By Brenda Bernstein
The Essay Expert
True or false?
“A resume is supposed to make you look good.”
Well, I’ll concede, it’s only partially false. Although you want your resume to look good and to portray your job history and accomplishments in a clear and impressive manner, it’s important not to overdo your attempts to impress your reader.
The misconception that a resume is supposed to make you look good can lead to mischaracterization of job duties, inflation of accomplishments, and flowery, highfalutin language. None of those things belong on a resume! Stick to the truth instead.
Example #1: A client who was applying for development jobs wrote in a bullet that she “[a]ssisted in organizing” a conference. Since I do not like to see the word “assist” on a resume, I asked her what exactly she did to assist. It turns out she set up tables and provided registration assistance on the day of the conference, but had no involvement in the planning or organization of the event. We changed the verb in her bullet to “Staffed” – a much more accurate description of what this applicant did.
Example #2: A client stated that she “[p]articipated in” company meetings. In actuality, she had organized materials for the meetings and attended them. We made her language more specific, thus accurately reflecting her activities.
Why not stretch the truth just a little?
First of all, I never condone lying about anything and always support acting with integrity. Additionally, if your resume gets you an interview, you could be asked questions about absolutely anything you’ve written. You don’t want to get caught in even the tiniest lie.
I’m glad I asked my clients questions about their bullets before an interviewer did. The first client was applying to jobs where she could easily be called upon to organize a conference; if she submitted a resume that overstated her experience in conference organization, it could lead to an embarrassing and deal-killing interview moment. Similarly, the second client was applying to jobs that entailed numerous meetings, and familiarity with meeting protocol was required. It was dangerous for him as well to represent his experience inaccurately.
When you are creating resume bullet points, and even when you are writing your Summary of Qualifications, make sure to report your activities, qualifications and accomplishments accurately. Without using impressive or flowery language, you can succeed in writing a resume that makes you look good by clearly and truthfully conveying your accomplishments.
As in so many other things, honesty on your resume is the best policy. Think of the most impressive thing you can truthfully report and let it speak for itself. Follow this advice and you’ll look good without even trying.