If It’s Not You and It’s Not True, You’re Fooling Yourself

#careercollective

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken” Oscar Wilde

“Thanks so much!” said Jim as he prepared to leave my office with his new resume. “Oh there’s just one thing”, he whispered conspiratorially. “I guess I had better get a wife and three kids before my interview! Ha!”

Stunned, I stood there processing the fact that I’d been lied to as Jim took off down the road with a spring in his step, a cheery wave and a wink.

Thinking back, I had known in my heart something was wrong. I remembered that growing sense of disquiet I felt as Jim rattled off his widely diverse set of skills, credentials and career history.

It seemed as if Jim was one of those “been there, done that” kind of guys.

Drive a forklift? You bet!

Create a departmental budget? Sure!

Build? Present to executives? Lead teams? Tick Tick Tick!

It was the wink and the “wife and three kids” chuckle that prompted the penny to drop. Jim had been lying on his resume.

About everything? Some things? Who knew? Who ever knows the extent to which a person willing to deceive you once, will keep on going?

What I did know, was that I had been lied to and so had Jim’s next potential employer.

Jim had allowed himself to be tricked into a common job search blunder—modelling and shaping his resume and experience in a way that he thought people wanted to hear.

Instead of being truthful, he clearly believed that the truth wasn’t compelling enough for him to get a job; so he simply made up a new “truth”!

I suspect that Jim’s research had indicated that employers found family men, or a certain skillset or knowledge base the most attractive and so, he believed his best chance of employment was simply to claim those skills and attributes. Unfortunately for Jim as he would have no doubt found out eventually, the way to position himself as a valued employee, is through training and experience so that he could offer far more than just words.

One can only imagine the employer’s anger and sense of betrayal when hiring a forklift driver who couldn’t operate a forklift, a manager who struggled overseeing a budget, or a salesman who failed to invoke interest in a product.

Yes, Jim sure would have been in for a world of disappointment, and if he had been interviewed by a “pro” then his carefully constructed imaginary world would have come tumbling down in no time with just a few well thought-out behavioural-based questions.

The incident with Jim has rankled for years and comes to mind every time I have a client make grandiose claims. Having learned a lesson from this rookie mistake early in my career, my client job seekers are now questioned in-depth to find actual examples of their experience.

I smile now when I hear “Hmm… now that you mention it, I think you should leave this out, as I don’t really think that I did [personally bring in the largest account in company history / build the Sydney Harbour Bridge singlehandedly / change the world as we know it / or was instrumental in a multinational company expanding into China ]

The moral of this story is never fall into the trap of telling people what you think they want to hear, especially if your experience does not support it. What may follow your “little white lie” may end up being one of the worst and costly career and life mistakes you’ll make, if not through exposure at interview leading to your candidacy dismissed, then perhaps much, much later when you’re established in your career.

You don’t need April 1 to fall for an April Fools trick. You’re fooling yourself if you think that little white lie won’t return spectacularly to ruin your future and reputation.

I am a member of the Career Collective. A group of experienced career professionals who blog on specific topics every month. Look for our posts on Twitter #careercollective. Meantime, check out other member articles on this topic–links at the bottom of this article.

Please see other discussions on common job search blunders and possible solutions from Career Collective members below.

10 Ways to Tell if Your Job Search is a Joke, @careerealism

April Fool’s Day – Who’s Fooling Who?, @MartinBuckland @EliteResumes

Don’t Kid Yourself! (The Person You See in the Mirror is a Good Hire), @chandlee

Avoiding the Most Common Blunder, @jobhuntorg

Are you fooling yourself? Bored at work? Is it your own fault?, @keppie_careers

Hey, Job Seeker — Don’t Be a Fool!, @resumeservice

Job Search Is No Joking Matter,  @careersherpa

Is Your #Career in Recovery or Retreat? (All Joking Aside), @KCCareerCoach

9 Ways You Might Be Fooling Yourself About Your Job Search, @heatherhuhman

Don’t get tricked by these 3 job search blunders, @LaurieBerenson

Trying to hard to be nobody’s fool?,  @WorkWithIllness

It’s not all about you, @DawnBugni

Mirror ‘their’ needs, not ‘your’ wants in #jobsearch, @ValueIntoWords

Stop Fooling Yourself about your Job Hunt: Things you may be doing to sabotage yourself – @erinkennedycprw

Same as it ever was – @walterakana

Don’t be fooled. Avoid these – @kat_hansen

Job Seekers: You Are Fooling Yourself If...@barbarasafani

56 Comments

  1. Miriam Salpeter, Keppie Career

    Gayle –
    It it amazing that some job seekers believe trying to deceive employers is a best bet. How true that even the smallest fib can be career ending, or at the very least leave a deficit in trust that can never be replaced.

