Resume Creep

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90.3 WBHM | Birmingham -- Okay – I confess! I am NOT sure that everything on my resume is correct. See, I’ve got a whole page listing journalism awards. And journalism awards are given one year for work done the previous year. Sometime over the last 17 years I lost track of whether I was listing awards by air date or award date. It’s now a frustrating mess that I have no hope of straightening out! Doug Hamilton feels my pain.

Doug Hamilton"Personally, my educational background is in education counseling, psychology. I’ve been in the marketing department of a major corporation for 14 years. I was in the ministry for about six years. So I’ve had several career changes.”

The job Hamilton has now is director of career services at Birmingham Southern College… meaning he counsels students and alumni about job searching and resume writing. Hamilton notes it’s getting tougher, especially for older alums. These days the average person has 8 to 10 different jobs during their life and two to three different career paths.

“You have to think back when you get as old as I am about what you did on the different jobs and make sure that chronologically everything is correct and you’re not confusing what you did at one place with what you might have done on another position. So the older you get and the more experience you have, the more likelihood there is that you could experience some confusion. Not intentionally…. But…”

It’s a concept my editor calls Resume Creep – not outright lying about accomplishments – like listing a college degree you don’t have like certain unnamed football coaches. But rather, unintentionally making mistakes – maybe it’s mis-remembering what months you worked a certain job several years ago.

Sherron Bienvenu Communications consultant Sherron Bienvenu says resume creep can actually start early – with that first resume drafted in college.

"And of course they can’t fill it up. They’ve got about a half a page. So they start trying to really describe things and really flesh them out. And so they may have done what we call a mini-internship where they’ve been somewhere for 2 weeks and that becomes “summer”, instead of mini-internship for 2 weeks. And so as we go on we want to make it more and more effective to get us the job we want, so we elaborate a little bit.”

Take language skills. When you graduated from college you may have been very proficient in Spanish, but 15 or 20 years later???

“Just because you know how to order a beer or find a restroom does not mean you’re fluent in a foreign language. “

Bienvenu should know. She teaches in the MBA program at the Helsinki School of Economics. Shel Horowitz is a professional resume writer in Amherst, Massachusetts. He came to professional resume writing in 1977, after years of trying to finesse his own resume – which included stints in food service, entertainment, and journalism – to name just a few. Horowitz says it’s important to check – and double-check – EVERYTHING on your resume.

Shel Horowitz“Most people know that it is so easy to check nowadays that if you put dates that are not accurate or if you say you have a degree that you didn’t have, people can find this out instantly.”

Horowitz says hiring a professional resume writer can sometimes help you ferret out potential Resume Creep problems… but if you don’t want to pony up the $60 an hour you can try a little confession in a resume or cover letter.

“I would say one way around that is to put language like – ‘to the best of my recollection.’”

To the best of my recollection that award from the American Medical Writers Association was for a story aired in 1998…. Just don’t hold me to it!

~Tanya Ott, December 30, 2004