More on Translating Military Jargon to Civilian Language

Private sector resumes demand clear language that even those outside of a candidate’s industry can easily understand.

For example, a Certified Public Accountant who works with non-profit companies and the self-employed would not write:

  • Oversaw 501 (c)(3) accounts; provided 1099s to meet government regulations.

A non-accountant would be mystified when reading the above.  A better way to present the same data would be:

  • Oversaw non-profit – 501 (c)(3) – accounts; provided self-employment tax forms (1099s) to relevant parties to avoid IRS related fines and penalties.

One government site – The Defense Finance and Accounting Service – suggests the following:

Using Appropriate Terminology

Use plain English. Write your resume as though you are submitting it for review by someone who has no technical understanding of the kind of work done in positions you may have previously held. Imagine that you are explaining what you have done and the skills you have used to a friend who has never worked in the same kind of jobs as you.

Describe the knowledge and skills you possess and the duties you have performed using terminology common to the general occupational field. Describe skills and experience in universally accepted terms that could be readily understood in both the public and private sectors.

Minimize the use of acronyms in your resume narrative. If you must use them, explain what they represent, what processes or systems they describe, and how you have used the knowledge, skills, or abilities associated with them.

The following examples demonstrate ways “technical goulash” can be translated into something understandable for both the Resume Builder and staffing specialists:

  • BAD:  Use IATS to process travel vouchers.
  • BETTER:  Use an automated financial system, IATS, to compute and process travel reimbursements for transportation, meals, lodging, and similar entitlements.
  • BAD:  Process vouchers and issue a variety of disbursements using SRD1.
  • BETTER:  Using knowledge of disbursing principles and procedures, examine requests for payments to individual military and civilian employees, private sector vendors, and other public agencies. Perform a quality control review to ensure that these requests are in order, assign appropriate accounting classifications, and prepare checks or electronic transfer payments. Use an automated disbursing system, SRD1, to accomplish these actions.

This straight forward, three sentence paragraph might be sufficient to describe all of the major duties performed by a disbursing clerk or technician position.

  • BAD:  Assist functionals in writing SCRs. Develop interfaces and serve as the POC for all EC initiatives.
  • BETTER:  Work with functional users of automated financial and accounting systems to help identify needed changes and to write system change requests (SCRs). Write computer programs to enable automated systems to interface and to communicate with each other. Serve as the primary contact for automated electronic commerce (EC) systems and improvements.

Descriptions of duties performed, knowledge used, and skills applied in accomplishing those duties should be simple and straightforward, descriptive, and reduced to only essential information. When finished writing a paragraph, it is helpful to stop and ask yourself the following questions:

Would a third party who is not familiar with my occupational background understand the kind of work that I do?

Is there nonessential information (nice to have, but not helpful in meeting mandatory qualification requirements) in what I have written?

Have I omitted any unique, but relevant special experience or skills I possess that might distinguish me from other candidates if my resume reaches the desk of a selecting official?

Have I adequately described the major characteristics of my occupation or background and skills that are most common to my occupation?

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