    You reap what you sow…True in job search and everything else!

    Reply
  2. Miriam Salpeter, Keppie Careers

    Gayle –
    It it amazing that some job seekers believe trying to deceive employers is a best bet. How true that even the smallest fib can be career ending, or at the very least leave a deficit in trust that can never be replaced.

    You reap what you sow…True in job search and everything else!

    Reply
  3. career sherpa

    Gayle:
    Your story telling is a gift! Thank you for sharing this example so that we can all better understand how “exaggerating” is so harmful. It makes me think…this is why employers are so reluctant to hire a new person, they don’t really know what they are getting until they show up on the job.

    PS. I chuckle when I read your tweets. You are one of the few streams I can watch early in the morning (due to our time difference). I’ll say “hi” next time so you know I’m listening!

    Reply
  4. career sherpa

    Gayle:
    Your story telling is a gift! Thank you for sharing this example so that we can all better understand how “exaggerating” is so harmful. It makes me think…this is why employers are so reluctant to hire a new person, they don’t really know what they are getting until they show up on the job.

    PS. I chuckle when I read your tweets. You are one of the few streams I can watch early in the morning (due to our time difference). I’ll say “hi” next time so you know I’m listening!

    Reply
  5. topsy_top20k

    Updated my blog! If It’s Not You and It’s Not True, You’re Fooling Yourself: .. http://bit.ly/ao2r15

    Reply
  6. topsy_top20k

    Updated my blog! If It’s Not You and It’s Not True, You’re Fooling Yourself: .. http://bit.ly/ao2r15

    Reply
  7. Craig William

    RT @phyllismufson: RT @KCCareerCoach: RT @GayleHoward: If It's Not You and It's Not True, You're Fooling Yourself http://bit.ly/aDSx3C # …

    Reply
  8. Craig William

    RT @phyllismufson: RT @KCCareerCoach: RT @GayleHoward: If It's Not You and It's Not True, You're Fooling Yourself http://bit.ly/aDSx3C # …

    Reply
  9. Kathy Bitschenauer

    Hi, Gayle,

    I love this post. Your story illustrates so clearly the dangers of believing one won’t be found out, when in reality it will surely happen–what goes around comes around. I used to do substitute teaching, and encountered the same problem with student assignments with taking the lazy way out: “It won’t matter; I just want to get it done.” Or, cheating on quizzes and tests.

    Your solution is spot on: question everything, question until you are satisfied the client is telling the truth…the WHOLE truth.

    Cheers!

    ~Kathy

    Reply
  10. Kathy Bitschenauer

    Hi, Gayle,

    I love this post. Your story illustrates so clearly the dangers of believing one won’t be found out, when in reality it will surely happen–what goes around comes around. I used to do substitute teaching, and encountered the same problem with student assignments with taking the lazy way out: “It won’t matter; I just want to get it done.” Or, cheating on quizzes and tests.

    Your solution is spot on: question everything, question until you are satisfied the client is telling the truth…the WHOLE truth.

    Cheers!

    ~Kathy

    Reply
  11. WalterAkana

    Hi Gayle! Clearly a cautionary tale, with a clear moral! Still, I think that the lesson is even more far-reaching than what you represent on your resume and during interviews. Frankly, I think that personal clarity and transparency will only grow in importance, not only for career management, but also for overall satisfaction on life. While it may seem convenient to be someone else, better to face up to that challenge (and satisfaction) of owning *your* life!

    Reply
  12. WalterAkana

    Hi Gayle! Clearly a cautionary tale, with a clear moral! Still, I think that the lesson is even more far-reaching than what you represent on your resume and during interviews. Frankly, I think that personal clarity and transparency will only grow in importance, not only for career management, but also for overall satisfaction on life. While it may seem convenient to be someone else, better to face up to that challenge (and satisfaction) of owning *your* life!

    Reply
  13. Chandlee Bryan

    Gayle,

    What great perspective and needed wisdom for job seekers. I’ve heard many people say they feel they need to be “all things to all people” in the job search process…Agree with you that trying to be so is a huge mistake, and that being honest about what you can and can’t do is essential in the job search process.

