Updated: Aug 27
In an effort to make yourself look like a more impressive candidate, you may be tempted to exaggerate a thing or two when writing your resume.
You might think that no one will find out if you tell a little fib here, or a little white lie there. However, it could end up costing you the position and your professional reputation.
It may seem tempting to claim that you have experience with a given task, or to say that you've taken a certain course when in fact you haven't. However, whenever these thoughts cross your mind, you should do yourself a favor and ignore them.
Of all the things that you could lie about though, there are three that you shouldn't ever, for the simple reason that your incompetence will quickly become apparent.
When you're scanning the job ad and you see that advanced expertise in Microsoft Excel is required, what do you do?
As a time-to-time user of Excel, you might think that there's little harm in listing yourself as an advanced user. If you get the job, you'll dust off those rusty skills and quickly take an online course or two.
Bad Idea. Advanced skill in programs like Excel takes time to learn and master (and Excel is one of the easier programs out there). Your little fib will become big fat whopper and all you'll end up doing is wasting the recruiter's time as well as your own.
When recruiters list any given skill on a job ad as a requisite, they're doing so for a reason. While they may be willing to train the right applicant, they may also prefer not to spend that time and would rather hire someone with the pre-existing skillset. Telling them you can create pivot tables and create VBA scripts in Excel when you really can't will only hurt you moving forward.
And by field skills, I mean those abilities that you use to get the job done, that may either be specific to your field (i.e. ability to properly log and classify soil if you're a geologist) or transferrable (i.e. project management).
If we're talking about project management, perhaps you've supported former managers during the execution of a project.
However, supporting a project and managing it are two very different things and you could up costing your prospective employer a lot of time and money. Because of this, don't list project management, or any other ability, on your resume unless it's something you currently do and are comfortable with.
Just because you 've eaten at a restaurant, it doesn't mean you're an expert in the hospitality industry. When recruiters ask if you have experience in a certain industry, they're not asking if you're familiar with it, rather, have you actually worked in that industry for any notable period of time.
This becomes especially important if you're applying to young startups that are looking for leaders that have expertise in certain industries and can guide that in the proper direction.
For example, the company you've applied to may need someone with experience gearing their product marketing campaign to a certain demographic audience or geographic market. Lying about your expertise in this industry will not only reflect poorly on you, but it could end up costing the business significantly.
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About the Author
James Cooper is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and has been in the recruiting, career coaching, and writing business for almost 14 years. He began his career recruiting for AECOM, a Canadian engineering firm, and he's gone on to work with and help professionals land roles at top Fortune 500 companies.
Have questions about resume writing? Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.