Aug 23

How to Fix Your Terrible Resume

Recently I received an email from a reader (we’ll call him Max) asking if I would review his resume.  When I first glanced at the document, I was on my way somewhere with the family and only had a few seconds to take a look.  I didn’t see anything exceptional and as I walked away I tried to recall anything about the person in the resume I just read.  I remember thinking, “wait…was that guy a battalion commander?!”  Here is a copy of that resume, although you can’t fully read my comments, you can see that I had a lot of them (2 pages):

bad max



Later, when I had more time, I printed it out, marked it up, then prepared to send a very blunt email.  I noticed that Max was a West Point and CGSC grad, had two master’s degrees, and was a battalion commander, so I suspected that this Resume was not his best work.  I sent him some stuff I’ve written on resumes in the past, and I explained the following:

  • Your resume is not the place to be humble
  • Tell me about YOUR accomplishments- focus on the back of your OER not the front
  • Use the STAR format
  • Include KPIs or Key Performance Indicators- numbers, values, objective results
  • Highlight your degree not where you went to school
  • Your society/memberships and military schools (like Basic training) really aren’t as important

With some trepidation, I hit send and waited.

To his credit, Max took the advice and sounded totally energized.  He had plenty of questions and got to work.  He basically scrapped his entire resume, created an outline, and started over.  In one of his emails, he sent me a STAR chart which was a great invention, and something I will be sending out in the future for resume outlines.  It allows you to put a job, your rater and senior rater comments, then several accomplishments in the position.  See the examples below (2 pages):

Star Chart


After he filled this out for every job in his 23 year career, a very enthusiastic Max sent me his updated resume which you can see below (2 pages):

good max

It’s clear that Max is a true top 1% performer that is probably ready for executive level leadership positions in the civilian world, but his initial resume didn’t convey that.  As a recruiter, I would have completely dismissed him with that first resume, but that second one puts me in a position where I HAVE to talk to Max further.

Recruiters are only going to spend a few seconds on your resume.  Give them no option to dismiss you.



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Aug 10

Tom Brady Can’t Block

I often get weird looks from managers when I tell them that their individual team member weaknesses are not very important.  I’m usually asked, often with a touch of snark, “How am I supposed to help people improve if we don’t work on their weaknesses?”

It was an interesting question the first time I heard it, and I struggled to explain my position until I saw a highlight on ESPN one day of Tom Brady at practice.  It clicked when I realized that Brady focuses his efforts on what he’s good at:  throwing the ball.  His coaches understand that Brady doesn’t become an asset by focusing on his weakness, he becomes an asset to the team by focusing on his strengths (as do the rest of the players on the field).  Imagine the waste of time it would be to work on blocking with Brady!

When people do something they are good at, they are happier, more efficient, and more willing to take risks.  Having a team comprised of experts in their functional areas, with their own unique sets of skills that backup and complement each other is the most successful way to operate.  Those are the groups that get excited when a leader presents them with a challenge that pushes the limits of their capabilities instead of listing a million reasons why they won’t succeed.

If Tom Brady was a pretty good passer, a decent blocker, a good runner, and could catch a pass, he wouldn’t be MORE valuable, he actually wouldn’t be in the NFL at all (let alone one of the greatest players in the history of the game).  What is special about Brady is not that he’s well rounded, quite the opposite actually.

“Ok, well what about within his position as QB?  Shouldn’t we be working on his weaknesses within the position?”

Kind of, but not really.  Even within the position, you want to build your plays around the strengths of your players.  An offense with a quarterback that can run the ball looks much different than an offense with a quarterback who is an excellent pocket passer.  A quarterback that can read defenses well should be given the authority to call audibles on the line.  Great coaches know how to play to the strengths of their players, we should absolutely be doing the same thing in business.

