“White Lies” On A Resume Can Be Toxic
It is a mistake to misrepresent information or try to hide anything on your resume. The sole purpose of a resume is to get an interview. Inevitably, any “little white lies” will be discovered during the interview process. They will no longer be considered “little white lies” but rather an indictment of your integrity and honesty. The result is you will be disqualified from further consideration. Good companies hire the best people based on an interview, not on their resume. You need to be prepared to address any issues with clarity and humility.
Checkered Work History
If you have changed jobs more often that you would have liked, you must be prepared to have a frank discussion about exactly what happened. In today’s market, many very capable executives have been victimized by consolidations, mergers, divestitures, new owners, new bosses and other conditions out their control. If you made a mistake along the way, own up to it. Address what you learned from it. Your explanations need to be reasonable and understandable. You are always better off including all of your past experience. If not, there is a better than average chance that when references are checked or hiring managers use their personal contacts to verify what you have claimed, you will be discovered. Then it’s too late to recover. Every job shapes you and defines your experience and should be included. Always ensure that your LinkedIn profile and your resume have the same information. It will also be checked.
Sadly, some career counselors encourage an older job seeker to shape the resume to hide all evidence of age. They are told to not include work experience beyond 10 to 15 years from the present, including dates of schooling. This is a colossal mistake. Within one minute of interviewing, the truth about age comes out. Then the interview becomes more about what else you are hiding. If a company has an unspoken age bias, then why would you want to work there anyhow? It would not be a good fit. In today’s job market, more companies are hiring executives in their 60’s because it’s good for business. No training, onboarding or politicking is ever involved and they typically have a seasoned person to mentor the next generation who are happy to do it. The appropriate way to present experience beyond the past 3 positions, or 15 to 20 years, is to have a line item to summarize “early career” and list companies, titles and dates. Always show the date you graduated, otherwise it is an immediate red flag that you are hiding your age.
Credibility and Integrity
Your resume communicates your responsibilities and accomplishments shaping your skills and experience. The companies you worked for, the dates, your salary, your education and what you have included on your resume are all things that can be readily checked for accuracy. If anything is contradicted, your credibility is gone.
The most important element of hiring is always the “chemistry” or fit with the organization. Fundamentally, companies require absolute truthfulness and honesty from every employee. If they discover that you can’t be trusted to tell the truth, they won’t hire you. Your integrity should never be compromised by omitting anything from your resume or on an application.
Honesty is the best policy. There really is no such thing as a “white lie”. There is only truth. We are all accountable for the career decisions we make and should be prepared to discuss them. Whether it was a situation beyond your control or a bad “fit”, it is still your responsibility to own it. The fact of the matter is that if a company doesn’t want to hire a more senior person or one with too many jobs, then there is little you can do about it. More importantly, this probably helps you avoid another bad “fit”. You always want to find the best “fit” where you are accepted and hired for who you are and what you can contribute.
Bob Harrington Associates has been in the executive search business since 1994 and can help you find the best people for your organization.
Bob Harrington CPC
Bob Harrington Associates