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Résumé Writing Roadblocks

Oh, The Tangled Web We Weave…

Job Seeker's Story

Jim had held positions as a Recruiter in six different staffing companies over a nine-year period. That period of time also contained some gaps (up to eight months) when he was unemployed. To camouflage those gaps, Jim changed the dates of his employment on his résumé. He did not want to appear to be a job hopper and also wanted to appear to be “in demand.” Jim asked his good friend Emery, who also happened to be his last employer and CEO of the recruitment firm, to “cover” for him by telling prospective employers that he worked at the company longer than he actually had, and to falsify company records to substantiate that information. Emery reluctantly agreed, although he wasn't sure how he would convince Margaret, the human resources manager, to go along with the scheme. He wasn't even sure he could consistently remember the new dates when called for a reference check by a prospective employer. Emery's concerns were well validated; Jim's falsified employment status was revealed when Margaret refused to validate the incorrect dates of employment.

Another job seeker, Larry, decided to eliminate three of the nine jobs he had held as a security guard in the past 15 years from his résumé. His reasoning seemed flawless: The three jobs had each lasted less than one year, and he had been fired from them. Because he did not want this negative information on his résumé, Larry felt justified in completely eliminating mention of the jobs. Unfortunately, each prospective employer quickly cut Larry from consideration after determining via routine background checks that he had misstated the extent of his employment in the past 15 years on both his résumé and application form.

Sarah, formerly a dental technician, had fabricated both her degree and licensure in Radiological Technology on her résumé to obtain a much-better-paying job. After moving to her new place of employment, more than 250 miles from her previous job, Sarah was fired within three months for falsifying her credentials. She was forced to begin her job search anew, but quickly discovered the word had gotten out about her résumé lies. Sarah was effectively “blackballed” from further employment in the healthcare field in her home state.

Job Seeker's Stumble

These job seekers are fabricating and/or hiding career information on their résumés to favorably impress employment reviewers and secure jobs. Similarly, high-profile careerists, such as university and government officials, have made headlines due to career fraud. Lying on résumés for a variety of reasons is apparently epidemic. According to a 2006 survey by the Society of Human Resource Managers, more than 53 percent of all job applicants lie on their résumés. When asked if they would lie on their résumé to land a job, more than 70 percent of college students said they would. These statistics are well-known by recruiters and hiring authorities who have felt increasingly compelled to investigate candidates prior to job interviews, before making a job offer, and even after employment. Verifying crucial information, including degrees and licenses held, jobs held and accompanying dates, position titles, and references named, has become a high-growth industry with critical stakes.

Job Seeker's New Strategy

Each of the job seekers in the stories above could have handled his or her perceived résumé problems in other ways that would have maintained his or her honesty and ensured consideration based on the true facts. Let's review each situation to determine alternative courses of action:

  • • Employment Gaps: It is not unusual anymore to be unemployed and seeking employment for several months or even a year or more. The standard rule is one month of unemployment for every $10,000 of salary—and that's in “normal” economic times. In recessionary periods it will likely be longer. If that's the case, you can explain the “missing” period of time with descriptions such as “sabbatical for personal/career growth and targeted job search campaign” or “family leave combined with career exploration.” Another technique is to use years, rather than months and years, for beginning and end dates of employment.
  • • Omitting Jobs: Larry could have focused on the past 10 years on his résumé where his most recent four jobs had been solid, lasting two to three years each. By building up this segment of his résumé, his final entry of one six-month job held 10 years ago (which ended in his firing) could have been listed as a one-to-two line entry and thus would have been downplayed. The other “negative” jobs had happened between 11 to 15 years ago, a time frame he could have encapsulated in an overall statement such as, “security professional for four employers in corporations and government agencies.
  • • Falsified Credentials: Sarah believed it was necessary to do whatever it takes (lying) to get what she felt she deserved: a good-paying job. If Sarah had taken that energy and determination to pursue studies as a Radiological Technician, she could have attained the job of her dreams honestly and had an unbroken pathway to a solid career future. Instead, Sarah's shortcut to credentials not only backfired in losing her job, but it stained her reputation for future employment prospects.
  • • Think about this: Do you want to be flying on a commercial jet when the air traffic controller at your destination airport has lied about his qualifying training, experience, or track record of “near-miss incidents”?

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesJob Search, Job Interview Questions, & Job Interview TipsRésumé Writing Roadblocks - Be Selective And Careful With Your Résumé Content, Caution: Résumé Typos Ahead!, Oh, The Tangled Web We Weave…