When you’re job searching, you’re on a big self-promotional campaign. It’s all about marketing and your resume is your personal advertisement.
But that’s not where it ends. Your entire job transition should be strategic.
Pushing the envelope when it comes to job searching is a smart thing to do to give yourself every advantage you can get. However, there is a fine line that should never be crossed if you want to remain ethical.
I’ll show you how you can be strategic, push the envelope, but keep it safe.
Let’s start with your resume.
It’s important to remember that even though a resume is not a legal document, you’ll very likely get fired if you’re found out for lying on your resume. It’s happening left and right.
I’m sure you’ve seen all this talk in the news and in social media lately about lying on your resume. The bad economy seems to have pushed some people over the edge in trying to gain the upper hand over their competition.
So here’s where being strategic ends and being unethical begins: when you hope no one asks about it in an interview and finds out the truth behind your nifty creation.
Maybe not always.
Here’s an example from the gray area of resume writing:
You went to college but didn’t obtain your degree.
Do you pretend you finished it (you were so close…) or do you leave it off?
The strategic, smart way to deal with this on your resume is to list the college, the program, your major, etc. as you normally would. Simply add one sentence along the lines of “Completed majority of credits (or: coursework) towards …degree.” Or: “Completed xx credits …”
If you completed very few credits, you can write: “Completed coursework towards…. degree.”
Next, see if you can pad your education section with continuing education, professional courses, or anything else relevant. This looks so much better than not having an education section at all because you didn’t graduate.
It also allows you to slip in the word “Bachelor’s degree” (if that’s indeed what you were going for), so that your resume will still turn up when a company performs an automated search is for candidates with a degree.
Yes, they’ll quickly find out you didn’t obtain the degree. But at least you have a shot of winning them over by your strong positioning and personal branding in the first third of your resume.
Hopefully this section is powerful enough to get invited for an interview, and that’s the goal of a resume.
Another common area where it’s easy to cross the line is achievements. Does it really matter if you state that you “initiated and carried out project xyz” when you really just executed it?
Yes, it does!
And when some of your accomplishments were the result of team efforts, you should state so. Taking credit for other people’s work is soooo last century!
Lead off your achievement statement with the outcome, then add “..as part of 4-member implementation team.”
So these are just some examples with regard to your resume.
It gets trickier when networking and dealing with recruiters and hiring folks.
Sometimes, it may seem the easiest way out – or in, rather, to make something up, to exaggerate, or to flat out tell a lie. You think it’s not a big deal and no one will ever find out.
You never know who’s talking to whom. The world is shrinking with each social media network being launched. You could be burning bridges without even knowing it.
Here’s another example: It’s ok to step outside the beaten path of applying to online job postings to get yourself noticed by directly contacting an employer.
That’s pushing the envelope.
If you want to address your cover letter using the person’s actual name, it’s ok to uncover a hiring person’s name by calling up the company and asking the receptionist – even getting a little creative if you have to.
What is not ok? Calling and emailing repeatedly (being a pest), and when you do get a name, telling that person you were introduced through someone who doesn’t exist or whom you really don’t know.
See the difference?
Something else that’s not building you good job searching karma: telling one employer you’ve got several offers from others on the table when you don’t, just to pressure them into giving you what you want.
With all these scenarios, ask yourself this before you proceed:
What would Jesus/Buddha/Mohammed/Moses/your mother/your kids think of this?
Actually, scrap the kids. Depending on their age, they may derive devilish pleasure from mom’s or dad’s unruly actions. (Until their high-profile parent is found out and publicly discredited, that is…)
In summary: Don’t be afraid to push the envelope by thinking like a marketing person. Be creative, and tout your own horn. But make sure it’s all reality-based.
Often, in a sea of qualified applicants, it’s not so much what sets you apart in a positive way that gets you selected during the first rounds, but the ways other candidates make a fool of themselves that gets them eliminated.
Be among the first group of applicants!