The important lie you can (and often should) tell in your resume

It may sound counter-intuitive to suggest that you be dishonest in your resume. People have lost jobs even after years of successful service when it came out that they had fudged some of the details in their initial application.

Working relationships are built on trust. If it comes to light that you are not trustworthy, not honest, then that relationship is strained or broken. Whatever you put in writing has to be true.

With that being the case, what is the important lie you actually should tell in your resume? The lie of omission. Some people believe that your resume has to include every job they have ever held – or at least the most recent ones – all in chronological order.

That’s not the case. Choose the information that goes into your resume based on how well it sells your candidacy. For example, if you worked in a job ten years ago that is relevant to the kind of work you are applying for, then include it. If you’ve recently taken an unrelated job to pay some bills that doesn’t bolster your potential for getting hired, leave it out.

A few years ago, I took a job in telephone marketing. It wasn’t in my field of writing and editing, but they were hiring, and I had bills to pay. I discovered on my very first shift that it was mandatory for all staff to stand up and sing the ‘motivation song’ before getting on the phones.

So, I walked out. That very brief role has never been on my resume. Even if I had stayed on for a few months until an editorial position came available, I wouldn’t have listed it. I wouldn’t want potential employers to look at my most recent work experience and see telemarketing right off the top. That takes away from the relevant accomplishments I had genuinely achieved by that point. It could make me look like a bad fit.

If you’ve had a short stint on a job – particularly one that ended poorly – don’t put it on your resume. Even if you weren’t planning to use them as a reference, you never know who your potential employer might be connected to. They could still ask about your time there.

I would not have wanted future bosses to call the telemarketing firm to inquire about my brief employment there. I’m sure it would be noted that I had an attitude problem (refusing to sing the ‘motivation song’) and that I left them in a lurch (leaving when I was told it was mandatory.)

Your resume is a marketing document to position you as the best candidate for a job. Include just your most relevant work experience, skills, accomplishments, and credentials. If an employer asks a specific question about a specific period of time, answer honestly.

But when you are putting forward your candidacy and choosing which information to highlight, focus on your best stuff, and omit the rest.

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