This has several implications:

  1. It shifts the responsibility of performance on the leader
  2. It requires leaders to intimately know the capabilities of every team member
  3. It requires leaders to place team members in the right jobs

So stop focusing on the weaknesses of your employees and start focusing on their strengths.  Play to those strengths, give them responsibilities that allow them to shine at what they’re good at.  Encourage them to improve upon their strengths, by taking classes or pursuing challenges that mesh well with their premiere skills.  Let them know what they are really good at and how they can mold a career around their strengths.  Let your peers know how best to use the assets on your team.  Be an advocate, a coach, a mentor, a leader, and you, your team, and your business will all succeed.



Click the image below to find out what we’re doing here at CONUS Battle Drills!


Aug 09

How to approach the GI Bill

Good morning Mr. Fernandez,

I picked up a copy of your CONUS Battle Drills off Amazon last month and I am currently on chapter six. I just wanted to inform you how I appreciate your efforts and time in the creation of this book and I thoroughly enjoy how it is written – it’s almost as if we are having a casual conversation face-to-face. It’s not bogged down in formality like a military instruction manual.

As I’ve read thus far a lot of the things you have inscribed make sense and actually provide a pretty new and unique experience on things I haven’t really contemplated yet; and the things that I already had an idea or understanding about, your prospective definitely provided a new way for the information to resonate and solidify.

I have a question though if you do not mind: Obviously as an officer you entered the military with a bachelor’s degree (in History you said), but I am enlisted and joined straight from high school. I’ve been in for three years now and have three years left on my enlistment – how would you incorporate going to school in your guide?

Answering your four big questions:

Question 1) My finances are in order.

Question 2) I enlisted to figure out a purpose in life, knowing the military would provide and care for me in whatever capacity was required and hopefully it would provide me with direction, or at least at a minimum some skills that I could transition with later in life. The reason I want to get out after my six years is because I do not particularly enjoy what I am doing now in my MOS and I’ve always viewed the military as a stepping stone to help position in a better financial and skill set holding later in life – I want to move onto something more personally challenging, interesting, and rewarding.

Question 3) I’m a single pringle; location is not a bother for me; I’ve lived in California in the first 18 years of my life and Japan the last three as sea-duty FDNF.

Question 4) Not a fucken clue – and I feel that is something you and I have in common – we both intended (you actually did) get out and were open to anything (granted as long as it provided for your family). I’ve thought about school (which is why I mentioned above that I wish you would of hinted on that for us enlisted folks (maybe you did but I haven’t found it yet), but I’ve also thought about trying to start a business (I think I have a pretty solid conceptual plan), or civil service (such as firefighting).

Anyhow – I hope you have time to reply it would be incredibly appreciated. The book is great and I will continue to read and reread it surely.

Thank you,



Thanks for taking the time to write and I’m glad you’re enjoying the book!  It’s funny that you ask this question because it encouraged me to write a post that I’ve been planning on writing for weeks but haven’t made it a priority (sometimes life gets in the way.  Your question as I understand it: When should I get my degree and what should I do?

So I’m going to try and answer your question without really answering it since these next steps are a matter of your own preference, but I’ll try and offer some perspective.

First let’s talk about the degree you choose.  As you know, I was a history major in college.  I was in ROTC and knew that I was joining the military, so I treated my degree as a path to get gold bars.  That was a mistake.  I see it in enlisted guys taking classes so they can get enough points to make rank.  We are wasting this great investment opportunity, and if I could go back and sit down with that 19 year old me who was leaving engineering because he didn’t like it and studying history instead, I would smack him across the face.  Instead of being a history major with an MBA, I could be an industrial engineer with an MBA; job titles and promotions for the latter would come much more easily!

The bottom line is this:  Don’t waste your major.  Consider college an investment, look at hiring trends and pick a major that will open up the most job opportunities in both quantity and quality.  Even if you’re not a huge fan of the course material, the workplace is rarely simulated well in the classroom.  That being said, don’t pick something you absolutely detest because you’re not likely to do well.  The US Military is the premiere leadership organization on the planet, couple that experience with a Bachelor’s of Science, and you’ll be well ahead of your peers.

