How To Add Military Experience To A Resume (With Examples)

By Ryan Morris and Experts - Mar. 3, 2021

Thousands of people enter the armed forces every day, and much gets said about the things they do while they’re out in the world, defending our country and whatnot.

But it’s easy to overlook the fact that all of these people need jobs once they come back from their service.

And it’s not always easy for them to explain to those who haven’t served just what makes their service so valuable to the workforce at large.

So how does someone in this position relate their experiences to someone who has no frame of reference for what those experiences might mean?

We’ve put together a guide to help you figure out precisely that.

What Do Employers Like to See in Applicants With Military Experience?

More than anything, someone with military experience understands how a chain of command works and knows how to follow through with pretty much any set of marching orders they’re given.

Even if serving in the military came with no additional experience or other benefits, this would still be massively valuable to employers.

It’s tough to understate how much incompetence people in most industries face on a day-to-day basis, no matter what level of the company they’re in.

So when someone shows up who knows how to get things done quickly and efficiently, employers take notice fast.

But of course, these skills aren’t the only ones employers need to see when they’re making the decision to hire somebody.

And people who have spent years in the military don’t always know the best way to describe the things that they’re capable of doing in less military-specific terms.

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How to Add Military Experience to a Resume

There’s no one place to include your military experience on your resume. Instead, your military experience should shine throughout your resume’s sections.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to adding military experience to your resume:

  1. Include it in your resume summary statement. If your military experience is fairly recent, it’s a good idea to include it in your resume summary statement. Recruiters and hiring managers often read this part first to gain a quick understanding of who you are and what you’re all about.

    In about four sentences, talk about your military background in the context of the job you’re applying for. Focus on the key skills and qualities that your military experience instilled in you and how those prepared you for a career in your chosen civilian field.

  2. Include it in your work experience section. You had a job in the military and, just like any other job, it should be included in your professional history. Name your position, the dates you were in that position, and add a few bullet points of your most impressive responsibilities and accomplishments.

    Read the job description carefully and mirror the keywords you find there. Whenever you can apply a keyword to your military experience naturally, do so.

    Clearly separate your former civilian and military roles. For both categories, though, quantify achievements when you can; numbers help recruiters and hiring managers understand the tangible impact you made.

  3. Include it in your achievements or awards section. If you received any military honors during your service, definitely include those on your resume.

    While you can put them in your work experience in a bullet point, you can make them stand out more in their own accomplishments section. Medals, awards, or any other honors you received are fair game.

  4. Include it in your skills and certifications sections. The military likely certified you to perform certain tasks, and those certifications might carry a lot of weight depending on your industry.

    Language skills, certifications for machinery or processes, and other technical skills that transfer to the job you’re applying for can all be impressive.

  5. Get a second opinion. Now that you’ve included your military experience throughout your resume, have a civilian give your resume a look. They can identify confusing aspects that someone with a military background might take for granted.

Create A New Resume With Your Military Experience

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Tips for Adding Military Experience to Your Resume

The first thing to remember when you’re trying to decide how to include your service on your resume is that you should absolutely include as much of your service as you can.

Never feel self-conscious about describing the specifics of the work you did — just keep in mind who’s going to be reading it.

You might get lucky and send it along to someone who knows exactly what certain terms mean — but you’re much more likely to encounter an employer whose closest connections to military service are through the Call of Duty matchmaking games they play on weekends.

So keep the following things in mind when you’re listing your military experience on your resume:

  • Avoid acronyms and military-specific jargon. This might seem like a no-brainer, but it can be tough to remember which terms you’re familiar with because you’re a human who’s been alive as long as you have, and which ones you only know because of your service. Take care to exclude the latter ones where possible.

  • Leave out irrelevant certifications. If you trained as an electrical engineer while you were in the service, that’s probably a good thing to bring up. Weapons training is probably not quite as relevant.

  • List it the same way that you would any other work experience. Even if the truth is a bit more complicated, anyone reading your resume should be able to understand the short version of your experience at a glance. Stick to a few short bullet points, and make sure to list dates.

  • Describe non-obvious items from on your resume. Lastly, make sure that any training or certifications you have that isn’t totally self-explanatory gets at least a cursory description — and remember that you might have a different perspective of what is or isn’t self-explanatory.

Then again, there’s one more thing you can do.

Make a new resume and get more interviews.

