4 Reasons it’s Hard to Read a Military Resume


Question: Our company has initiated a veteran hiring initiative, and it’s going well so far. However, the one thing our recruiters and hiring managers continue to struggle with is reading military resumes. Why is it so hard to understand what a veteran did in the military?

Answer: This challenge is very common to civilian, private-sector, employers. When a veteran leaves their military duties, they participate in a brief transition assistance course, which covers everything from how to relocate your family, access medical services and benefits, financial counseling… and how to write a compelling resume.

The resume is certainly covered in this course, but it is not the focus. For this reason, veterans enter their civilian careers with a resume, and several challenges, including:

  1. MOS/MOC translation  -- The Armed Forces lists 7,000 Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) or Codes (MOC). Every job in the military is assigned an MOS, which designates their work and responsibilities. When writing their resumes, veterans often struggle “translating” their Specialty into an equivalent private-sector job. Sometimes, they leave the MOS listed on their resume – which typically makes no sense to a civilian recruiter – or they de-militarize their job and mistake the civilian equivalent, further confusing the recruiter.  
  2. Uncomfortable with self-promotion – In the military, “service before self” is a highly regarded value. Individuals in uniform are taught to accept responsibility and accountability, but to deflect praise and recognition to those who serve alongside them. This practice reinforces a leadership structure of selflessness and collaboration, necessary for the successful completion of a mission, and reinforces the military culture as that of a tight-knit family. When scripting their post-military resume, the veteran is often uncomfortable calling out their successes and accomplishment. It is not because they aren’t confident, but because it goes against their training in the military.  
  3. Discretion is critical in the military --  It is not unusual for a veteran to resist listing details about his jobs, or leaving out key information. Discretion is vital to the success of most jobs in the military, and when entering the civilian sector, veterans often struggle with “what can I talk about?” Recruiters should ask questions about job responsibilities and duties while in uniform, but don’t push too hard on details if there is resistance. The veteran job applicant may not be at liberty to share specifics about deployments, jobs, or challenges faced in the military.  
  4. Resume assistance might be confusing – Many separating service members utilize the expertise of professional resume writers. These professionals are well-versed in military-to-civilian translation of skills and duties, and can adapt an MOS to speak to civilian employers in desired industries.

The challenge is, sometimes the veteran does not understand the newly-civilianized resume.  The civilian terminology, “lingo” and descriptions throw off the veteran, and he or she might be tempted to modify their resume to be more of a hybrid between what they know and what is appropriate. This can result in a confusing, disjointed resume.

While reading a military resume is confusing, it is worth the extra time needed to understand and evaluate relevant skills and experience. When they think about long-term goals, and valuable character traits, and most employers can recognize the value of a veteran candidate.

About Lida Citroen

Lida Citroën, a branding expert based in Denver, has made a career of helping people and companies create new or enhanced identities. She is passionate about helping veterans learn how to compete for careers in the civilian sector. A TEDx Speaker, Lida presents her unique personal branding training programs across the U.S., at military installations and events, serves on the Board of Directors of NAVSO  volunteers with ESGR, and has produced numerous programs and materials to help military veterans successfully transition after service. If you have a transition question Lida can help answer, email her at lida@lida360.com. She is also the author of the best selling book, "Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition," available at www.YourNextMissionBook.com and on Amazon.

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