Top 5 Resume Tips for Veterans Seeking Civilian Employment

Veteran standing in front of flag smiling

About 200,000 veterans leave the military and transition to civilian careers every year, but many struggle when entering the workforce, particularly in the uncertain job market created by the coronavirus pandemic.

The COVID-19 crisis has caused mass layoffs across the country, with more than 44 million Americans filing for unemployment since the start of the pandemic. Veterans have not been spared, with the military unemployment rate hitting 8.8 percent in June, nearly triple the record low 3.5 percent veteran unemployment rate this past March. Additionally, veteran worker retention continues to remain an issue for many employers. A recent study found that nearly half of veterans left their first post-service job in less than 12 months, and over 65 percent so did so within two years.

With so many challenges to overcome, especially during a pandemic, having a stellar resume is crucial to veteran applicants. It can be a challenge for many veterans to strike the right balance between promoting their service to their country and emphasizing the skills that are most pertinent to civilian employers. While every veteran should be immensely proud of their service and the sacrifices they’ve made, they must be mindful that recruiters are most interested in hearing about how the skills acquired during service will contribute to their organization.

In honor of National Hire a Veteran Day on July 25, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has teamed up with career and resume writing experts at talent mobility leader Randstad RiseSmart to make you the most attractive candidate possible. They offer tips to best frame your military experience and tailor your resume:

1. Don’t fly solo — The best approach to finding a job in the civilian world is using all resources available to you, both on base and outside the military. Try seeking out a mentor who can offer invaluable insight and advice, be it a civilian mentor or a fellow veteran who has successfully transitioned to a civilian career.

2. Emphasize experience; avoid record briefs — Focus your resume on experiences and accomplishments and translate your military experience into civilian terms as much as possible. When crafting your resume, try listing a deployment as a single bullet and stress the experience, skills, and professional development you gained stateside and overseas. Highlighting leadership experience could be particularly helpful during the pandemic, as it shows employers that you are unafraid of a challenge.

3. Consider your audience — The style of your resume will differ greatly if you’re applying for a job with the federal government, a state position, a government contractor, or a private sector employer. It is important to work with a mentor, do your research, and develop several versions of your resume that are tailored for the specific jobs and organizations you are targeting.

4. Translate and simplify training and awards — Many civilian employers may appreciate your military experience and service, but they may not understand the meaning of your specific military training and awards. A good rule of thumb is to only include technical certifications and leadership-based accomplishments that underscore specific proficiency or expertise, and clearly help organizations understand the breadth of your skillset.

5. Be strategic — Go into your job hunt with a plan and define success before you start. Consider whether you prefer the public or private sector, which industries interest you, and who you plan to contact for advice. Establishing expectations and determining which resources can help you reach your goal will make the job-seeking process much easier.

Entering the civilian workforce presents a new set of challenges and opportunities, especially as the ongoing pandemic is affecting potential employers’ hiring strategies. Keeping these tips in mind while creating your resume and starting your job search will help you transition to a career that will utilize the unique strengths you have to offer.

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Kevin Rasch is a regional director of WWP’s career counseling program, Warriors to Work®, and Linda Lee, CPRW, is a Certified Professional Resume Writer at talent mobility leader Randstad RiseSmart.

WWP and Randstad RiseSmart offer resume-writing assistance to wounded veterans and their families reentering the civilian workforce. Through individualized sessions, participants receive professional advice from Randstad RiseSmart resume writers who are former military personnel, veteran transition specialists, military spouses, and veteran employment coordinators. Visit and for more information on both organizations.

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