Transitioning from the military to civilian life isn’t always easy — especially when you’re looking for a job. But while it can be tricky to translate military experience into recruiter-friendly achievements, it’s far from impossible. In this guide, we’ll cover some of the best tips for including military experience on your resume, from practical considerations to sample accomplishments.
Translating your military experience: A step-by-step guide
When including military service on a resume, it’s more important to be understood than to be completely accurate. This might mean leaving out details that might confuse someone who isn’t familiar with the military, or using approximate civilian-friendly terms to describe your experience. Here’s what that means in practice:
- Use standard (civilian) resume formatting
- List basic contact details for your military branch (U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, etc.)
- Consolidate your work history to include any similar roles under a single job title
- Only list skills and accomplishments that are relevant to the job you’re applying for, no matter how impressive your other accomplishments may be
- Add a resume summary to highlight your military service and explain how your background is relevant (optional)
- Avoid using military jargon — always use civilian-friendly terms instead
Here's an infographic that summarizes a few key details — we'll dive into each item in the rest of the article.
Use standard resume formatting
Treat your military experience like any other job by listing your job title, employer, and dates of employment. If you’ve held multiple jobs, list them in reverse chronological order, with your most recent job at the top. Underneath your job title, include 3-6 accomplishments in bullet point format. As a whole, your resume shouldn’t exceed 1-2 pages.
List basic contact details
When listing contact details, using a general address and phone number is perfectly fine. You don’t need to give a direct line to your division — instead, list the general address for your military branch and a phone number for headquarters or human resources command.
You can search the National Personnel Records Center to find the relevant contact details for your base.
You should also include the name of your direct supervisor, but don’t worry about providing a direct line to your base or a personal contact number. By listing the general contact details for your military branch, anyone performing a background or reference check can be directed to the appropriate channels, even if your supervisor has since moved on.
Consolidate your work history
If you moved around a lot or changed job titles but kept mostly the same responsibilities, you can list these positions under a single all-encompassing job title. This allows you to keep your relevant accomplishments in one place and avoids the risk of coming across as job-hopping. If you’ve taken on higher responsibilities over time, you could even frame that as a promotion (as long as that’s accurate).
Focus on relevant skills accomplishments
When choosing achievements for your resume, focus on the ones that are relevant to the type of work you’re moving into. While this might seem tricky on the surface, you’re likely to have a lot of transferable skills that all hiring managers look for, like leadership, communication, discipline, and resourcefulness. Make sure to demonstrate these soft skills through your accomplishments rather than listing them outright.
If you have any training or qualifications that could help in your new role, you can list these in your education section or in an additional information section at the bottom of your resume. If necessary, translate these into civilian-friendly language, too.
Find out if you have translated your military experience into recruiter-friendly accomplishments
A quick way to find out if you have translated your military experience into recruiter-friendly accomplishments is to upload your resume to the tool below — it’ll scan it and let you know if you have showcased the right military experience and skills that highlight your transferable skills.
Include a resume summary
If you want to highlight that you’re a veteran on your resume, consider including a resume summary above your experience section. Here’s a simple example that you might use:
Business development manager with 10+ years of leadership experience across Army operations, Fortune 500 companies and startups. Proven experience in [x, y, and z]. [Add 1-3 examples of your most relevant or impressive accomplishments.]
Use your target job title in your summary.
Whatever you do, avoid using military lingo or jargon on your resume. While certain terms may appear obvious to you, they’re less likely to make sense to a hiring manager. It’s better to explain your experience and accomplishments in simple everyday terms, even if those aren’t 100% accurate. More specifically:
- Use a general job title instead of your specific military title. For example, instead of Chief Petty Officer, list your job title as Team Leader. (For more examples, keep scrolling!)
- Avoid using acronyms. If you must include them, always spell out what they stand for — what’s obvious to you might not be obvious to someone outside the military.
- Don’t use military codes at all.
- In general, avoid listing military honors and awards, or reframe them to be more work-friendly. If you truly believe they’re relevant to the job you’re applying for, translate them in a way that demonstrates their relevance.
- If in doubt, ask a non-military friend or contact to read your resume and make sure they understand it.
Replace these words and phrases
Not sure what’s too complicated for a civilian resume? Here’s a handy cheat sheet of simple changes you can make:
- Commander —> Director or senior manager
- Subordinates —> Employees, coworkers, or direct reports
- Regulations —> Guidance, policy, or instructions
- Commanding —> Leading or managing
- Reconnaissance —> Data collection and analysis
- Combat experience —> Operational experience
- Duty assignment or deployment —> Business travel
- Barracks and other buildings —> Facilities
- Uniforms and arms —> Resources
If you’re ready to start updating your resume, scroll down for examples of civilian-friendly job titles and accomplishments you can include.
Examples of military resumes
Here’s an example of what your resume could look like, including a civilian-friendly job title and accomplishments:
Here are some more examples you can use, covering some of the more common roles you may have held and the skills you should highlight.
If you previously held a technical role, you’re well-positioned to parlay your skills and experience into a civilian career. List your specific technical skills in a separate skills list and showcase how you used them in your accomplishment bullet points.
- Financial Operations Technician
- Engineering Specialist
- Healthcare Specialist
Bullet point examples:
- Identified and supported Information Assurance (IA) accreditation and security issues, ensuring compliance with all IA policies, guidance, and training.
- Prepared, verified, and audited transactions for over 10,000 military and civilian employees.
- Designed and improved service and maintenance routine to reduce incidence of breakdowns by 80%.
- Conducted routine maintenance and repairs for equipment valued at over $200,000 with 0% loss.
Some of the most common industries ex-military job seekers go into are government jobs, defense contracting and IT - to get a list of hard skills for the specific job you want, you can search for jobs like computer engineer below to find relevant skills.
Whether you managed an administrative team or led troops into combat, leadership experience is something well worth highlighting on your resume.
- Team Leader
- Senior Advisor
- Technical Manager
Bullet point examples:
- Managed 6 pharmacy technicians and 2 staff pharmacists in daily operations, allocating resources and directing workflow to maximize efficiency while maintaining quality across processes.
- Managed distribution and registration of military shipments valued at over $1M, including updates and agent communication.
- Led team of 25 employees, including tracking performance and overseeing daily responsibilities.
Training and communication
- Personnel Supervisor
- Communications Specialist
Bullet point examples:
- Trained a total of 75+ new hires and achieved a 98% overall pass rate.
- Key player in success of high-profile joint training exercise spanning 4000+ personnel, providing critical voice and data communications and training participants in use of single channel ground and airborne radio systems.
- Assigned and organized 15 field activities to optimize resources efficiently through strong written and oral communication.
Project management in the military isn’t all that different to corporate life. Use your bullet points to highlight important soft skills like time management and organization.
- Project Manager
- Supply Manager
- Logistics Manager
Bullet point examples:
- Directed complex pharmacy projects spanning 8 months, building cross-functional teams to integrate new processes, such as inventory and vendor technology integration, meeting all deadlines and budget requirements.
- Established and implemented departmental policies, goals, objectives, and procedures, conferring with board members, organization officials, and staff members as necessary.
- Collaborated with developers and product management team to assess project outcomes and prioritize future features.