Be Prepared to Defend Your Resume
Even with all the changes in resumes these days, one thing remains the same: your resume must accurately reflect your experience and abilities. While a resume is a marketing tool, it needs to be an honest account of your background, skills and expertise. If you embellish, fudge or overreach, chances are that the attention you’ll attract will be negative.
Not only will inaccuracy or hyperbole on your resume potentially get you in hot water with this particular employer but they could well pass along the word that you have some inaccuracies on this important document. This is especially true in journalism circles — here in town and across the country — as journalism remains a pretty tight-knit community. The last thing you want to do is to showcase that you “can’t handle the truth,” especially about yourself.
In this highly competitive job market, employers are closely monitoring resumes for accuracy and truth in advertising. So be prepared to defend yours in a job interview or even in initial chats with potential employers. Larger organizations sometimes employ staffers or consultants to fact-check your resume before you’ll even get in the door.
So how do you make your background sound appealing on your resume without crossing the line into embellishment or into the dangerous untruthful zone? Here are some tips on defending your resume:
*Fact-check every detail. This may seem silly as it’s about you and you should know your own history, right? But a few years after the fact, your memory may be a bit hazy as to just when you were promoted to a supervisory role, for instance, or what your position was called on your college newspaper. Make sure facts such as dates, titles and key duties are accurate. Ensure that spellings (especially of people’s names, such as references) are correct and that you use proper style and grammar. If you catch an error, it’s easy enough to fix in this era of digital resume production. As a result, hiring managers expect resumes today to be clean as can be — there’s no room for mistakes here.
*Check to make sure information being circulated about you online is accurate. It’s important to regularly Google yourself while job hunting and to check far and wide to see how information about you appears online. Recruiters often will do online checks of a job candidate and compare that information with what you’ve provided on your resume. And they won’t necessarily accept as a defense that the information on your resume is correct as it came from you! Just as personal finance experts recommend that you obtain your credit report several times a year, check carefully for mistakes and then “appeal” them once discovered, hiring experts suggest you do the same with information about your career. Tiny errors — such as a mistake in an introduction at a conference — can be easily explained, but if there is more significant incorrect information about you circulating, it’s best to try to get the offending person to correct it so that you don’t have trouble defending your resume vs. this other information.
*Avoid embellishment and instead stick with details. Don’t leave room for interpretation on your resume — often that can be interpreted by a hiring manager as troubling exaggeration. For instance, if you led a team, say so but if you sometimes filled in for the department manager when they were on vacation, don’t imply on your resume you did more than that. Fully explain your title and provide action-oriented details about your duties and successes in the job. Make the details of your former jobs and your expertise as compelling as possible but don’t go beyond the facts. Never exaggerate on a resume — if you feel like you might be headed in that direction with a description, pull back in the other direction. It’s never worth embellishing on this document.
*Get ready for a resume challenge. Before a job interview or key meeting, carefully review your resume and consider all questions a hiring manager might have about the details. You’ll want to confidently answer their questions about your experience and be able to showcase knowledge that you gained in previous jobs. Sometimes, you may need to brush up on this information so you may also want to read over clips from this period to reacquaint yourself with the issues of the day or the big decisions you had to make in that particular role. Avoid exaggerations or conversely running away from details in your explanation of your resume; truthfully answer questions and stay focused on what you did in previous jobs. When you’ve written your resume in an accurate and detail-oriented fashion, defending it in an interview shouldn’t be difficult.