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Written by Susan ShorSusan Shor

How to highlight military experience on your resume

13 min read
How to highlight military experience on your resume
Artwork by:Pablo Cammello
Your transition out of the military requires a resume that expresses your talents in a way that civilian employers will understand. The blog below offers tips for making the most of your service in your post-military resume.

After serving your country, you are entering the civilian workforce. Enlisting in the military is a different process than looking for employment in the private sector, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create a resume that includes your military experience and gets you that coveted interview.

In fact, many employers seek out workers who have served because they value the skills and training veterans have, but even for employers who don’t specify that they are looking for veterans, a well-positioned resume will help you convince them that your service has amply prepared you for a civilian job.

You may believe that your military experience is a unique category and requires special handling in your post-service job application documents, but that is not the case. With a little management, listing your military experience on your resume will seamlessly integrate into your resume.

Let’s get the first question out of the way: Does military experience count as work experience? Of course, it does! You have gained much practical knowledge and demonstrated the soft skills employers covet when they look for new workers.

In many ways, the military service on your resume will look exactly the same as any civilian work experience that you have. Our resume guide and the corresponding resume military example will give you specific ideas for your military resume and this blog will guide you through the process of translating your military service into a resume that non-military employers will find appealing. 

Let’s start with the basics.

Military experience resume
Military experience resume

Where do I put military experience on a resume?

Your military service was a job, so you list it in the employment history section. That’s the simple answer. The deeper dive is that you were shaped by your military experience, no matter what job you performed. The place to elaborate on that is your summary or profile. 

You will also list many of the attributes and knowledge you gained in your skills section. What we are saying here is that your resume will be infused with your military service experience. But, just as in any other career change or job transition, you must take two important steps to show your prospective employer that you have the skills they seek:

  1. Show how the skills you have already used apply to the job you want or translate your experience in a way that explains to hiring managers that you know the job.
  2. Personalize each resume to target the specific position you are applying for.

To include current national guard service on your resume, simply list your start date and say “present” for your end date such as April 2020-Present.

Statistical insight

More than 250,000 military service people transition to civilian life each year, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

Translating your military service in your employment history section

As you compose the bullet items within your employment history section, you need to carefully consider the employer you are targeting and your job within the military. Some industries and employers will have more understanding of the value of your military experience, while others will need more explanation and translation.

Expert tip

Where to start looking

The following nondefense-related companies make an effort to hire veterans:

This list is a starting point for your job search, but there are many more opportunities for veterans. Many companies value the skills veterans have without having a formal recruitment program.

If you are aiming at defense contractors, it is more likely they will understand how your military service will be an asset to their firms and that they understand a bit of military jargon (keep this to a minimum – no resume should be jargon-heavy) or shorthand for your accomplishments.

Positions you held in the military that translate easily from military to civilian careers, such as IT, medical, mechanical, or translation/language positions, can simply be described just as they are. In other instances, however, you may need to find a term commonly used in civilian job descriptions to replace the military term.

Military job description Civilian job description
Commanded subordinates safely in a combat zone and completed mission without loss Supervised team in hazardous conditions and successfully completed task
Conducted reconnaissance and returned with  information that contributed to understanding of enemy position Gathered data that aided in understanding of competition strategy

Aside from your job description, you should consider translating the job title on your military resume into a civilian-friendly equivalent. One way to do this is to conduct job searches that include the skills you used in your military experience and make a list of the job titles that correspond to them. One easy translation is from commander to manager.

Incorporating military experience in the summary

The summary section of any resume offers about 100 words in which to tell employers why you are the right person for the job. Here, you may include a bit more personal information such as your work philosophy, your motivation, and why this is the right job for you.

This structure gives you the perfect opportunity to include your military experience on your resume in a way that helps employers understand what you gained from your service and how you will transition into a civilian job.

You do not have to explain your reasons for enlisting, unless you want to, but illustrating how you grew as a person and employee will go a long way toward helping you get that interview – the entire goal of your resume.

Here’s an example of how to word the summary of your military experience resume:

After four years in the U.S. Navy, I am ready to begin my civilian life. Through the military, I gained a deep sense of responsibility, teamwork, and dedication to the task at hand. I also received excellent training in data analysis, which requires flexible thinking and presentation. I am eager to apply these skills to the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. My Navy experience also taught me the value of discretion and privacy, two traits that are necessary within any healthcare-related position.

The summary above describes to recruiters what the applicant learned in the military and how that training applies to a job in private industry. 

Expert tip

Your cover letter

You should always include a cover letter or letter of introduction with your application documents. In your case, you can further strengthen the link between your military service training and the civilian position you are applying for.

Top skills to list your military experience resume

Think your basic training doesn’t translate into skills private employers seek? Think again. The vast majority of employers report that most of the time when new hires don’t work out, it is because they lack soft skills

The summary sample above mentions responsibility, teamwork, dedication, flexible thinking, and presentation skills. These are all soft skills that are valuable to employers and that you learned and demonstrated in the military.

Other highly valued soft skills are leadership, time management, organization, and attention to detail. 

Your hard skills are the abilities and knowledge you gained through training and education and that you applied without your job in the service. These will depend on your career, but if you received any vocational or professional training, then include your highest-level skills in your skills section as well.

Key takeaways

  • Your military service is a valuable asset in your job hunt.
  • To get the most out of your accomplishments, make them relatable to recruiters by translating military titles and responsibilities into their civilian equivalents.
  • While your employment history is the main spot on your resume of military experience, it can also be included in your summary and skills sections.
  • Services such as our online builder tool and expertly-crafted resume templates will help get your applications out the door faster.
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