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July 14, 2006

Embellishing Resumes

One of the headlines at MSN.com today was "Resume Tricks - 6 ways to embellish without lying"

I see a lot of resumes - I don't read a lot of resumes - but I see a lot of resumes.  The resume has to be special, or from someone that we're seriously considering hiring before I will take the time to actually read it.  At best, I scan most resumes quickly.  If I have no reason to care about the resume, and that applies to most of the resumes I see, a typo or spelling mistake will generally cause me to hit the delete key.  (The only time I look at paper resumes is if someone at my company or the candidate hands it to me.  Mailing me a resume is a waste of paper I'm afraid.  Also, I'm a terrible speller.  My fourth grade teacher said I'd never be a success if I didn't learn to spell.  The jury's still out on that, but I do proofread and I always use spell-check, and I expect people who want to work here to do the same.)

The article referenced above is better than the headline suggests, so I'll give the author the benefit of the doubt.  A special headline editor probably wrote the headline to grab attention, but for me it was negative attention.  I have two problems with their choice of words.  "Resume Tricks"  I don't like it already.  According to dictionary.com, a trick is "An act or procedure intended to achieve an end by deceptive or fraudulent means."  Given that definition, if I have the slightest suspicion that a candidate is trying to trick me, I move on to the next person.  The consequences of hiring a dishonest person are too great to even take a chance on someone who might otherwise look good on paper.

"Embellish without lying" is an interesting phrase.  It might be possible.  Again according to dictionary.com, one definition of "Embellish" is "To make beautiful, as by ornamentation; decorate."  People rarely ornament or decorate their resume, so maybe I have the wrong definition.  (Tell you what, I'll carefully read the next decorated resume that I get - I promise.)  Perhaps the better definition and more common understanding is "To add ornamental or fictitious details to: a fanciful account that embellishes the true story."

Fictitious details could be degrees that weren't really earned, as the story mentions, or the more common kind of detail such as "saved the company $2.4 million."  How much is a person worth who saved a company $2.4 million - let's see - $2.4 million, probably more?  So why do I have their resume in my hand, surely they know we don't pay THAT well and the individual offices at Gold Systems are nice, but that will buy you a great HOUSE, even in Boulder.  My guess is that if they didn't just make up the number, that they were part of a TEAM who saved the company that kind of money.  When I see a resume that sounds like the person thinks they did it all by themselves, I hit the delete key.  More likely they were standing NEAR the team that did they real work, and they bailed when the project was done.

I LOVE seeing concrete assertions.  Why?  Because then I can check them out.  If you say on a resume that you worked for the fastest growing company in the world, I'm going to do a quick search and see if it's true.  If I don't think it is, I'm done, because I figure if you will lie on your resume, you'll lie on your expense reports and you'll lie to our customers.

As I said, the article wasn't that bad, but the headline was terrible.  It isn't OK to trick or embellish on a resume.

July 14, 2006 in Entrepreneurship | Permalink


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I once did a tech interview on a guy who kept trying to convince me that Canadian IT people were so superior to those of us in the US.

This guy had several spelling issues on his resume and couldn't even spell "Canadian" correctly.

Posted by: Marshall Harrison "the gotspeech guy" | Jul 17, 2006 6:19:43 AM

Shame on whoever wrote that article title! It's like a sly wink: C'mon, everyone does it, go ahead and fudge on the truth. A few years ago threre was a short-lived billboard along I-25 that read something like this: "Swipe something at Target for the kids!" The idea was, I think, that every time you would "swipe" your credit card, a certain percentage of the total would go to schools (or something--I'm hazy on the details but I remember the connotations). I was so appalled I gasped out loud. A few days later, the billboard was gone. Who thinks of this stuff, anyway?!

Posted by: Verna Wilder | Jul 19, 2006 11:57:28 AM