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.



For more information on transition, get the highly rated book on Amazon:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>