Ethics and Resume Writing

It is critical that all information reported on the document is accurate and something you can back up with facts if questioned.

A resume is a marketing tool and I encourage job seekers to position their accomplishments in the best possible light. However, it is critical that all information reported on the document is accurate and something you can back up with facts if questioned. Here are some of the ways I see job candidates crossing the line of ethical resume writing practices and some suggestions for creating a more authentic presentation of your qualifications.

Claiming full ownership of a project
Our accomplishments are often achieved as part of a team effort. Never claim full ownership of a large-scale initiative if the results should be attributed to the team. Use phrases like “as part of a team,” “co-producer” or “co-author,” to clearly communicate your value without misrepresenting your achievements.

Tweaking a job title
If you were in a director role, don’t state that you were the SVP. However, if your job title was not truly representative of your responsibilities, consider putting an alternative title in parenthesis.

Fudging dates
Don’t alter dates to make a gap look shorter. Most hiring authorities are interested in the number of years you were employed at an organization, not the months and days. So consider only using years to record your chronology, but be prepared to discuss the exact dates if asked. If the gap spans a year or more, create a clear explanation of what you were doing during that time period right on the resume. For example if you were caring for your children or a sick parent, be transparent and say that on the resume.

Exaggerating results
Never make up business results assuming no one will be able to validate them. Though you must have exact figures in order to mention an accomplishment on the resume, you must be able to back up any information you write on your resume with proof. It is fine to show results with approximate dollars, percentages or numbers as long as you can have a discussion around how these results were achieved. The goal is to show impact, not statistics. For example, if you know you used to spend at least four hours per week on a particular task and then you automated the process so it is now done in the click of a button, it is fine to say that you decreased time spent on this task by four hours, or that you virtually eliminated the time spent on this task.

Listing a degree you never earned
Information on degrees is pretty easy to verify. If you attended college but didn’t graduate, list the course of study, school name and location, but leave the degree off.

Putting jargon on your resume you can’t support
If you have added keywords to your resume to describe your competencies, make sure you know the meaning of those keywords and can explain them during an interview. Don’t just copy them from a job posting or someone else’s resume because they “sound good.” You will compromise your credibility with the hiring authority if you can’t speak to everything on your resume.