Let’s get honest about resumes

By Ricardo Roman posted 07-18-2017 12:43


It turns out a lot of people lie on their resumes. If you work in HR, recruiting, or some other aspect of talent acquisition, this probably isn’t a surprise. It works like this: you post your open position along with a list of qualifications, would-be applicants see the list and realize they aren’t qualified, and—voilà!—a resume with invented credentials materializes. Works like a charm!

Actually, it doesn’t work like a charm, especially in the internet age when it’s so easy to investigate people’s work history and track down their LinkedIn and Facebook contacts. But given the disconnect between what companies need and what job-seekers think companies need, a bit of resume padding is bound to happen.

We’re not talking about Frank Abagnale-level falsehoods. There’s no excuse to invent degrees that were never earned from universities that were never attended. But some applicants might bend the truth about the duties of a former position to sound more like the duties of the position

they want… and end up getting burned for it. They probably don’t realize that a lot of companies are posting ideal qualifications rather than a stone-cold list of skill demands. An impressive candidate is worth an investment in training to fill a few gaps.

What would help both sides—applicants, so they don’t feel compelled to compromise their ethics and risk further damaging their chances at meaningful employment, and employers, so they don’t have to clog the system interviewing unqualified people and authenticating resume claims—is a paradigm shift.

A paradigm shift in the way the hiring works. Small aim for a blog post, eh?

Yes, a paradigm shift that takes the emphasis away from “You need (an arbitrary) 5-7 years of experience carving lettuce, selling insurance to goat herders, and designing integrated circuits” and toward diversifying teams and looking at people’s motivation and potential.

For example, research shows that conscientiousness is a (partial) predictor of job success in many roles. Good interpersonal dynamics are often a success factor too, as is learning agility, and so on.

Job seekers are under pressure to customize their resumes to suit the jobs they are seeking, and this pressure comes from the business world itself. This same business world scrutinizes those resumes to identify the fine line between customization and embellishment. If we all show some learning agility and adapt our thinking about what makes a good job candidate, we might see fewer white lies on resumes and more candidates who are confident in their intrinsic abilities to handle the challenges of the jobs that are out there for the taking.