“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
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
Same as it ever was – @walterakana
Don’t be fooled. Avoid these – @kat_hansen
Job Seekers: You Are Fooling Yourself If...@barbarasafani