This is one of my follower’s story in his own words. He was a civilian select from the 17OT02 board.
Find a Google Drive here with tools and resources mentioned within this document: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0ByhsA4Q1GurkXzRuYXQ4XzAteFE?usp=sharing
BOT Profile – Going from non-select to select
It took 18 months to go from the time I started the process to become an officer to the time I was finally selected. I applied to three different boards. For the first I was a non-rated non-select. For the second my recruiter messed something up and my packet never made it to the rated board. For my third I was selected as a Civilian RPA Pilot. Between boards I didn’t retake any of the tests, receive any more awards, or do anything super special. The only two things that I did different was get six hours of flight time and pour over my BOT profile. Here is what I learned and did.
First, for a reference, my scores (click for larger image):
I don’t mean to boast, but those are good scores. But remember, I was not selected my first time. You’ll hear about the “whole person” concept over and over. Scores don’t mean everything; they are just a small portion of your whole packet.
I received feedback from many people about my first application. The thing that was said the most was that I was too wordy, and didn’t say a lot with the words that I used. There was too much fluff. You can see that when you compare the “Career Achievements,” “Personal Achievements,” “Personal/Outside Interests,” and “Work Experience” portions of the application. Remember that the board members are looking at hundreds of applications. If yours is too wordy, they will just start glossing over it without really reading it.
When I revised my “Career Achievements” and “Personal Achievements” sections I made sure that every line was short and concise, and I packed as much into it as possible. Luckily I was prior National Guard, so I had a few awards that I could put on there. I also made sure it looked like I was constantly “achieving” something, no matter how big or small it was. There was not a year that went by where I didn’t have some kind of “Achievement.”
When it came to the “Work Experience” portion, I again was plagued with having too much fluff and not enough substance. I had heard about the Air Force Tongue and Quill guide, and I decided that I was going to follow the bullet statement part of that perfectly for my work experience. Bullet statements are like a math formula. It goes:
- Action verb
- Impact Element
See Chapter 19 of The Tongue and Quill for full instructions.
Air Force e-Publishing Link:
Since the formula for building bullet statements is the same, I made myself an Excel spreadsheet Bullet Builder tool. You can find that tool in the Google Drive. This tool built every single one of my bullets for my work experience. I tried to make sure I had at least two per job. The Tongue and Quill have a list of action verbs that can be used, so I borrowed directly from there.
Below is an example of before and after I used The Tongue and Quill:
I get a lot of questions about Personal Statements (PS) so I decided it is time to do another post. I believe your PS is your best chance to make an impact on the board. The PS should not be a bland recap of your career experience or qualifications because the board is going to get this from your OTS applicant profile. IMO your goal for the PS should be to tell the board a personal story about how you were inspired to apply to become and officer in the United States Air Force. It should be so captivating it must be read to the end, and reading it should fill the board member with emotion and move them to tears. If you do not do this (or attempt to do this), I think you are missing a huge opportunity to catch the board’s attention. Over this past year I have ran this blog I have probably read two or three PSs which met my own personal criteria for this, so it is possible. If there are any selects out there who would like to contribute their PS to my blog, I would love to post it.
I am not sure what criteria recruiters are pushing out there for civilian applicants, but active duty applicants are required to fit their entire PS into a form called the Air Force Form 56 (AF56). This form (like many other AF Forms) is an “xfdl” file which requires specific software to open. The software is designed for windows but I have heard it is possible to use it on Mac, it can just be a little buggy. Instructions for obtaining the software and form:
- Proceed to the Air Force E-Publishing web site. This is the official master archive for all Air Force forms and publications, so it should already be your best friend. I always get to it by Googling “af epubs” but here is the link: http://www.e-publishing.af.mil/.
- To download the software, click the “Forms Software” link in the center of the page under the “spotlights” category, then click the image. Here is the link for the lazy: http://www.e-publishing.af.mil/viewerdownload.asp
- Once the software is loaded you can open the form. To download the AF56, from the main page type “af56” in the search block. Once again, here is the link for the lazy: CLICK HERE.
- The official label as listed on the AF56 for your PS is as follows:
- WHAT ARE YOUR OBJECTIVES AND REASONS FOR DESIRING AN AIR FORCE COMMISSION? (Include what you have to offer the Air Force. Confine comments to this space. Attachments ARE NOT authorized) (MUST BE TYPED).
- The approximate length for the form is 450 words, but your results may vary.
- I personally believe you should tell your story. Why do you want to become an officer in the United States Air Force? Why an officer and not enlisted?
- What inspired you to apply to serve your country as an officer? Why the Air Force and not another branch?
- If you know or have known Air Force officers, what about them has inspired you to want to follow in their footsteps?
- Avoid overusing quotes. It good to show you are educated but I believe relying too much on quotes can remove a personal aspect to your PS.
- Try to avoid rehashing your career or experience. Speak from the heart, not the mind.
- Demonstrate you are educated through your writing. Keep your ideas clear and concise, use an expanded vocabulary, but still be yourself. Don’t use big words just to use big words, use big words because they are your words.
- What does it mean to accomplish an Air Force mission, and how can you contribute to the accomplishment of these missions?
- Instead of telling the board what the Air Force Core Values or mission are (trust me, they know), tell a personal story about how one or more of the core values has deeply impacted your life.
- Consider telling the board about one of the most valuable leadership lessons you have learned in your life.
- Tell the board about how much of an honor it would be to serve your country. Capture the feeling of pride and service, not the verbiage.
- If you don’t have a story I mentioned above, tell the board any story about a life or career lesson you have learned.
- ‘Perspective‘ is key. Show the board you not only know where you are, but you know where you are going and how where you are going aligns with the future needs of the Air Force.