Plus, a great resume will give you an advantage over other candidates. You can write it in our resume builder here. Here’s what it may look like:

How to Use Military Experience to Your Advantage During Your Interview

When you list military experience on your resume, that isn’t the end of the story. Odds are that one way or another, you’re still going to have to talk about it during your interview.

And depending on how well you’ve prepared to do so, the experience can be either easy enough or totally excruciating.

Keep these things in mind when describing your military experience during your interview:

  • Keep the conversation on topic. An employer might spend far too much time grilling you on your military experience, which can sometimes paint you in a light you’re not comfortable with. On the other hand, some civilian employers might be hesitant to bring up your military background out of nervousness.

    In either case, a balance is necessary — make sure it gets brought up, but don’t let it take things over.

  • Keep things relevant.If you have a decade or more of military experience, remember that the rules are the same as with civilian job experience — talk about the most relevant thing first. It’s not super useful to talk about your early training if you’ve been in the Armed Forces for a dozen or so years.

  • Decline inappropriate questions. If the questions someone is asking regarding your service are inappropriate or too personal, don’t be afraid to shut them down. Your military experience is your own, and not for them to dissect — bring up what’s relevant, and make sure they respect your privacy about the rest.

Example of Resume With Military Experience

John Peterson | Fort Campbell North, KY 24698 | 555-555-5555 | www.linkedin.com/in/john-peterson

Proven leader with 8 years of experience training, supervising, and leading over 200 personnel. Expert operations manager with a track record of lower costs, higher efficiency, and optimizing workflows and processes. Managed over $1M in hardware, reduced overhead by 14%, and reduced safety incidents by 21%.

Work Experience

United States Army
Staff Sergeant | 03/2016-01/2021

  • Managed distribution and registration of military shipments valued at over $1M, including updates and agent communication

  • Trained 100+ US Army soldiers in 15 training rotations in combat environments in Iraq and Afghanistan, including maintaining electronic aerial surveillance

  • Accessed Joint Personnel Adjucation System (JPAS) with authority to initiate and update security clearances

  • Developed and led the risk management committee overseeing over 2,000 service members in hostile environments

Sergeant | 01/2013-03/2016

  • Assisted in 18 security operations and planned interagency, intergovernmental, and multinational counter-terrorism objectives

  • Managed a fire team of 6 soldiers, overseeing daily responsibilities, tracking performance, and awarding commendations

  • Trained a total of 75+ army personnel and achieved a 98% pass rate for recruits

Home Depot
Warehouse Manager | 08/2011-12/2013

  • Onboarded, trained, and supervised warehouse with 15-20 employees

  • Reduced accident rate by 13% in first 3 months; received safety award in August 2012

  • Oversaw reception and stocking of over 200 packages with a weight of over 2 tons daily

Awards and Certifications

  • Completed Hazmat and CLS Training

  • Awarded National Defense Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, and Army Achievement Medal

  • Honorable Discharge — January 2021

  • Microsoft Certified Professional

Education

Bachelors Degree in Chemistry | 07/2011
University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
GPA 3.7

Skills

  • Process Improvement

  • Proficient with Microsoft Office and Google Suite

  • Inventory Management

  • Safety Protocols

  • Risk Management

  • Training, Supervising, and Mentoring

  • Operations Optimization

Final Thoughts

That’s all for this one! Just keep in mind: When talking about your experience, framing it as a story is the most important thing.

Regardless of whether you really “learned anything” in a big cosmic sense from your military experience, people are going to expect you to be able to codify the experience into some kind of employment-related fable.

That means becoming comfortable saying things like “doing [this particular thing I did] in the military really taught me about [responsibility or respect or something like that].”

It’s possible you really feel that you have some sort of major, easily-digestible take away from your experience — in which case, congratulations!

But life is messy, and often what an experience means to you can be tough to parse out.

So whatever you do, make sure you think about what your own service means to you beforehand, because — fair or not — people are going to expect you to have an answer on that count.

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Author

Ryan Morris

Ryan Morris was a writer for the Zippia Advice blog who tried to make the job process a little more entertaining for all those involved. He obtained his BA and Masters from Appalachian State University.

Expert

Don Pippin, MHRM, CPRW, CDCS

Don Pippin is an executive and HR leader for Fortune 50 and 500 companies and startups. In 2008, Don launched area|Talent with a focus on helping clients identify their brand. As a Certified Professional Resume Writer, Certified Digital Career Strategist, and Certified Personal Branding Strategist, Don guides clients through career transitions.

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