Developing a Resume for Veterans

Crafting a resume is critical to the job search process. Because it is one of the first impressions you will make with a potential employer, translating your skills into "civilian–speak" is one of the most important areas you will need to focus on when you update or write your resume. Here are several strategies you can apply to resume development.

Think like a civilian

Employers often use resume screening software when evaluating job candidates. This software scans resumes for specific "keywords" related to the job’s requirements. When writing your resume you’ll need to translate your military experience into civilian terms that employers will understand. You can accomplish this in several ways.

  • Search online job boards, like our Veterans Job Exchange, and look at the phrasing employers are using in their job ads. Make sure you use the same terms when you develop your own resume so that these keywords are present and your resume will be filtered through when recruiters search their database. By no means do we suggest you embellish your skills; just make sure when you outline details that you are using everyday terms vs. military ones.
  • Job titles should be written like they are in the public sector. For example, a mess cook would be a food service preparer or specialist. Similarly, job duties should also be translated as many employers are not familiar with military commands and positions.
  • Your resume should list your accomplishments rather than your military titles.
  • If you’ve been on a military tour or have been deployed somewhere, be sure and list this to account for any gaps in employment.

Clearly Define Your Objective, Skills and Qualifications

Do you have a definition about your ideal job? Do you have qualifications that make you an ideal candidate? Your resume should reflect your career objectives and skills clearly.

  • A clear, concise statement – or career objective – will be enough to emphasize your career goals. If you apply for a new job without making your career transition plans known, you’ll end up confusing the recruiter.
  • Create groups of generic, functional categories that outline your skills. Examples of these are management experience. While it’s important not to get too detailed as you want to translate work into the civilian field, describing your specific certifications, training, and other specialized experience will give you an edge over other applicants.
  • Below each category, list all of the experience or projects that go into these skill buckets. Again, looking at online job postings that mirror the type of job you want will help you define these categories.

Customize your resume

From a title that matches the job you want, to including keywords that make your resume stand out, these are the key essentials that you need to consider when developing your resume.

  • Don’t prepare a generic or over–generalized resume.
  • Reference the job posting that you are applying to and mirror the skills, if applicable, within your resume’s content.
  • For anyone transitioning careers, it’s best to use a functional format as opposed to a chronological one. Functional resumes focus on your skills and experience first. This type of resume de–emphasizes the dates in which you have worked (and will down–play gaps in employment). Employment history is secondary, and is listed under the details of your skills.
  • Proofread carefully. There should be absolutely no typos in your resume. Go through it carefully, and when you can, have someone else proofread for you. Perception is everything and your resume speaks volumes about you as a prospective employee.