Top 10 Tips for Military Personnel Applying for Local Government Positions

Tips for where to look for local government job opportunities, what to include in your resume, and how to navigate the interview process.

Nov 6, 2019 | ARTICLE


1. Avoid Jargon: Develop a resume that is understandable to non-military personnel. Don’t use acronyms and language that civilians may not know. Have someone who is not familiar with the military review your resume to ensure you have removed language that may not be understandable to non-military personnel.

2. Showcase Transferrable Skills: Focus on areas of expertise that are transferrable to local government, such as human resources, capital planning, budgeting, infrastructure improvements, and utility expertise. Specific professional training with certification, such as Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Professional Engineer (P.E.), or Civil Engineer, are in high demand in nearly all areas of the civilian workforce.

3. Leadership and Management: Be specific about leadership and management experience, especially if you’ve supervised civilian employees. Supervisory experience over unionized, civilian personnel should definitely be noted. The military provides highly collaborative leadership and management training. If appropriate to your experience, use words like “collaborative,” “teambuilding” and “cooperation” in describing your military experience.

4. Diversity and Inclusion: Military personnel typically have worked with personnel from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds and cultures. This experience is valued in local government and should be highlighted. Any specific language skills should also be noted (i.e., fluency in Spanish, Arabic, German, etc.)

5. Top Secret Clearance: An advantage many military personnel have is top secret clearance. This should be noted on resumes—recruiters and employers will still do their own due diligence, but this provides a comfort level that the candidate is going to move through that process with ease.

6. Interview Techniques: When interviewing military personnel, I often have to advise the candidate to not call me “ma’am.” While this is highly respectful, it is not typical in the local government world. I’ve had clients mention this to me when they have interviewed candidates who say “ma’am” and “sir” in the interview. They want to see that you can make the transition to a more casual workplace environment.

7. Video Interviews: If the employer wants to conduct a video interview, practice establishing your video connection with a friend beforehand, especially if you are out of the country. Be prepared to work with the recruiter or potential employer on the scheduling if there is a time change involved. (This means you may be interviewing at 11:00 P.M.!)

8. Military Stereotypes: Employers may be concerned that a candidate coming right out of the military will not be able to adapt to a workplace culture where employees do not fall in line and respond to orders. This is a stereotype about the military that does not fully represent all the progressive training that is offered. It is important for candidates to project an attitude of approachability and friendliness and be prepared to explain how their training and experience will fit into and enhance the employer’s workplace culture.

9. Availability and Relocation: Educate the employer or recruiter on your availability—be specific about when you can start. Also, military personnel are used to relocation and should highlight a willingness to relocate to the area, if that is the case.

10. Networking: Create a professional presence on LinkedIn and start connecting to local government managers and executive recruiters. Contact your state municipal league or municipal management association and ask if you can attend a meeting or conference. Also, look at the ICMA and state municipal league websites for more information about transitioning into a position in local government.

Websites to Watch

Local government positions can be found on a wide variety of websites, including, state affiliates for ICMA such as the Illinois City/County Management Association or state municipal leagues such as the Michigan Municipal League. Other places to go include, LinkedIn, and profession-specific websites such as the American Public Works Association, American Planning Association, Government Finance Officers’ Association. Many of these profession-specific websites also have state affiliates.

 JOELLEN CADEMARTORI is chief executive officer and co-owner of GovHR USA (


 HEIDI VOORHEES is president and co-owner of GovHR USA (