    One of the areas where I see this most is in cover letters. In fact, in reading a letter with too many “I can dos”–I generally stop and count the “I statements” than recommend a rewrite that incorporates the employer as well.

    Being clear on who you are and aren’t is just as important as knowing what you want and don’t. After all, once hired you will be expected to show up for up to 80 hours a week–and it’s important that people know what they are getting.

    All the Best,
    Chandlee

    Reply
  14. Chandlee Bryan

    Gayle,

    What great perspective and needed wisdom for job seekers. I’ve heard many people say they feel they need to be “all things to all people” in the job search process…Agree with you that trying to be so is a huge mistake, and that being honest about what you can and can’t do is essential in the job search process.

    One of the areas where I see this most is in cover letters. In fact, in reading a letter with too many “I can dos”–I generally stop and count the “I statements” than recommend a rewrite that incorporates the employer as well.

    Being clear on who you are and aren’t is just as important as knowing what you want and don’t. After all, once hired you will be expected to show up for up to 80 hours a week–and it’s important that people know what they are getting.

    All the Best,
    Chandlee

    Reply
  15. Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter

    Gayle,
    What a thoughtful post! I like how you mention how you now ferret out the ‘truth’ via your deep questioning process.

    It is human nature to trust until someone breaks our trust. In resume development, interviewing and any of the job search steps it’s imperative that the foundation of truth not be cracked. Deceit has a ripple effect on not only the job seeker but those whose path he crosses.

    Thanks for your absorbing and telling story!

    Jacqui

    Reply
  16. Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter

    Gayle,
    What a thoughtful post! I like how you mention how you now ferret out the ‘truth’ via your deep questioning process.

    It is human nature to trust until someone breaks our trust. In resume development, interviewing and any of the job search steps it’s imperative that the foundation of truth not be cracked. Deceit has a ripple effect on not only the job seeker but those whose path he crosses.

    Thanks for your absorbing and telling story!

    Jacqui

    Reply
  17. Susan P Joyce

    Wow! This post should be required reading for every job seeker! It’s so tempting to exaggerate a bit, particularly when trying to land a job that’s not really a good fit. Thank you!

    Reply
  18. Susan P Joyce

    Wow! This post should be required reading for every job seeker! It’s so tempting to exaggerate a bit, particularly when trying to land a job that’s not really a good fit. Thank you!

    Reply
  19. Rosalind Joffe

    RT @resumeservice: #jobseeker If It’s Not u & It’s Not True,You’re Fooling Yourself by @GayleHoward – http://bit.ly/dCe2Ww #careercollective

    Reply
  20. Rosalind Joffe

    RT @resumeservice: #jobseeker If It’s Not u & It’s Not True,You’re Fooling Yourself by @GayleHoward – http://bit.ly/dCe2Ww #careercollective

    Reply
  21. Rosa Elizabeth Vargas

    Love this post Gayle. You tell so well. It was entertaining and also quite frustrating.
    Job seekers, don’t lie on your resume! It will catch up with you eventually.

    Reply
  22. Rosa Elizabeth Vargas

    Love this post Gayle. You tell so well. It was entertaining and also quite frustrating.
    Job seekers, don’t lie on your resume! It will catch up with you eventually.

    Reply
  23. Susan P. Joyce

    RT @resumeservice: #jobseeker – If It’s Not You and It’s Not True, You’re Fooling Yourself by @GayleHoward – http://bit.ly/dCe2Ww #careercollective

    Reply
  24. Susan P. Joyce

    RT @resumeservice: #jobseeker – If It’s Not You and It’s Not True, You’re Fooling Yourself by @GayleHoward – http://bit.ly/dCe2Ww #careercollective

    Reply
  25. Sidney Johnson

    RT @resumeservice: #jobseeker – If It’s Not You and It’s Not True, You’re Fooling Yourself by @GayleHoward – http://bit.ly/dCe2Ww #caree …

    Reply
  26. Sidney Johnson

    RT @resumeservice: #jobseeker – If It’s Not You and It’s Not True, You’re Fooling Yourself by @GayleHoward – http://bit.ly/dCe2Ww #caree …

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

About Gayle Howard

If you are interested in working with Gayle Howard—an executive resume writer, Certified Master Resume Writer, multi-award-winning resume writer, and Master LinkedIn profile writer, drop her a line now using the contact form at the link above. Gayle can help you get interviews for your dream job and bring the world of business to you by maximizing your exposure and connections on LinkedIn.