How to Present Your Military Skills Effectively on a Resume

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How military veterans present their skills on resumes and in job interviews can make all the difference.
How military veterans present their skills on resumes and in job interviews can make all the difference. (Adobe stock image)

Col. Allen Weh, a retired U.S. Marine Corps Reserve officer, is the president and CEO of CSI Aviation Services Inc. He founded the company in 1979. Weh employs former military personnel and is often asked for advice from veterans seeking to transfer their military skills to the business world.

"It is a special kind of employee who steps forward and takes responsibility to get the job done," Weh said.

Here's how Weh thinks vets can best present their skills on resumes and in job interviews.

Proudly Display Your Military Experience

Weh has received some of the best resumes from veterans who include their billet title and military rank.

"People who don't acknowledge their military careers are not helping themselves," Weh said. "I saw a retired lieutenant colonel's resume that simply listed vague managerial skills, and the only reference to his military career was that he served in the U.S. Air Force. An employer could have mistaken his military career for one at IBM."

Employers cannot glean a complete understanding of your work potential if you disguise your past. Given that a typical human resources manager won't comprehend the significance of title and rank, veterans should also include an equivalent civilian title. For example, a commanding general can list the equivalent civilian title as chief executive officer.

Resume Tip: Don't disguise your rank to "civilianize" your resume; that discounts your military faculties. As a veteran, you can help the civilian sector understand more about the military. And if companies understand, they might feel less intimidated.

What Does and Doesn't Belong on a Resume?

Everyone in the military works in an occupational field, and according to Weh, "you have to translate how you've evolved in your military career." However, some of your daily duties are not applicable to the civilian workplace. For example, if you were an infantry or artillery officer, shooting cannons does not apply. But if you're an air traffic controller, there's an actual counterpart civilian job, and you should list the skill set that relates to the position.

Resume Tip: Some job seekers will have an easier time adapting their skills to civilian jobs, but for those whose qualifications aren't directly transferable, you'll need to start thinking about how you've used your skills to achieve tangible, measurable results.

Don't Embellish Your Military Skills

"There's nothing wrong with giving credit where credit's due, but embellishing is wrong," Weh said. Some career coaches encourage veterans to decorate their resumes in "civilianese." For example, a veteran might claim that managing millions of dollars for the military is similar to someone doing the same in the private sector. "Money management in the military is totally different than money management in civilian life," Weh said. "People in the military have a budget, but they didn't earn it, and it's often spent by consensus."

Resume Tip: Acknowledge skills such as the ability to organize, analyze or lead. Emphasize time management, communication skills and conflict-resolution capabilities. Match your skills with those required in the job you're applying for.

Employers Appreciate Veterans

"My manager of special operations, Vincent Nulk, a former Air Force captain and helicopter pilot, oversees one of CSI's sensitive contracts," said Weh, who goes on to describe the type of workers veterans typically exemplify.

Nulk's mission is to provide the client with large aircraft that fly all hours of the night. "My man will work a 60-hour week, including weekends, and does not have any problem getting up at 2 a.m. to bird-dog a maintenance issue. He's a hard worker and a valuable asset to the company." Nulk shows leadership, stamina and willingness to go the extra mile -- traits that are valued and rewarded in the workplace.

Interview Tip: Describe a military operation where you pushed yourself to do more than was required and show how that project was successfully completed due to your efforts or the combined efforts of your team. Teamwork is often encouraged in the workplace and can be an easily translatable job skill.

Find the Right Veteran Job

Whether you want to polish your resume, find veteran job fairs in your area or connect with employers looking to hire veterans, Military.com can help. Subscribe to Military.com to have job postings, guides and advice, and more delivered directly to your inbox.

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