The Greatest Resume Mistake

Every year, I see resumes from students and recent grads who try to "stretch the truth" in order to sound more desirable on paper. Resume inflation. This lack of honesty, when discovered, instantly disqualifies that person from further consideration. Corporate Recruiters are paid to screen people out, and the quickest and surest way a candidate is screened out is when a "white lie" (it is still a lie, white or black) or exaggeration is found.

A recent graduate attempted to show experience in a computer language by placing it on his resume. He packed his resume with keywords. It generated some initial calls, but it also generated quick rejections when it became apparent that he did not really have a foundational understanding of the language. Doors were shut (very hard, I might add) which could have otherwise been open to him.

This is especially important when considering keywords for inclusion in your resume. Before you add a keyword, you need to ask yourself if you have sufficient skills to work with that specific keyword. If not, do not include it.

As you build your resume content, ask yourself: "Do I have a level of proficiency in using this specific keyword?" If not, do not include it. Any practiced interviewer will be able to dig into the details of a specific keyword to find out if you have a level of proficiency or not.

That does not mean you have to be fully proficient to include it on your resume. Perhaps you have only taken a class and have not, outside of that class, put that keyword into use in the workplace. This is to be expected for entry level resumes, much of the experience will be academic in nature.

So the key is whether or not you could pass a base level proficiency exam on that topic or keyword. If yes, you can include it. If not, do not. You are wasting your time and the employer's time. Having your resume come up in searches for keywords for which you do not have a level of basic proficiency could exclude you from future opportunities with that employer.

Remember, the resume is not a work of fiction. While it should emphasize the positive, it should never emphasize what does not exist.