Tying it Together
There are a lot of opinions out there about what your personal statement should say. One of my mentors who was a rated select a few years ago gave me the best advice I had ever heard, so I will pass it on to you:
“Talk about your career, how you led, how you impacted the mission as a leader, and how your experiences and interactions with other officers/leaders inspired you to apply for officer training. Follow up with your career goals (short and long term), and how being an officer would enable you to positively impact the mission. If you can tie those things together, and make them specific to your AFSC choices, it says a lot.”
Here are some points I would like to add:
- Big picture. I look at the Applicant Profile as a summary of your career presented in a way which is most effective for the board to receive. This is from your own perspective and it is telling the board how effectively you can present yourself and your career. I look at your commander’s recommendation as a translation of your record into the O-6 perspective of your record to your leadership and officership potential. If the LOR talks to your character, what should your personal statement (PS) contribute?
- Know your audience. The board is a panel of one O-6 and two O-6s or O-6 selects*, so you should write with the knowledge that the members have a much different perspective of life, they likely have a higher level of education than you, and they have been in the Air Force around 20 years so they know the game. If you have the opportunity, spend as much time as possible with O-6s/O-5s you know so you can get a feel for who they are and how they think. Have someone read your PS to see if you are writing at the level of someone with a graduate (at least undergraduate) degree, or at the level of someone with only a high school diploma. *NOTE: Can someone fact check this for me? I couldn’t find a source.
- Having a conversation with the board. Your PS is your opportunity to have a conversation directly with the board. Think of it like this. The board has just looked over your BOT Applicant Profile and is somewhat familiar with your record and accomplishments. Now they want to hear your story. They want you to answer questions like what inspired you to apply? What in your career has brought you to where you are today? Are you a good potential squadron commander or just a good future SNCO? Imagine this conversation in your head, speak from the heart, and put it down on paper.
- It’s always about the mission. Don’t overlook the mission. Think of your entire career in the Air Force. What is always important to commander’s? The mission. Have you ever directly impacted the mission or are you just going with the flow of the NCOs/leaders above you? Talk about a time when you made an impact, how it made you feel, and how being an officer will help you do it more effectively.
- You are not just a good NCO. When the board reads your PS their impression should be that you would make an amazing officer candidate and not pushing your package forward would have a detrimental effect to the Air Force. A lot of times when I read non-select packages 75% of the content is spent highlighting their career and accomplishments which are already in the BOT Applicant Profile. After reading those, I get the impression “This person would make a really good SNCO in a few years, not 2d Lt.”
- What is the difference between a SNCO and an officer? Do you know? Have you ever thought about it? Reach out and ask the question. Define the difference for yourself and it will naturally become part of who you are. Then speak as that new person, not the old. If you can frame your PS as someone who understands the difference it will add much more impact to your story.
- The board doesn’t assign my AFSC, so why should I mention it? Think of it like this. Think of sitting at ALS graduation and listening to two speakers tell the the story of how they became an officer. The first speaker tells you a story of how his father was a contractor for NASA at Cape Canaveral, and as a young child he would watch the space shuttles launch. He explains the feeling of awe and wonder as it lifted off into space, and the rest of his life was framed around being involved in THAT mission. The second speaker talks about how he was an NCO for ten years, he won lots of awards, and through the years one or two of his flight commander’s impressed him because they were effective leaders. After ten years he was bored and he wanted more responsibility and leadership opportunities, so he decided to apply for OTS. Which story was more inspirational? This may or may not seem like a fair comparison, but I think there are a lot of applications that sound more like speaker 2 than speaker 1. My main point is to tell your whole story, not just a snapshot of your story. Even if you don’t mention your AFSC choices because you simply want to serve as a commissioned officer in any capacity, tell that story. I know there is a story there and I know the board wants to hear it.
- What did my application have that yours doesn’t? It is hard to say, but I think board members get a common feeling from successful PSs. Several of the successful PSs I have read left me overwhelmed with a sense of pride. I understood the author was humble, proud to serve, and was truly ready for the officer level. The individual understood the importance of the mission and saw the bigger picture. I was left with a lingering feeling of “wow, this person gets it, and this person is ready.” Here is an except from my PS:
- “For the past 10 years, I had the privilege of receiving mentorship from numerous leaders, both enlisted and officer, which ignited the passion I have to take on the responsibilities and accountability of an Air Force officer. When I reflect on those moments of mentorship, I conclude with confidence that I am ready to step up to the challenges ahead. I am grateful for the incredible experiences, training, and the opportunities to contribute to the successful execution of Air Force missions.”
- I began writing my PS very early in the process, mostly because my commander didn’t really want me to do anything until 2 months out. My PS started very NCO heavy where I spent the whole time talking about myself. My wife helped me re-write it with an educated pen, but it still sent the wrong message. I really struggled with what message I needed to send until I spoke to my mentor who I referenced at the beginning of this post.
- I literally re-wrote my PS around 12 times. In the end I framed it like I did above, and talked about myself and my career from a reflective theory lens instead of simply I did this and I did that. I led Airman and passed inspections became my experience in program management, standardization, inspection, and international relations. Service Before Self and Excellence in All We Do became my devotion to duty and innate desire to diversity my breadth of experience.
- My PS was one huge block of text, no paragraphs. I filled the entire space except white space at the end of every line ranging from 1/8″ to 1″ on the last line.
- I really have to give credit to my mentors. I knew what I wanted to say but they helped me say it in an effective, educated way. Thank you.
- My final draft wasn’t done until about four days from the deadline. It was terrifying.
- Post any questions you have, I am glad to help.