Is it ever okay to lie on your resume?

"Pressure is mounting on Yahoo Inc.'s YHOO -1.62% board after revelations that the Internet company's recently hired chief executive's academic record was misstated."

So begins a May 5th, 2012 article from The Wall Street Journal headlined "Resume Trips Up New Yahoo Chief." Its topic, of a discrepancy between the CEO's actual academic record and the one cited in his resume, begs the question "Is it ever okay to lie on your resume?"

My unequivocal answer, with no possible "ifs," and not even one "but," is a resounding and firm NO.

I have had the odd client whose resume contained a half-truth, for example, a cited degree that the client admitted was incomplete. Some had three years out of four complete, but others had just a course or two towards the degree. As soon as something like this comes to light, I amend it to reflect the actual, not the fantasy version.

And, I had one client who had been fired and who insisted that she must lie in interviews to land her next job. Try as I might, I could not get her to change her mind. I shared my own story of being fired (not for cause) from a job, and going on to land the best job I had ever held - and one I held for the longest of any job I've ever had, a full seven years. Being fired turned into good luck - more pay, great benefits and the best of all - I met my husband of 12 years at that job!

There are strategies to overcome these "perceived obstacles." Do the strategies work 100% of the time? No - who could claim that anything works without fail in all circumstances? An impossibility. But these strategies have a good success rate, and are much better than lying.

And much, much better than having to suffer the scrutiny of the fellow above, whose resume claims he has a degree in computer technology when his university says they didn't even have that degree back then. Ouch.

Resume and strategy connection

How do you define the word "strategy"? The simplest definition I found is "A plan of action designed to achieve a goal." Sounds pretty simple, and yet, it seems that few know how to actually apply this, put it into real, concrete, definable terms, when it comes to writing a strategic resume.

I always use strategy when writing resumes, otherwise I am not confident of its effectiveness in attracting attention. Can I explain the use of strategy easily? No. But, I can provide an example!

A potential client came to me today, asking for help with a resume geared to acceptance into a post-graduate HR Management course. (Community colleges don't always accept an unlimited number of course applicants; they pick and choose according to specific criteria.)

This applicant's existing resume was pretty standard. A summary of qualifications that listed mainly soft skills, which are not terribly effective, and a list of typical job-related bullets. "Practiced costumer (sic) service skills by greeting, seating and serving guests," "Maintained cleanliness of a restaurant environment." But how would these statements prove she will be effective in HR? Why would the college consider this applicant?

I suggested that this applicant must revamp her resume to focus on skills related to a typical HR role. Some of these would be a healthy respect for policies and procedures, for managing people-related issues, for interpreting policies and figuring out how to apply them in unusual situation. Other related info could include working in (and thus familiarity with) a unionized environment, conducting training in Point of Sale or other technology as well as in workplace expectations.

That's how you apply strategy to a resume's content. Now, if she wanted to run a restaurant, then yes, she could talk about serving guests.

How about you? Are you struggling with how to align your resume with your dream job's requirements? New Leaf Resume is available to help. Working to your career success, Stephanie