How to write a military leaver CV; harnessing the power of assumptions

Updated: Apr 7, 2020

When leaving the military a CV is suddenly a valuable but probably unfamiliar tool. There is solid advice available to you on how to write a CV and most of it you will have already considered and put into action.

Once you’ve made sure that you’ve avoided jargon, translated your CV into civvy speak, ensured that you are quantifying your achievements and set about looking for ways to relate and tailor your CV to each role you are applying to though, what else can you do? How can you strengthen a CV beyond that to give yourself the best chance of securing your next job?

Do what others won’t be doing. Focus on the assumptions people may make about you based on your military service.

Most people won’t be doing this. Having assumptions made about you or being pre-judged is often a source of frustration, annoyance and creates feelings of being disconnected. Assumptions can also be positive though and they represent you with an opportunity that most people miss.

Use the assumptions that people may make about you to your advantage; it can set your CV apart

The way in which CVs are normally reviewed means that decisions about them are made very quickly. Making assumptions and passing judgement about candidates on general details of their background will naturally occur and by acknowledging this, you can pro-actively use it to strengthen your CV in a meaningful way. You can pre-empt and address concerns, as well as re-enforce those conclusions that you want to emphasise.

To illustrate the point, here are some examples of common assumptions you may come across as a military leaver and how to use them to strengthen your CV for specific applications.


It can be assumed that military personnel are very used to and comfortable with moving around throughout their careers. If you are applying for roles that require lots of travel then this can be a good thing to emphasise.

It can however also raise a concern about levels of connection and commitment to being within a particular location, something emphasised by the fact that you may be applying to roles that aren’t close to where you are currently based. Are you going to have to move house to take up the role? Does this increase the chances of your rejecting an offer or dropping out of the process on the basis of practicalities and logistics? Are you likely to move again in a couple of years?

Address this by adding details. Clarify that you have left the military or when you are due to. Confirm you have a connection and commitment to a certain location. Are you moving there with family? Do you have confirmed living arrangements? These are very minor details and you don’t need to add too much, simply adding ‘Relocating to..’ is enough to demonstrate that there is a considered commitment to applying in certain locations.

Working Environments

Operating within highly pressured, safety critical, remote and hostile environments demonstrates an incredible number of personal and professional qualities and attributes. It is experience that for roles that require extensive and challenging deployments or delivery within stressful situations, is unparalleled and should be highly prioritised within your CV.

If you are applying for single site roles, in far less challenging circumstances however, look to focus on more relevant contexts that you have worked within. Although routine roles or desk based positions may feel less impressive or weren’t the highlights of your military career, they may be a better selling point for you if they connect and relate more strongly to the position you are applying to. It may be assumed that jobs within more dormant and less challenging environments will be far too boring or unfulfilling for you. This can create an assumed risk that you will move on sooner rather than later so won’t offer the longevity that they may be looking for.

Decision Making

Working within a chain of command lends itself to being able to operate within hierarchical management structures where getting a job done and operational delivery is the priority over questioning or debating management decisions. Look to cover both your demonstrated decision making experience as well as hands-on delivery within your CV, ensuring you prioritise whichever is more relevant to the role being applied for.

It can be assumed that you are either experienced at giving orders rather than doing the job yourself, or conversely used to following instruction rather than using your own judgement. Make sure your CV strikes the right balance between the two to fit with what is being asked for. Demonstrating problem solving, analytical and fault finding skills and providing examples of identifying real time or pre-planned solutions to situations are good ways to do this.

Business Acumen

It can be judged that working in the military doesn’t offer the same opportunities to develop business acumen as you would get within commercial organisations. You don’t need to have responsibility for budgets or financial targets to demonstrate commercial awareness though.

Making sure there are facts and figures, such as volumes, headcount, time frames, or financials within your CV make it quantifiable and measurable. Demonstrating an ability to work with various stakeholders both inside and outside of your immediate team, to deliver your role within constraints of time, cost and quality, and showing an understanding of the impact of your role and delivery on the wider organisation and operational objectives all connect strongly to requirements of the business world. If you want to capture financials, clarify the monetary values of the equipment you were responsible for, or show the high level of technology and systems you were interfacing with. Management of information and interfacing with technical systems and databases are all good to be highlighting and represent highly transferable skill sets.

So in conclusion, when writing your CV as a military leaver, consider the assumptions that will rightly or wrongly be made about you based on your time in service. They are a common part of decision making within recruitment and by thinking about them, you can clarify or address them in a way that strengthens your CV. Not all assumptions are negative and the great thing about those that are is that addressing them in you CV is incredibly impactful and makes you stand out. Don’t be frustrated by them. Embrace them and use them to your advantage.

What other assumptions do you think may be made about you based on your military service? Does your CV address those? If not then this is an area you should focus on to strengthen your CV beyond the advice you have already taken.

For further free CV advice and other articles on how to write a CV, please don’t hesitate to visit My CV Guide or to get in touch with us at at anytime. Whatever your CV needs, we are here to help.

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