It’s a tough job market out there and you might be tempted to give your resume a little “boost.”
Every few years, someone in a high profile position gets busted for embellishing his or her resume. This year, it’s Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson. Thompson claimed to hold a bachelor’s degree in accounting and computer science from Stonehill College when he only had an accounting degree. What’s surprising is that this wasn’t revealed in a background check, it was brought up by an activist shareholder group, Third Point, who called for Thompson’s ouster. The sad reality is that his degree probably had little to do with his hiring. His experience is both extensive and impressive, as he was the President of PayPal, after being a senior vice president and CTO. The only surprising part about this whole story is that Thompson hasn’t stepped down as CEO, but the director who led the search committee has said she would step down at the end of her term.
Instead of lying, here are a few resume tips that can help your resume stand out without any extra flair:
Tailor Your Resume. As you would with a cover letter, tailor your resume to the job you are applying for. It requires a little extra effort but given the tough job market, you’ll want to give yourself as much of a legitimate advantage as possible. Write a new “objective” that matches the job description and order your experiences by relevancy, not chronologically. If you worked a similar job several years ago, put that ahead of what you’ve been doing last year if it’s less relevant. Review the most common interview questions and try to find a way to integrate answers into the resume – like examples of strength and where you want your career to go. (and you do not have to list every job you ever had, but be prepared to explain any gaps)
Update Any Computer Skills. This is especially true for software developers but in a keyword based resume world, make sure that your resume is up to date on the skills you have, especially computer skills. If you can the space to qualify your proficiency, do so. The last thing you want to do is get into an interview about C/C++ when your only experience was an introductory class ten years ago. It will be uncomfortable and you probably won’t get the job anyway, which is a waste of everyone’s time. A good rule of thumb is to be able to back up each skill with a job experience listed on your resume.
Be As Specific As Possible. You want to give the person reading your resume as clear a picture as possible, so be specific without embellishment. Let’s say one of your jobs was in procurement and you were responsible for negotiating large contracts with a variety of vendors. Try to come up with a job title that accurately reflects what you did, rather than use the generic one you were given. Instead of saying “Associate in Procurement,” use one that makes sense. Do not use terms like director, vice president, manager, or other obvious keyword terms unless it was in your original title. Think of it as a title to your short story about that job, not what is written on your business card.
List Your Achievements, Not Your Responsibilities. When writing about your experiences, share what you accomplished and not simply what you did. If you saved your company a significant sum of money, share that on your resume. If you built something that generated a lot of income for the company, be sure to include it. When you do include your list of achievements, be sure to use as many numbers as possible in order to give the reader an idea of size.
Update It Regularly. Be sure to update your resume regularly, especially if you have a job. I try to review mine every three to six months and add any recent accomplishments. The last thing you want to do is update it ten years later, after potentially forgetting some great accomplishment seven years ago.
What the Yahoo CEO’s case, and other cases like this, teach us is that not only should you avoid lying on your resume, you’re probably going to get caught. With as much social media and technology out there, it’s only a matter of time before researchers will be able to discover your lie – especially if you have enemies. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but fate has a way of rearing its ugly head after you’ve been tapped as the CEO of a major company!
Jim writes about personal finance at Bargaineering.com, where he tries to distill complex personal finance topics into easy to understand nuggets that everyone can decipher. He’d love you to join him!