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Is Your Resume Misleading?

We have all heard stories about job seekers caught lying on resumes. For most people, the consequences of fabricating aspects of your background are well understood. However, a much more widespread problem involves subtle, yet just as serious, forms of deception. This involves using vague and misleading language that gives the reader of a resume a false impression of a job seeker’s skills or background. Although the intentions behind these of errors of omission may be benign or unintentional, it results in frustration for recruiters, lost opportunities for job seekers, and sometimes even worse outcomes. A fine line exists between selectively presenting your background and being disingenuous to your reader. Avoid any misunderstandings by reviewing the five most common areas where this ambiguity occurs:

  1. Dates of Employment – Neglecting to specify months, especially with brief durations of employment, creates one of the most common sources of confusion. Stating “2003-2004” could imply “Dec 2003 – Jan 2004” or “Jan 2003 – Dec 2004.” This substantial difference has a significant impact in regards to your background, especially for more recent employment. A recent survey (Found Here ResumeDoctor) of recruiters and human resource professionals ranks this as the third worst resume blunder; so don’t expect to sneak this one by unnoticed.

  2. Education – Many problems arise listing incomplete degrees on a resume. For instance, writing "BS in Accounting 5/2006” does not sufficiently communicate that the degree is still in progress. At first glance, the reader may wrongly conclude that the degree is complete. For this information to be relevant to the hiring process, a job seeker must indicate their actual progress in the degree program by expressing it in terms of credit hours completed.

    Another education related area needing special attention involves degrees that were completed online. Many online degree programs are not recognized by the same organizations that accredit “bricks and mortar” institutions. In light of this, recruiters and hiring managers do not always regard “virtual schooling” as highly as traditional degree programs. Avoid confusion by clearly labeling any degrees as being earned “online,” because this information will be very relevant to your reader.

  3. Objectives – Nearly half of all resumes lead off with a job seeker’s desired career “objective.” However, it can be rather misleading when a job seeker states, “Seeking a growth-oriented position in pharmaceutical sales,” yet they have no prior background in either sales or the pharmaceutical industry. To avoid confusion, job seekers must focus on communicating their present-day skills and qualifications, not their future aspirations.

  4. Misleading Accomplishements – Often times, resumes cite accomplishments that more accurately pertain to a group of employees, rather than to the job seeker exclusively. For example, a job seeker may simply say, “Administered 1000 User Network,” when in fact they shared this responsibility with a team of employees. In these cases, further details are necessary to form an accurate understanding of the job seeker’s role in the company.

  5. Technical Expertise – Candidates from the technical arena often pack every technical acronym they have encountered into their resume. Unfortunately, lengthy lists of techno-jargon leave recruiters guessing about a job seeker’s proficiency with this technology. In addition, these lists tend to bury relevant skills amongst others that bear no relation to the job description. Instead, these details must be clearly listed in the context of where, when, and how they were used.

Remember, even the best intentioned job seeker may impart a false impression with their resume. Avert potential confusion and embarrassment by addressing these resume issues before problems occur.

-Michael Worthington provides resume-consulting services and free resume evaluations for job seekers in all industries at: ResumeEvaluation. also offers specialized job market expertise and content to media and employers. Phone: (802) 865-4243 Fax: (802) 860-2876