These times can be scary for those students who are looking to enter the workforce. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reported a 7% decrease in the number of new grads that employers are forecasting to hire for the college class of 2010. The job search can be quite challenging, and even more so during especially tough economic times, and such factors can create an environment where it can be tempting to overstate what you can do on your resume.
My take is: Resist the temptation.
What does temptation have to do with your job search?
The job search for many involves a series of targeted self marketing campaigns. I understand that you may feel tempted to “spruce up” your resume and cover letter.
With hiring freezes, budget cuts, and layoffs still all around us, people can start to feel desperate. Employers know that students and job seekers are going to be trying new and sometimes questionable tactics to get a job, so they are being more diligent in their scrutiny of candidates.
What happens when you overstate your claims?
It is easy to get caught in the trap of wanting to make yourself look better on your resume. Some examples of what students might do to embellish their skills and accomplishments include:
- rounding up your gpa from a 2.8 to a 3.0
- saying that you are fluent in Spanish when you have taken only four semesters
- claiming that you are proficient in a programming language like CSS when you have designed just one project
- stating that you have been a supervisor for 3 years when you were recently promoted from your previous position of 2 1/2 years as a sales associate
When you exaggerate and overstate your claims, you are:
- Wasting people’s time (because you have told an employer you can do a task involving a special skill set that you actually can’t do)
- Risking your reputation
- Risking your school or department’s reputation
- Taking a risk of getting caught
Why you shouldn’t do it
1. People talk – If you are dishonest on your resume and it shines through during the process, assume that everyone within that hiring manager’s network is aware of your name and what you did.
2. Don’t get in over your head – If you did somehow manage to land a job based on misstatements of your skills, what are you going to do when you can’t meet the demands of the job?
3. You don’t need to – If you are an undergrad college student or a soon to be graduate, you have things going for you:
- Concentrate on opportunities for accomplishments and to showcase your strengths – This can be done through internships, service learning, study abroad, volunteer/part-time work, class projects, campus activities, student organizations, relevant coursework, and technical skills.
- Focus on developing and improving transferable skills – Examples are communication, teamwork, ability to prioritize, ability to meet deadlines, experience working with diverse people, and so on.
- Be sure to take advantage of any available resources – Examples include networking through family and friends, university career center assistance, professors, job fairs, and anything else you can think of.
The best policy is to honestly state your strengths and values as they relate to a job description. It’s all about finding the right match for both yourself and the employer.