You have been told over and over again to translate your military experience into civilian language. Why is this important? Even, if you are looking for a position with the Department of Defense (DOD) or in a defense company, the people reading your resume may not have military experience themselves or the Applicant Tracking Software (ATS), in the case of private sector jobs, may not be programmed for military-specific language or acronyms.

And, when you look at the statistics for military service, it reinforces the need to civilianize your resume language. According to a recent study, less than .5% of the population in the United States is active duty now and about 7-8% of Americans currently living have ever served.

So, how can you translate your experience? There are a number of websites that can assist you with translation. O*Net (see: offers one such translator. O*Net, the Occupational Information Network, is the country’s main source of occupational information for more than 1,000 occupations and is developed and maintained under the sponsorship of the Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. offers another military translator: And the Department of Labor also offers: to help you translate your skills.

Here is some language you may want to use in your resume; don’t forget that mirroring the language of the job posting will work best:

Military Language
Executive Officer
Senior Noncommissioned Officer
Squad Leader
Property Management
Force protection

Civilian Language
Director, Executive
Deputy Director
Team Leader
Data collection and analysis
Throughout the country
Staffing / Workforce
Supervised / Led
500 personnel
100 employees

Likewise, many civilians do not understand the difference between the 110th Division and the 116th Division; to most readers, these are distinctions without differences, and can definitely be left off of civilian resumes.

Finally, don’t forget to translate your acronyms. Instead of saying, “stationed in EUCOM,” consider saying, “worked in Germany” or something similar.

Nancy Segal is a federal human resources training and job search expert. Following her own 30-year federal HR career (much of it at the senior level), she founded Solutions for the Workplace LLC in 2003 to provide an HR management perspective to both federal managers and astute applicants to U.S. government positions. Nancy has unmatched federal career management insight, high standards, and respect for people’s time, and her clients use this to their advantage.