Updated: Aug 3
Armed Forces commissioned officers and NCO's are known for their discipline, leadership, attention to detail and ability to succeed in challenging and austere environments, as well as a vast range of transferrable soft, functional and technical skills. But how do you structure, present and sell these skills and experience to a civilian employer?
Preparing a modern CV is a task you should take as seriously and personal branding is a must in the 21st century. Modern CV writing requires knowledge of applicant tracking systems (ATS), sales techniques, search engine optimisation (SEO) and influential writing style techniques. In today's job market you are up against tough, experienced and highly qualified competition and you only get one shot at your first impression.
Whilst your CV will not get you a job it can open the door to an interview and also support you during the interview.
So what makes a good CV? Is there anything you should pay particular attention to as a military jobseeker? Ever wondered how to write a CV?
1. Use an ATS Friendly CV Format
Use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) friendly layout, with clear section titles, such as Profile, Key Skills, Career Achievements, Career History, Early Career, Education, Training, IT Skills, Personal Details and Recommendations. If you apply for a position through a corporate career portal or job board you are dealing with an ATS. An algorithm will scan your CV and score you based on your match to the job specification. Typically recruiters have these systems pre-filter candidates and only
2. Link your military experience to the job description
Your CV should be targeted to the position you are applying for, and should only include information relevant to that role. For example, there is no value in telling the employer that you can organise and control a live firing exercise unless its relevant to the role responsibilities. Use language that anyone can understand and create your profile with a value proposition statement (who you are professionally, what you're expert at delivering, who for and what kind of environments) then follow this with 4-5 key strengths that align with your new direction / job specification.
2. Identify your skills
‘Transferable skills’ are often talked about and no doubt you have loads to offer. You want your CV to demonstrate that the skills picked up during your military career can help you make a smooth transition into civilian life. Behavioural-based skills are hard to substantiate so focus on useful functional skills like:
Training Design & Delivery
3. Translate your job titles
Many civilian employers are not familiar with military terms or with what your military job title means. Avoid military jargon and language and show how the training and experience you gained in the military is relevant to the vacancy you are applying for. Unless you are targeting positions with the government, if you work in administration, administrative titles will be appropriate. If your position has a military focus (e.g. Logistics Specialist), you want to concentrate on the functional aspects of the title — specialist, manager, coordinator, etc. Consider the following examples:
Generals, Colonels: Managing Director / CEO / Board Level C-Suite Positions
Majors, Captains, Lieutenants: Department Head / Regional Manager
Warrant Officer Class I / II (WO1 / WO2): Senior Manager / Operations Manager
Sergeants, Corporals, Lance Corporals: Manager / Team Leader / Supervisor
Privates: Technicians / Team Members / Operators
4. Translate military jargon
As well as your job title, you should also look at how you could translate other military terms. For example:
Platoons and sections become: Teams
Divisions and brigades become: Departments
Tours of duty and exercises become: Programmes, Events or Projects
Soldiers and sailors become: Staff, Personnel or Employees
Weapons become: Mechanical or Electronic Equipment
Tanks become: Heavy Equipment
Radar and sonar become: Sophisticated Electronic Communications Systems
Hangars, weapons dumps, etc. become: Facilities
Uniforms, weapons, ammunition become: Supplies or Resources
“Do not use complicated abbreviations and consider that most civilian recruiters probably won’t have a military background and as such the use of military-specific acronyms will not make sense"
5. List your academic and vocational training
The training you’ve received is vital to job hunting in the civilian world. Military schools and training courses tend to have complicated names. Use functional equivalents for the courses and training. This will emphasise what you have learned rather than the school name or place.
6. Quantify your achievements using the STAR technique
The STAR method is an interviewing technique that lets the interviewer analyse in detail if you are well-suited for a job. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Actions and Result, which are the four pillars that interviewers will be searching in your answer.
SITUATION: Mention the company and set context for your story. For example:“The Strategic Defence Review of 2015 identified an increased demand for front line resources"
TASK: Mention your position and what was required of you. For example:“As Head of Training, delivered reduction in training time and managed uplift in student numbers with no additional resources”
ACTIONS: What you actually did. For example: "Led 120 team change programme; analysed course content, identified duplication and shortened content; initiated pre-learning using virtual learning environment; identified 2nd and 3rd order impact of changes; and maintained ability to link cause and effect across course, protecting a world-class brand"
RESULT: How well the situation played out. For example:"Successfully delivered a 20% reduction within 4 months and achieved 100% uplift in cadet numbers"
Lee Woodrow the Founder of Bigger Fish is an Ex-Military Instructor and understands how to successfully transition into highly paid civilian employment. Lee has been helping Junior and Senior Military Personnel since 2008 by optimising CVs and LinkedIn profiles, typically leading to:
More Interviews & Opportunities
Better Job Offers & Clients
Higher Salaries & Rates
If you feel that your personal brand is not performing as well as it should, feel free to reach out for a no-hassle chat about your requirements and have the expert turn your situation around. Bigger Fish offers a complete range of CV & LinkedIn Optimisation Packages that include 1-on-1 online meetings wherein the expert coaches you on modern CV and LinkedIn best practices.