3 Warning Signs of an Exaggerated Resume

If you are responsible for building and leading a team, you have looked at resumes. The number of resumes submitted for a particular role can be overwhelming. Typically leaders make a first pass, or rely on someone else to make a first pass, to toss some resumes to simply narrow the number down to a manageable size. This is why the college professor who heralded formatting, grammar, and one very legible font was absolutely right. Some resumes never even get read.

There is still more narrowing to be done. Surely leaders apply a variety of filters, based on what they are looking for, but a common filter for me is exaggeration. Exaggerated resumes get tossed. Many have advised that the goal of a resume is to get an interview, so I get how the candidate wants to present himself/herself well, but I feel exaggeration could point to insecurity, dishonesty, misrepresentation, or desperation. Of course, I could be wrong, and I may have tossed out some great candidates. But this is the narrowing phase, and exaggeration is simply a filter. So what stands out when the resume is exaggerated?

1. Percentages that overstate

Imagine a niche of work (product, brand, department, etc.) that has grown from 12K in sales to 72K in sales over several years. If the person puts on the resume: “Explosive growth of 600%” without noting that the 600% is simultaneously only 60K, the person is using an accurate percentage to overstate impact.

2. Too many adjectives

I want to read adjectives that describe a candidate, as I want to get a sense of personality. But too many adjectives on every single line on the resume is overwhelming. And what exactly does it mean that one “genuinely and skillfully led a team to creatively and systematically solve monumental problems through visionary, inspirational, and highly detailed leadership”? What problems? And how were you both visionary and highly detailed?

3. Over-use of buzz words

“Provides scalable growth through targeted social listening and lead generation, omni-channel synergy, agile methodology, and six sigma lean thinking while ensuring GAAP compliance.” That one statement emphasizes expertise in marketing, channels, technology development, process management, and finance. None of us are experts in every discipline, so when a resume contains buzzwords from a plethora of disciplines, I think the person is likely a poser who is applying for any and all jobs.

Don’t use percentages to overstate impact. Don’t use too many adjectives in hopes of appealing to everybody. State who you are so you draw attention for the right role. And don’t try to give the sense you are an expert in everything.