Now, as far as timing for schooling, that’s going to be up to you.  I’ve seen soldiers go to school while serving and others that used the GI bill to pay their way and became full time students after ETS.  If you’re a single guy with no dependents, going to school full time seems like the better option.  I think you can challenge yourself further and have better results.  If you have a family, trying to get out and live off the E-5 base pay (without all the other assistance that you get while in uniform) is pretty difficult.  Again, it’s up to you.  You know your work schedule and your command climate, if they will support you then go for it.

One final point, if you’re starting a business, you need to consider that it costs a lot of money to do that, carries a lot or risk, and most new businesses fail, so you’re probably going to want another source of income.

Good luck and Godspeed!



Click the image below to find out what we’re doing here at CONUS Battle Drills!


Jun 05

The dumbest possible interview question

What is your greatest weakness?

Stop wasting your time asking this question.  There is no possible benefit for you as a hiring manager to ask this, and if you think there is, then you need to learn a thing or two about leadership.

1. Everyone knows it’s coming

Search for that question on google and you will find a billion different articles on how to address the question, but in the end, they’re all telling the reader the same thing:  spin your “weakness” so it sounds like a strength.  So if your goal in asking this question was to find out what the candidate needs to work on, you’re not going to get it.

2. You don’t need to know

Are you looking for a candidate based on what they can’t do well?  That’s a terrible strategy for finding top talent.  What you should be looking for are candidates that can meet your needs based on their strengths.  You’re hiring to fill a gap so you can make more money, now go find candidates that can successfully fill that gap.  Let me give you an analogy that maybe makes more sense to you.  Imagine you are looking to fill two slots on your football team.  One is for a lineman and the other is for a quarterback.  The lineman’s weakness is that he can’t throw the ball well and the quarterback’s weakness is that he’s not a good blocker.  Does that matter at all?  Nope.  You’re not hiring the quarterback to block, you’re hiring him to throw the ball.  Does he do that well?  Same with the lineman, he’s never going to throw the ball, but he needs to be able to block.  So can he protect your quarterback?  You should be hiring based on strengths not weaknesses.

3. It’s personal

Frankly, it’s not your business what I think my weaknesses are.  For some people it may be something that they are readily struggling with, and they’re not ready to share that with a stranger.  John Stossel used to stutter and he’s an on camera journalist.  Maybe your candidate was raped, and she’s uncomfortable around men that look like her attacker.  That’s not your business.  Maybe they have some OCD and need their workspace to always be immaculate, or don’t like sharing desks because of it.  Again, not your business.  This question has the potential to drudge up some very personal issues, none of which concern you, and have little to no bearing on the candidate’s ability to perform the job.  Regardless, they’re not going to tell you what their real weakness is because they’re prepared for this question.  It could, however, make them very uncomfortable and send them to another company…potentially to your competitor, to make them money.

4.  It shows a lack of leadership

If you, as a leader, are always focused on what the weaknesses of your team are, then you’re probably a toxic leader.  Maybe you do it to make yourself feel better, because you’re certainly not improving your organization.  People are different.  We are unique, with varying strengths and different leadership styles.  In order to assemble a winning team, you need to find the individual’s strengths and play to them.  Your marketing guy is fun to be around, knows people, and can see the world through the customer perspective.  Your software engineer can create a program in an afternoon, he can scan a line of code and immediately find errors, and he can make the user experience intuitive.  It doesn’t matter that the marketing guy got a C in computer science or that your software engineer can’t talk in public, because that’s not what you need them to do.  If you focus on their weaknesses and ask them to focus on their weaknesses, your team is actually going to get worse.  You should have them focus instead on what they’re good at.  Let your software engineer work on code and your marketing guy meet more customers.  They will both be happier and they will each get better at their respective jobs…making you more money.

So instead of that idiotic question about someone’s weaknesses, how about you ask them what their strengths are?  Or better yet, just have a conversation and get to know them and see how good of a fit they will be in your team and culture.  Unless your goal is to try and throw someone off and approach the interview from a position of power.  In that case, enjoy your business while it lasts, because the good people will go somewhere else.




Click the image below to find out what we’re doing here at CONUS Battle Drills!


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