Resume Confessions

June 25, 2014 Diane Cobbold

Everyone who goes through the job search process will eventually come face-to-face with this basic fact:  Job searching requires more than just a great resume and finely tuned interview skills. It’s a journey that opens us up to much more, whether we’re a willing participant or approach it kicking and screaming.

Among other things, the job search process will:

  • make you reflect and re-evaluate who you are and what you have to offer
  • require you to get mentally in shape and have stamina and tenacity
  • teach you lessons in extreme patience
  • teach you the consequences of not setting realistic goals, and
  • how to deal with any skeletons in your career closet

At times, it makes us get up-close-and-personal with parts of our careers that we’d rather forget.  In varying degrees, we’ve all made errors, mistakes and career limiting moves; it’s all part of learning.  Recruiters and HR professionals need to know all about us to make the best hiring decision.  In-depth reference checks (both formal and informal) can uncover some of those past issues and then bring us face-to-face with some of our personal career confessions.

This week, I came across a website called Statistic Brain, that has a 2012 survey with data sourced from ADP, The Society of Human Resource Managers, on Resume Falsification.  Reading the final report, a few interesting stats jumped out:

  • Over ½  of the resume or job applications contained falsifications
  • Over ¾ of resumes had misleading information
  • Nearly ¼ of resumes listed fraudulent education/degrees

Shocking—or is it? Many job seekers often tell me, “If I can just get in the door, I can sell myself.” While I believe this is true for many people, having to mislead, lie, or exaggerate on your resume to get in the door rarely turns into a happy ending.

Work through the consequences of what will happen if you’re caught lying or exaggerating on your resume.  Will this company ever consider you again for another position? As an employer, I’m going to be thinking, “If you lie or exaggerate on your resume, what else in your background could be misleading?” If in a sales capacity, what does this say about how you may deal with customers, vendors, or when you complete internal paperwork? You can’t fault someone who wonders how your past may influence your future.

And what if the lie isn’t discovered until after you’ve been hired?  Is this potential cause for dismissal?  Depending on the severity of the issue—yes it is. You’ve knowingly misrepresented yourself. So, is it worth it?

On reviewing multiple surveys and studies, common exaggerations tend to include:

  • misrepresented academic credentials
  • inflated past titles/positions
  • exaggerated responsibilities or accomplishments
  • inflated past salary

Whether it’s done out of frustration or despair, resume confessions can cause severe damage to your reputation and future career prospects.

If according to the survey, ½ of the resumes have falsifications, I’d also say from my experience that ½ of the clients I work with initially undersell themselves on their resumes.  Take credit for what you’ve honestly done and present the information using strong accomplishment statements that tell the reader “what you did” + “how you did it” + the result, value or outcome”.  By building the resume using this framework, you will give the reader a clear overview of your accomplishments, the value you brought to your previous roles, and what skills, expertise and knowledge you can offer to their organization. 

About the Author

Diane Cobbold

Diane Cobbold is VP of Business Development in Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge’s Career Solutions Practice. Diane has over 20 years of experience working with HR teams to develop career solutions that support departing and retained employees to realize their career goals through traditional programs and virtual resources.

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