Writing an Honest Resume

OP_Honest Resume_Ryan Apr 2016

We’ve all had that candidate. Excellent credentials, started out in the industry you are hiring for, quickly made their way to an executive role in a publicly traded company and after grad school and a couple of jobs, was laid off due to an acquisition or some other downsizing activities.

Not uncommon, right?

But when I recently asked such a candidate why they only had years on their resume and not months, I was disappointed to hear that the outplacement firm enlisted by their previous company advised employees to take this information off their resumes. What?

So, I need to share some thoughts around this… Do not lie or even look to misrepresent anything on your resume. With over 20 years of recruiting experience, I can tell you there are occasional embellishments, fine – but your resume is essentially the first point of contact you have with a potential employer, and it needs to be an honest representation of your experience.

Do you really want to start off on the wrong foot with lack of detail or misconception of information? Part of our job at Objective Paradigm is to sift out the bullshit on a resume. And we are really good at it.

Yes, we know you have to quickly review a resume and see if a person is a good fit, but when I see a resume with no months of employment or education listed, I immediately put on my sensors and get on the defensive. As a recruiter, I am not alone in this reaction.

When I see missing details on a resume, I think to myself, “OK – this person does not want to tell me something, and I am going to find out what that is.” Not only do I ask about missing dates, I now have a keen eye to make sure nothing else gets past me.

Why is this important? Character.

  • Employment dates – you know we find that out anyway, right? If you have no gaps in your job history with the exception of a recent layoff, do not hide the fact that you’ve been out of work a for a few months.
  • It’s better to be confident in your successes and develop a story about your time away, what you’ve learned and how you are approaching your search, than it is to hide the gap in work.

Resumes aren’t going anywhere – don’t waste your time leaving details off and giving a talent acquisition professional reason to doubt your skills.

Here’s a quick guide to remember as you update your resume and engage with a recruiting firm to find that dream job.

  1. Don’t put the recruiter on the defensive.
    • Hint: Once you try to hide one thing, a good recruiter will look for others.
  2. Be accurate with any data, results, awards, etc.
    • Life tip: Don’t over exaggerate. Metrics can be found!
  3. Techies – don’t go nuts putting keywords down that you have touched once.
    • Simple rule to impress your interviewer: If asked about a technology, you should be able to tell a story about how you’ve used it and the results of your efforts.
  4. Lying is a sucker’s game and it will set you back more than it will take you forward. If you were let go, fired or have some other happenings that caused you to look for a job – spend your time telling a good, honest story that highlights your accomplishments while in those roles.
    • Simple rule: Don’t be defensive – the past is the past and you should let people know you are learning from it and ready to move into the future.

You are not alone – mergers, acquisitions, layoffs and re-orgs are part of business. Trust your recruiter and trust that your experience and personality are a fit for what you are after.

Many laid off technologists have amazing skills that some company is going to be lucky to benefit from. So don’t try and cover anything up. Be open, honest and develop the confidence that you are going to win a position with a perspective hire.

p.s. Consider this an open call to anyone that can tell me, “is it better to hide information on your resume?” I am truly anxious to hear this answer!


Ryan Pollock is a Founder, President and Managing Partner at Objective Paradigm and Talution Group. For more from Ryan on HR, Recruiting and working in the tech space, follow him on LinkedIn.


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