Military Conversion Resumes – How to Write a Military to Civilian Resume

Let’s discuss writing a military to civilian resume to highlight your areas of relevant expertise to target a new career. Are you staring at a resume full of military jargon and acronyms, wondering how to make the crossover into the civilian sector?

You are not alone!

Thousands of individuals who have served in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force successfully transition into civilian jobs each year. The art of military conversion resume writing means understanding how to apply your impressive transferable skills when writing a military to civilian resume.

Your professional education and training provided by the military are in high demand in the civilian workforce. Military language, however, can intimidate and confuse the hiring authority in the civilian sector. Busy human resource managers may not easily make the match between your skills and those they are seeking. Using military language may slow your transition from the military to a business career.

As a resume writer and career coach, I often work with military professionals seeking to enter the civilian workforce. The biggest challenge they may face is showing how their transferable skills will show value and be successful in a business career. Writing a compelling resume for the civilian sector can easily be achieved with the following tips that many military professionals have used.

Military to Civilian Resume Writing Tip #1

Identify the Civilian Positions You Would Like to Target

Many military professionals quickly transition into engineering, mechanics, programming, and other professional positions with a well-respected military education. Others make good use of transferable skills in leadership, operations management, security, and intelligence.

Some military-to-civilian conversions are more straightforward than others — pilot to civilian aviation pilot, doctor or nurse to civilian healthcare positions, supply manager to logistics manager for an e-commerce firm. No doubt, Amazon would benefit from aviation logistics coordinators facilitating its plans to send out book orders on drone flights.

Don’t feel restricted by your military expertise and experience. Supply order managers have become supply chain specialists, engineers, venture capitalists, drill sergeants, human resource managers, sharpshooters, and 3D animators.

Before writing your military to civilian resume, make a list of your transferable skills. This research stage will help you identify other positions that would value your expertise and experience gained in the military.

Identify Transferable Skills to Include in Your Military to Civilian Resume

The most important and first step in transitioning from a military to a civilian job is to make a list of your transferable skills. Incorporate the keywords you identified in your military to civilian resume and cover letter. A useful tip for identifying transferable skills is to research current job ads to target your interested positions. Identify the skills a hiring manager is interested in when recruiting a desirable candidate. The job ads will help you closely align your keyword choice with companies’ attributes and experience in demand. Here are some examples:


In this example, a leadership position is used. In addition to ‘leadership,’ here are other words taken from current leadership job ads:

Start by listing actual positions:

  • Leader/Manager/Vice President/Director of xx xx xx
  • Development Manager
  • Business Unit Leader
  • Team Leader
  • Special Projects Manager

List hard skills:

  • High-quality instruction
  • Staff development
  • Strategic guidance/direction
  • Scheduling
  • Training strategies
  • Team building
  • Operations management
  • Special projects management

List soft skills:

  • Communicator
  • Motivator
  • Positivity
  • Trustworthiness
  • Responsible

Follow this keyword selection process for all of your competencies. Other examples are:

Operations Management, Training, Intelligence, Security, Computer Programming

Here are more top transferable skills in demand in the civilian sector:

Supply Chain Operations, Logistics, Distribution, Inventory Management, Air Traffic Control, Security Analysis, Asset Protection, Computer Programming

Once you have identified core keywords, writing your military to civilian resume and cover letter will be easier.

Write a Resume Summary/Profile for Civilian Readers

Your military to civilian resume summary should reflect the jobs you are applying to and focus on your core skills and competencies. If you use too much military jargon, the hiring manager may not see a strong match with the position being filled. Military professionals use many specialized languages, such as worked for ‘special ops’ or served as an ‘eagle keeper.’ These terms mean very little to most civilians. You may not want to state: “Fixed snafus resulting in a 20 percent cost savings” lest you be asked to define the acronym ‘snafus.’

