For many veterans, transitioning to the private sector will be the first time they put together a resume. Creating a post-military resume can be a daunting task: how do you translate life on an aircraft carrier or Army base into a Word document?

As a military recruiter, I work closely with veterans to help them create effective resumes. My mission is simple: highlight relevant skill sets in an easy-to-read format so private sector hiring managers can quickly see the value that veteran would bring to their organizations.

Junior Veterans: Capture Your Core Skill Sets

When I work with junior veterans, their resumes tend to be way too short. I’ve seen draft resumes with just a couple of lines: “I was a machinist. I worked on engines and plumbing systems.” I know that veteran has a whole set of valuable skills that just need to be teased out.

First, get specific about which types of equipment, machinery, and systems you have worked on. I recommend putting this section at the top of your resume. A machinist, for example, might list examples pumps, valves, gear boxes, hydraulics, pneumatics, diesel engines, or electrical systems.

Once these skills have been identified, explain how you performed your duties on a daily basis. How did you diagnose problems? What are some examples of challenges you have faced? How did you help your unit overcome these challenges?

Finally, be sure to mention any awards received, positive evaluations, or success stories.

Senior Veterans: Quantify Recent Successes

Senior veterans have the opposite problem of junior veterans: their resumes tend to be too long. My solution: focus on the last ten years. At this point in your career you’re aiming for a leadership positions, so you don’t need to go into too much detail about earlier roles.

Similarly, you don’t need to spend as much time detailing technical skills at this point in your career. Instead, discuss your responsibilities, the number of people you supervised and the dollar value of the equipment you were in charge of. How did your role integrate into the overall management of your unit? What successes did you lead?

In terms of page count, one is optimal, and two is the maximum. Just remember to stay focused. I recommend tailoring your resume to match each job application and highlighting applicable skill sets and successes based on the job description.


This is the fourth article in a six-part series on transitioning from the military to the private sector. Follow the links below to the follow-up articles that delve more deeply into the transition process for veterans.

5 Reasons It Pays To Use A Military Recruiter

Expanding Your Horizons After the Military

Setting Realistic Salary Expectations After Leaving The Service

Most In-Demand Military Skills For The Private Sector