Monday, August 27, 2012

A good resume

Recent times have seen some distinguished CEOs and leaders biting the dust literally when some untruths were discovered in their resumes, a clear case of unnecessary padding. A few did not possess the qualifications they professed, some had not been to colleges they put in there. These are not run of the mill average Joe kind of people, they are in high offices and have shaped the future of many. It created news for a short while, and then everyone moved on relegating the tainted ones to oblivion.

To expand the team I recently started hiring fresh and experienced talent and was flooded with resumes. It was a task to navigate through pages of hundreds of eager professionals looking through spell check errors, acronyms that I have no clue what they mean, grammatical goof ups, and multiple formats that challenged me to find information in a maze game. These were not freshers, unexposed to corporate culture; they included experienced professionals with decade plus behind them.

I did not challenge the veracity of the information presented even in cases that stretched conventional wisdom, though annotating to explore further in the interview. I discovered that IT folks are largely truthful and sometimes too much; if they have been on a project that involved a leading edge technology, they will ensure it catches your attention. Only on digging deeper you realize that their role could have been just testing or documentation; or maybe peripheral and not technical or functional.

The conscientious mentioned every project, every assignment, and every new company even if they spent only a few months in each; though the interesting ones were the gaps which during the interview were explained in shy and embarrassing tones. They believed that if you join a company and realize that it was a mistake, don’t mention it; skip the experience that does not reflect well on your resume. No mal intent here, just that not always in interest of keeping an abridged and concise representation; just to put the best foot forward.

So how to get the real person out of a few pages of history including education, experience, achievements, personality, potential, technical skills, and what have you. There are umpteen reference websites that offer to teach the art of interviewing and getting the best out of the person sitting across the table, the potential candidate. The intent though not adversarial is to assess everything possible about the person in the typical less than an hour spent, lateral thinking and what not.

I am not sure if this would make sense, but it is not just the responses to the questions that help us in the selection process, there is a lot more. The first few minutes have already decided the way the interview goes; subconscious mind or body language, you already know if you will like the person. The resume and the detailed planning are then thus pointers to the discussion. I have rarely seen a situation where the candidate was able to swing it around though many did not live up to initial expectations.

Coming back to the moot point, why do people manipulate resumes ? Is it just to look better than who they are or a desperate urge to get something that is not rightfully theirs ? Is it misplaced self-esteem or belief of personal value ? I don’t know, everyone probably has different motivations; do they realize that in the end they are really undermining their integrity and the way people see them ? Or has the value system changed in a way that we are comfortable with little lies if they go unnoticed ?


  1. Very true points, Arun.
    As an executive recruiter for over a decade, I can confirm most of your observations as real.

    Gaps will always be exposed at some point, and embarassingly so at a later career level, when this can really make and break careers.
    Humility (in owning mistakes made in career moves), honesty (in not covering these up) and flexibility (to accept one's real market value) will easily enable a smooth transition to better careers.

    The problems cited by most jobseekers in applying this apporach are almost always concerned with their own fragile ego, not realising that career paths are a lot more fragile and difficult to repair once damaged.

    That's my two cents - a good article, once again.

  2. S Viswanathan12:41 PM

    Fully agree with your comments and a wonderful thought process. What I had observed over my years of experience, people try to sell themselves by resumes. Many times they themselves did not know what they have written as in most cases they seek professional writers. Humility and honesty are really missing.