I have recently become involved in several quite heated discussions about both “beefing up” resumés, or “dumbing” them down. Where do you draw the line when you are desperate to find a job that might be crucial to your economic survival? When does tailoring a resume become out right lying and falsification?
As a coach, I am obviously empathetic to the challenges of being unemployed and encounter clients’ job search frustrations daily. From a purely ethical point of view, my personal position is to always suggest that honesty is the best policy. But ethics and integrity aside, which can only be a matter of individual conscience, as a recruiter I can tell you some of the practical dangers of crossing the line.
By this I don’t mean writing a powerful resume, enhanced by strong vocabulary and key words to give a “ sales spin”. Or “tailoring” your CV towards a specific opening, emphasizing certain qualities and down playing skill or experience deficits. Unless you are applying to companies with a high churn, where clearly employees are not a high priority, or encounter an incompetent recruiter , then I suggest you factor in some of the following before you make a decision, because misrepresentation it is not without risk:
• A skilled recruiter will research you prior to interview. The internet and especially LinkedIn is a global data base and recruiters use it constantly. So any changes or modification to your CV would need to be made consistently on every platform. You would need to check where you are listed, or if any reference has been made to you on any other documents, or in any circumstances, anywhere, even photo tags, which can be traced in cyber space.
• You will need to be prepared to account for any missing years, or perhaps convey that your seniority and experience in your previous employment was different to the reality. This might involve economy with the truth or outright lying. If discovered later there might be negative consequences which could damage your later career.
•You will need to prime your referees. They might have to misrepresent or even lie – same possible consequences as above.
•You might be asked to take psychometric tests or be given a behavioural interview where skills levels, either claimed, exaggerated or missing, should normally be identified.
• If discovered, you may alienate a company which could be a potential future employer.
• While you do all this you might miss a job, for which you are perfectly qualified, because word recognition software will by-pass you, because you are now presented differently in all media.
This is before even going into what might happen if you are hired and become that square peg in a round hole, combined with the stress of possibly being found out and the fear of constantly slipping up.
If you can openly and genuinely persuade a company to hire you at any level, with authentically presented qualifications and skills, that is very different to withholding or distorting information to get a job. As Mark Twain said “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything”
This article was first posted in CareerRocketeer on June 12th 2009, http://www.careerrocketeer.com/2009/06/when-does-tailoring-resume-become.html?
at the kind invitation of Chris Perry: Brand and Marketing Generator careerRocketeer@gmail.com Twitter Follow @CareerRocketeer