Resume Writing Tips for U.S. Veterans

Comprehensive guide to resume writing for U.S. Veterans transitioning to civilian careers

Transitioning from military service to a civilian career is a significant step for any veteran. The process involves not only a change in lifestyle but also a need to translate military skills and experiences into a format that resonates with civilian employers. A well-crafted resume is a crucial tool in this transition. This comprehensive guide provides detailed tips and strategies for US veterans to create effective resumes, along with an FAQ section to address common concerns.

Understanding the Civilian Job Market

Research and Preparation

Before diving into resume writing, it’s essential to understand the civilian job market. Research industries and roles that align with your interests and skills. Identify key skills and qualifications sought in these fields. This foundational understanding will guide you in tailoring your resume effectively.


Networking can provide valuable insights into the civilian job market. Connect with other veterans who have successfully transitioned, attend job fairs, and join professional groups related to your field of interest.

Translating Military Experience

Decoding Military Jargon

One of the main challenges veterans face is translating military jargon into civilian language. Replace military titles, jargon, and acronyms with universally understood terms. For instance, “Commanding Officer” can be translated to “Senior Manager” or “Team Leader.”

Transferable Skills

Focus on skills that are transferable to civilian jobs, such as leadership, teamwork, problem-solving, and adaptability. Emphasize how these skills can contribute to potential roles in the civilian sector.

Highlighting Leadership and Management

Emphasizing Leadership Roles

Many veterans have held significant leadership and management roles. Highlight these experiences, focusing on your ability to lead teams, manage projects, and make critical decisions.

Examples of Leadership

Provide specific examples of leadership experiences, such as managing a team during a mission or coordinating a large-scale project. Quantify these experiences wherever possible.

Achievements Over Duties

Focusing on Accomplishments

Shift the focus from listing duties to highlighting achievements. Use quantifiable data to demonstrate the impact of your actions. For example, “Led a team of 12 in a logistics operation, improving efficiency by 30%.”

Result-Oriented Language

Use result-oriented language to describe your accomplishments. This approach shifts the focus from what you did to how well you did it.

Tailoring Your Resume

Customization for Each Job

Customize your resume for each job application. Align your skills and experiences with the requirements listed in the job description.


Incorporate keywords from the job description. This is particularly important as many companies use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to screen resumes.

Resume Format and Design

Professional Layout

Use a clean, professional layout. Organize information in a logical order, typically starting with a summary, followed by experience, education, and skills.


Ensure your resume is easy to read. Use bullet points, standard fonts, and appropriate spacing. Keep the design simple and avoid overuse of colors or graphics.

Education and Training

Relevant Education

List relevant educational qualifications, including any degrees, certifications, or military training that applies to the civilian job market.

Ongoing Education

If you’re currently pursuing education or training, include that information to show your commitment to continuous learning.

Skills Section

Highlighting Skills

Create a dedicated skills section to highlight specific abilities, such as technical skills, languages, or certifications.

Soft Skills

Include soft skills like communication, teamwork, and problem-solving. These are highly valued in the civilian job market.

Summary Statement

Crafting a Compelling Introduction

Start with a summary statement that encapsulates your professional identity and aligns with the job you’re applying for. This should be a concise paragraph highlighting your key skills and experiences.

Volunteer Work and Extracurricular Activities

Including Volunteer Experience

Include any relevant volunteer work or extracurricular activities. These experiences can demonstrate skills and a commitment to community involvement.

Leadership Outside of Work

Highlight any leadership roles in volunteer settings, as these experiences are valuable in demonstrating your ability to lead and work in teams.

Using Action Words

Dynamic Language

Use strong action verbs to describe your experiences and achievements. Words like “orchestrated,” “innovated,” “streamlined,” and “cultivated” add dynamism to your resume.

Proofreading and Editing

Attention to Detail

Ensure your resume is free from spelling and grammatical errors. Proofread it multiple times and consider getting feedback from a trusted colleague or mentor.

Seeking Professional Help

Resume Writing Services

If you find it challenging to translate your military experience, consider seeking help from a professional resume writer, particularly one with experience in working with veterans.

Utilizing Veteran Resources

Veteran Support Organizations

Leverage resources and organizations dedicated to helping veterans transition to civilian careers. These can provide additional support, workshops, and networking opportunities.

Preparing for Interviews

Articulating Military Experience

Be prepared to discuss your military experience in job interviews. Practice explaining your role and achievements in a way that is relevant and understandable to civilian employers.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1: How long should my resume be?

A1: Aim for a one-page resume, especially if you have less than 10 years of experience. For more extensive experience, a two-page resume is acceptable.

Q2: Should I include all my military experiences?

A2: Include experiences that are relevant to the job you are applying for. It’s not necessary to list every role or assignment, especially if they are not directly applicable.

Q3: How do I explain gaps in my employment due to military service?

A3: Employment gaps due to military service are common for veterans. Briefly explain these gaps in your cover letter or interview, focusing on the skills and experiences gained during your service.

Q4: Can I include military awards on my resume?

A4: Yes, you can include military awards, but explain them in a way that highlights the skills and achievements they represent, making them relevant to civilian employers.

Q5: How do I handle classified or sensitive information on my resume?

A5: Do not include classified or sensitive information on your resume. Focus on skills and experiences that can be shared publicly.

Q6: Is it necessary to include a photo on my resume?

A6: In the United States, it’s not customary to include a photo on your resume, and doing so could lead to unconscious bias.

Q7: How important is it to use keywords from the job description?

A7: It’s very important. Keywords align your resume with the job requirements and ensure it passes through ATS filters.

Q8: Should I include references on my resume?

A8: It’s not necessary to include references on your resume. Have a separate list of references ready if requested.


Crafting a resume as a veteran transitioning to civilian life requires careful consideration and translation of military experiences into civilian terms. By focusing on achievements, tailoring your resume for each job, and utilizing the resources available to veterans, you can create a compelling resume that showcases your unique skills and experiences. Remember, your military service has equipped you with a wealth of valuable skills highly sought after in the civilian workforce.

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