Little white lies on your resume equal big black marks on your reputation

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You don’t need us to tell you it’s tough out there. In a crowded job market, it’s tempting to do whatever it takes to make yourself appear to be the most desirable candidate, and that includes what might politely be called “stretching the truth.” It may not seem like such a big deal to tell a little fib on your resume, but if you ask Scott Thompson, the Yahoo CEO who stepped down last Sunday because he claimed he graduated with a computer science degree when he actually earned a degree in accounting, he’d tell you it’s a very big deal.

The really sad part of the story is that Thompson might have turned out to be the greatest CEO in the company’s history. We’ll never know. He didn’t have to lie. A little smart marketing could have gotten him the job, without the regrettable ethical violations. You can learn from his mistakes. We have a few ideas that won’t come back to bite you.

Let your cover letter tell your story.

A cover letter is the place for you to connect the dots for your potential employer. Your resume lists the facts; your cover letter lets you turn those facts into a narrative that shows your employer how your education and previous experience works together to make you the right candidate for the job. Let’s say you have a degree in psychology, but you’re applying for a marketing position. You can use your cover letter to tell your potential boss how your study of psychology taught you to understand how people think, giving you the ability to understand your clients’ motivations and making you a better marketer. Your resume alone can’t do that story justice.

Consider your references carefully.

Choose references who have a thorough grasp on your strengths and your background, and who you trust to give you a glowing recommendation. If you feel comfortable with them (and if you’ve asked them to provide a reference, you should), prep them before anyone has a chance to call. Let them know what the position entails and give them a heads-up that someone might contact them.

Know the company.

The more research you do on the company you’re courting, the better able you are to emphasize the right experiences and skills. This ABSOLUTELY DOES NOT mean lying or exaggerating. This means reflecting upon your experience and abilities and applying them to the challenges the position presents.

Play up your skills, but don’t exaggerate.

This is where marketing comes in. Think carefully about your work or educational experience and consider the skills you’ve developed that may not be immediately obvious to a potential employer, but that do make you a great candidate for the job. Let’s consider Scott Thompson again. On the surface, a degree in accounting might not seem to qualify him for the role of CEO at Yahoo as well as a computer science degree does, but if he had taken the time to really consider the skills that degree helped him develop—an analytical mind, the ability to solve real-world problems, a logical thinking process—he could have helped Yahoo see that the sum of his experience makes him the best candidate for the job, regardless of his degree. You don’t have to lie on your resume. You simply have to help potential employers understand how the experience and education you do have make you the best fit for the position.

Break through the clutter.

You know what’s always completely honest? A professional and stylish Loft resume. Hey, would you really trust us to give you tips to market yourself if we didn’t take every opportunity to do the same?

(Photo Credit: Discoodoni)

 

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