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BLUF: A JMOs Key to Interview Success
Updated September 2022
No, I don’t mean “bluff” your way through. Let me explain.
Many years ago, when I was traveling and in a meeting with some JMOs while coaching them through their military-to-business transition, Susan, my wife, called me. She said, “Maeve (our daughter) fell off the monkey bars. She took a hard landing and her arm twisted in a funny way. She is at the hospital and has seen the doctor.” She went on and on with details of how it happened. It seemed like her explanation took 30 minutes when in reality, it was probably less than a minute. It’s just that my heart was racing hearing the news, I was in the middle of an interview, and she still hadn’t gotten to the bottom line. Was Maeve okay? Finally, I asked, “Just tell me the bottom line. Is she going to be okay? How serious is this?” She FINALLY answered, “She has a pretty significant fracture in her left arm. They are going to have to do surgery. But she is fine. The arm just needs to be set, and after a few weeks in a cast, she will be back to normal.” Sheez! I wish she would have started the conversation with this.
And BLUF was born. BLUF stands for “Bottom Line Up Front” and basically means give your interviewer the big picture before you get into the weeds with details.
Just like I wanted Susan to give me the BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front), recruiters want the same from candidates’ interview answers. Recruiters can easily get lost in an answer if the candidate does not immediately answer the question. When the candidate starts the answer with background information and other details, but not the answer itself, the recruiter has no idea where the answer is headed.
Here is a simple illustration of how BLUF works. Let’s say you ask me to go to dinner, but we have separate cars, so you ask me to just follow you. You get in your car, and you take off without telling me the name of the restaurant, the street address or the area of town. You start turning left, then right, right again, then left; now I am in an unfamiliar area, and I have no idea where we are. I am lost. I know we’re going to dinner, but you’ve lost me. However, using the BLUF process, you would first tell me the name of the restaurant, area of town, a general idea of how we will get there, and the address. Then, if your left turns and right turns confuse (sometimes candidates’ answer details do confuse recruiters just like the left and right turns), I still know where we are headed, and I can quickly orient myself back to your route.
Let’s use a more specific example. Recruiters may say, “Tell me about a significant accomplishment.”
Using the BLUF process, an appropriate response is, “I led a team of 45 people from several different military specialties to distribute ammunition, fuel and food to a 360-Soldier unit for 3 months in Afghanistan.” This is BLUF: You said what you did and the result – in a concise and brief manner. THEN, you can expand on it if you wish.
Not using the BLUF process would sound like this: “Well, when I was in Afghanistan, my unit was in the central area conducting operations. They had numerous missions every day, requiring numerous supplies and materials. It was an austere environment and the beginning of the fighting season.” And, you continue on.
Step into the shoes of the recruiter. He or she has probably had more than 5 or 6 interviews during the day, and the recruiter is trying to keep every candidate and answer separate and differentiated. They want and need to follow you. But, in this case, several sentences into the answer, they still do not know where you are headed.
Another good way to think about it is like a lead in a newspaper article. The first paragraph typically spells out who, where, what, when and why. Then if the reader is interested, they read on for details.
Susan and I now have an agreement that when we call the other with some critical news, we start with the bottom line up front. A few years after the broken arm incident, when my same daughter fell and needed stitches, Susan called and said, “I just want you to know everyone is okay. Maeve fell and hit her head and has about 6 stitches. She is totally fine and eating a popsicle.”
If you want a deeper dive into some interviewing advice, check out our podcast episode 143: The Six BIGGEST Interviewing Mistakes to Avoid in a Military to Business Transition.
By the way, our clumsy little girl graduated from Tulane in 2021 with a degree in biomedical engineering and is doing just fine.
Cameron-Brooks is a Military-to-Business career transition specialist who partners exclusively with Junior Military Officers to launch rewarding careers in Corporate America.
If you are interested in learning more about how to crush an interview, how to make the most of your military-to-corporate transition, or are just looking for resources for your decision-making process, we invite you to call us at 210-874-1500, check out our website, or follow us on YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook. We have been helping JMOs launch successful business careers for over 50 years, and we have a wealth of resources including:
- “Master the Military-to-Business Transition Webcast
- Transition Guides
- PCS to Corporate America Podcast
- Cameron-Brooks Blog
- One-on-One First Call Coaching