to the job you are applying for. Always use plain language and avoid acronyms and terms that are not easily understood.
Hiring agencies often receive dozens or even hundreds of resumes for each position. They are trained to skim through submissions quickly and eliminate candidates who are not qualified.
Notes on the Federal Hiring Process
The federal government has a standard job application process. Your resume is part of your application. Hiring agencies use the job announcement to describe the job and list the required qualifications and responsibilities.
After applying, the hiring agency uses the information in your resume to verify that you have the qualifications stated in the job announcement. Once the hiring agency has determined who is qualified, they may use other assessments, such as interviews or testing, to determine the best-qualified applications.
Automated Resume Checkers
Artificial Intelligence is everywhere in the civilian world, including at work. Often, companies rely on software to weed out (or, in reverse, seek out) resumes that contain specific keywords.
When it comes to jobs in the federal government, this is only partially true, as they offer the following explanation:
“Real people, Human Resource (H.R.) specialists, do look at resumes. However, some agencies also use an automated system to review applications. For the agencies that do use a computerized system, the resume review process has two parts:
An automated application review process to include all the required areas of the applicant’s eligibility and qualifications for the job. A manual review, by the H.R. Specialist, of an applicant’s resume to validate the information in the application package.”
Whether you’re applying for a government or a civilian job, avoid using catchphrases or trendy buzzwords such as wheelhouse, synergy, pivot, interfaced, and team players.
Writing a Cover Letter
You should always send a cover letter with your resume. Your cover letter will explain why you’re interested in the position and how your military skills make you the best choice for the job.Get the name of the person in charge of hiring, and email your cover letter to them. You can call the company directly and ask for their name and email address or try to locate it on their website.
In your cover letter, you should mention the job you are applying for by name in the first paragraph. Then, keep the content focused on how your skills and abilities will help the company succeed.
Keep your letter to one page, and use a business format. Mention in closing that you will call to follow up and set a reminder to do so.