Transitioning Military: Write Your Resume With These 4 Steps

Posted by Patra Frame
military resume

Like many recruiters, I see so many resumes from military people with a lot of basic errors. Some may not have paid attention in transition programs, some did not do their homework, and some got bad advice.

Here are basics you must know. The first is that you cannot write an effective resume unless you know specific jobs which interest you. Once you research jobs and choose a path, use the information you have gathered from companies, job postings, LinkedIn profiles, and all your research to create a resume that sells your achievements and knowledge for the specific job. If you are considering more than one career field, you will need a resume tailored to each job.

The second basic is that companies expect you to tell them what your specialty is and prove it with solid experience demonstrated in your resume. In the military, breadth is often expected. But a resume that is not focused on a specific role in a specific type of employer is not going to get you any positive attention. I so often hear military people tell me that they can “do anything” or that they are afraid of leaving anything out because it might be something a company wants. What employers want is a focused approach to the role you want and your target employers that demonstrates why you would be a great addition to their team.

A resume is an advertisement for you – designed solely to entice a recruiter or hiring manager to contact you, by demonstrating what you can do for them right now.

Step 1. Focus, Focus, Focus

Before you create your resumes, focus on understanding yourself, the type of work you want to do next and where those jobs are. Define your values – this helps with identifying your goals and assessing the organizations you want to work with. Be very specific in your goals and values.

An easy way to assess possible jobs and how you match:

  1. Go to ClearedJobs.Net and any other major job boards which appeal to you.
  2. Put in the title of a job you think you want, and skip location or other qualifiers – you want info at this point.
  3. Select 25-35 and look at them in more detail. Pick 15 or so which seem the best match for you.
  4. For these 15, look in detail at the scope of the job and the requirements for it.

Identify the most common requirements across them. Do you meet at least 90% of them? If not, are there things you can do to meet them before you leave active duty?

Do this for each job you think might meet your needs. Some will turn out to be bad matches and you can then ignore them. This exercise will help you pick the best matches. The information you gain from learning about these jobs, their requirements, and the common terms they use will help you create your best marketing materials. It also helps you to learn and use civilian terms common to the specific job you seek and to translate your experience into what the job demands.

This is your battle plan foundation. Once you are clear on your next step you are ready to create marketing materials. These include: resume(s), social media profiles, and business cards. All should show why hiring you is an obvious choice.

Step 2. Start With a Headline and a Professional Summary

A headline is a specific job title or career step. This goes in all caps, centered at the top of your resume, right after your contact information. It helps readers focus on your preferred role. Samples:


Follow it with a short summary. Show experiences, skills, and attributes as they apply to an employer’s needs. Create your summary by highlighting your most relevant achievements and strengths. Go for clear, concise, and memorable – grab the reader’s attention. Do as bullets or a short paragraph:

  • Experienced team leader recognized for developing highly productive staff.
  • Award winning intelligence analysis and report-writing skills.
  • Managed IT and communications systems in high change, high risk environment.
  • Selected to work with foreign and US teams to develop technical training program in tight time limit.

Do NOT say “over 15 years of service” or “retired” in your summary. These will make some hiring managers skip reading your resume, as they assume you are too expensive or set in your ways. Skip using your military rank – many hiring managers will think you are not ready to transition.

Your Headline and Summary are designed solely to entice the recruiter or hiring manager to actually read your resume.

Step 3. Show Your Achievements

Hiring managers want to see your achievements within the context of a specific job so they can evaluate the match.

  • Demonstrate how your past experience and knowledge will contribute to the job and organization right now.
  • Use keywords and terms relevant to your target employer.
  • Skip job descriptions or “responsible for” – tell what you actually did.
  • Translate your experience into statements that show your most relevant work in terms that are common to your field and target employers.
  • Rank order your bullets to show the most relevant achievements for the most critical aspects of the work you want to do first.
  • Demonstrate your power skills, such as teamwork or communicating effectively with diverse people, as well as your career specific and technical/professional skills.
  • Do not include achievements that are not related to the job you want now.

Detail the situation or task, your actions, and the results. Quantify what you can. Samples:

  • Appointed to lead team revising supervisor training to support safety and security efforts in combat operations, created new program within 45 days which reduced accidents and injuries within first three months.
  • Took over failing function, within 90 days built effective team, improved critical metrics, closed all overdue items, and received high ratings on re-inspection.
  • Researched, wrote, and presented daily intelligence summaries to national command authority.

Cover the most recent 10-11 years of experience only. Hiring managers often think anything older is obsolete. The current job should show the most achievements, unless you have been in it less than a year. Each preceding job shows fewer achievements.

Step 4. Get the Basics Right

  • Make it easy to read – plenty of white space, easy to read sans serif font in 10-12 point, bullet points instead of dense paragraphs.
  • Limit use of fancy formatting or graphics.
  • Show your Name in Bold or all CAPs, but skip the large fonts fad.
  • List professional email address, one phone number with voicemail, and social media URL.
  • Keep it professional. Omit personal interests and activities unless directly related to the job.
  • Two pages if you have more than 8-10 years of experience, otherwise one is smart.
  • Change your military titles to common job titles in that field wherever possible.
  • Most preferred format is reverse chronological with current job shown first.
  • Skip lists of skills, demonstrate them in your achievements. The exception is technology – show those skills required for the job you want.
  • Show education and training relevant to work you seek, not a long list of military schools. For education: once you have any degree, omit your HS. Show most recent degree first and work backward. Omit AA/AS once have BA/BS.
  • Save your resume in .doc or .pdf with a title that includes some of your name and career field. Example: PframeCHRO.docx. You would be amazed at how many ‘resume.docx’ there are – don’t burden the recruiter by making that mistake.
  • Remember that your social media profiles are not this resume – they can contain much more. But do be sure they do not contradict your resume, which is startlingly common.

You are likely to revise your resume a number of times. Your goals will change, your knowledge will too and suddenly you make big revisions. Sometimes you may want to tailor one to a specific job and employer – most of those are simple tweaks. Keeping a master resume file with all your achievements, education, training, and kudos makes this much easier.

Writing a useful, effective resume takes thought and effort. It is usually the foundation document you will need. Hiring managers assume that it shows you at your best – so it should be your best! Invest the effort to make it so. Ask others for help in reviewing it – they will see things you do not since you are too close to this process. You can do this and you can do it well. That will speed up a successful job search.

Patra Frame is ClearedJobs.Net’s HR Management Consultant. She is an experienced human resources executive and founder of Strategies for Human Resources. Patra is an Air Force veteran and charter member of the Women in Military Service for America Memorial. Follow Patra on Twitter @2Patra.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 08, 2022 11:41 am

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