Military to Civilian Transition Resumes

military to civilian resumes

When transferring from the military service, whether it be to the private or public sector it is important to critically evaluate your employment history. The number one complaint from recruiters regarding resumes from Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel is that they don’t understand them because they are either full of ADF specific terminology, or acronyms (or both!). An example of a resume containing too much industry specific jargon is below.

The number one complaint from recruiters regarding job applications
from ADF personnel is that they don’t understand them.

Lost in Translation

Anyone in a recruitment team or on a selection panel ou should be able to easily read a resume and gain
a full understanding of the applicant’s skills and abilities.

Even if all the terms and acronyms are genuine and relevant to your application, a recruiter who can't understand them may not contact you for clarification. They may just put your application in the 'no' pile and cite 'poor communication skills'.

This also applies if you are submitting an application for a civilian position in the same work area that you are currently posted. Just because you know the people you will be working with, and the superiors in the area, does not mean you know everyone on the selection panel. They might throw in an independent panel member at the last minute who has a limited understanding of military terms and acronyms.

How do you combat this?

Read through your resume and selection criteria and identify any terms or acronyms that might be military, defence or industry specific.

For example, within the Defence Organisation a minute does not often hold the same meaning as in the
private sector, or even other public sector departments. In the Defence Organisation a minute is similar to
a letter or memo. In the private sector a minute is a written record of a meeting.

Employers will not know what your rank means, or where that fits in the scheme of the ADF. They will not understand the discipline and training that has come with your employment, and they will not appreciate the hard work and recognition within the organisation that comes with a promotion.

I once asked an applicant to describe to me their leadership skills, and the response I got was “I’m a
Warrant Officer, of course I have good leadership skills.”

Being a Warrant Officer means nothing to the average citizen, and they will not understands where this falls within the rank structure, or the level of experience, skills and training that is required to attain this rank. A better response to this question would have been “I was responsible for leading a team into battle exercises and giving directions to ensure that we completed our operations successfully.”

Or even better, putting your duties in layman’s terms and aligning them to an office environment, a good response would have been “on a day to day basis I am responsible for the running of a Reserve unit establishment which involves managing budgets, staff, resources and ensuring the facility is prepared for training exercises.”

Even if you are applying for an APS position within Defence, it is likely that the civilians on the panel will not have the same understanding as a military member.

If only one panel member does not understand your employment history, your application is at risk. This does not just apply for your resume, but also for your statements addressing the selection criteria.

It is always best to go back to basics and explain in full, rather than risk being vague and misunderstood.

Find Out More About Applying for Civilian Government Jobs

What you need to know about government resumes

Could you be writing your selection criteria responses all wrong?

More Help With Your Job Application:

How to write better selection criteria

How to research an organisation

Dealing with selection criteria that you don't meet