Using military performance evaluations in resume writing

When pulling together a winning resume, military performance evaluations make great resources. Provided a relatively successful military career, they are abundant in quantifiable accomplishments, glowing remarks from senior raters, and awards. But they should be just one of many resources you rely upon – not THE resource. Military evals / military fitness reports are snapshots in time and their content often lacks proper context. Furthermore, commonly used benchmarks of success in the military tend to raise a few eyebrows in the “real world”. Make use of your evaluations, smartly, by avoiding these common pitfalls:

  • Is your resume laden with the passive phrase “responsible for”? How about the term “oversaw”? These are examples of language abused in military performance reports and inherently in military resumes. To a civilian they read, “stood idly by while others worked”. Replace passive language with active language (i.e. “directed”, “managed”, “spearheaded”, etc.).
  • Do the phrase or phrases similar to “incident-free” and “without loss of life or equipment” appear in your accomplishments? In the military, this is a testament to your attention to detail and risk management abilities. However, to a civilian employer, this is your job and one such incident would signify that you no longer have one. Along these same lines, rethink the phrase “with 100% accountability”.
  • I often see operational readiness rates listed in military resumes. A typical accomplishment referencing an operational readiness rate looks like this: “Managed a $X million (insert any logistics, flying, or maintenance program) with a 98% operational readiness rate.” This may leave the average civilian wondering what an operational readiness rate is. Or worse, it may leave them wondering why you failed to hit the 100% mark. The remedy is simple – explain operational readiness in terms of reliability and quality control and tack “well above the (insert Army, Navy, Marine Corps, or Air Force) average (or standard) of 92%” to the end of the statement.
  • Avoid military-specific jargon and acronyms which hinder resume flow. If referencing a military-specific system, be sure to explain it using universal technical terms. “Maintained the Blue Force Tracker System” is better stated as: “Subject matter expert for the Blue Force Tracker System, consisting of a computer, a satellite antenna, and a GPS receiver. It locates friendly platforms on a computer’s terrain-map, giving commanders information about their forces and how best to use them.”