Consider this resume summary using military jargon:

Proven ability commanding and supervising front line troops and artillery officers for a T-3 forward-deployed military battalion. Conducted daily special ops while overseeing MPR strategic planning and project management. Oversaw human resources for 10 position codes and developed Q2 evaluations to create the 360-feedback loop. Background in anti-terrorism and force protection for three platoons.

Compare it to this resume summary with the military language removed:

Proven ability to lead and train military professionals across diverse battalion positions. Efficiently manage daily operations while conducting strategic planning and project management for supply chain and training divisions. Oversaw human resources for 10 occupations and developed an award-winning performance assessment system, now deployed nationally. Security professional with experience providing regional and antiterrorism analysis and protection services on three continents.

Provide Quantitative and Qualitative Results

Like the military, businesses keep close track of performance. If you can demonstrate your ability to deliver performance in a military operation, companies will be convinced of your ability to do so in their business operations.

Note how all these examples provide quantitative evidence:

  • Ordered and inventoried aviation equipment with a value of $10 million.
  • Provided security analysis and oversaw field security operations for five senior Navy officers in Asia.
  • Managed logistics for 2,000-troop battalion conducting operations in the Middle East.
  • Orchestrated the European redeployment of a large Navy battalion of 200 personnel and 1,000 troops.
  • Managed and negotiated $20 million in military contracts, reducing costs by 20%.
  • Redesigned large military component supply office, reducing order delivery from five to two days
  • While managing a $10 million construction budget, reducing suppliers and costs by 24%.

Note the emphasis on regions. In a global marketplace, businesses want to know that you have experience in the parts they are doing business in.

Qualitative evidence is equally compelling and may include:

  • Promotions
  • Recognition and rewards
  • Speaking at industry conferences
  • Committee and association positions
  • Being asked to write articles in your area of expertise

Demonstrate Your Experience and Aptitude With Standard Business Programs and Tools

The last impression you want to make is that of a bull in a china shop. Companies want to know that business professionals are proficient with core business tools and programs. Even more impressive is a job candidate who can show how they have performed above average while using these tools. You may have automated processes, improved employee performance, finished projects earlier and under budget, and so on.

  • Used Microsoft Project to plan and manage large construction operations.
  • Implemented a total quality management program to improve supplier relationships and reduce costs.
  • Integrated a new financial management program into the Oracle enterprise system to improve tracking expenses and cash flow management.

Remember the power of quantitative evidence.

  • Optimized supply chain operations using IBM’s smart supply solutions, reducing the delivery time to within one day, an industry standard.

Business reports and trade journals are an excellent source of information on current practices in your field, be it engineering, security, or supply chain operations. Bain & Company’s Management Tools and Trends Survey lists:

  • Strategic Planning
  • Employee Engagement Surveys (employee engagement is a top concern of human resource professionals)
  • Customer Relationship Management
  • A Balanced Scoreboard – a tool to measure and improve managers’ performance

Follow other business surveys. According to CEOs surveyed, change management is a vital concern to leaders managing companies in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Reading trade journals in your field and attending business conferences will help you avoid military terminology in your job application. Go on informational interviews and ask civilian human resource professionals to critique your resume or send it to us. We would enjoy writing your military conversion resume to land a civilian job in your desired occupation.

Military professionals do very well in the private sector. Your professional skills are in high demand. The most common mistake I see is military professionals selling themselves short. They are often qualified for many exciting business positions but underestimate and undersell their skills. The more potential civilian career options you identify, the happier you will be with your ultimate career choice.  To this end, expand your job search and turn to more than one recruitment professional for assistance. Each recruiter will have different specializations, networks, and clients. Sticking with one career consultant could narrow your options.

Once you start receiving job offers, be prepared for transition questions such as:

Why have you decided to enter the civilian sector at this time?

What transferable skills will you bring to this job position?

An executive career coach can help you role-play interviews and practice answering these more challenging questions for most military-to-civilian job switchers. Consider hiring me, Candace Alstad-Davies, the owner of this website, who works with clients worldwide. I’m a professional Canadian resume writer, job search specialist, and interview career coach.

Take the time to review our package and services.