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In the shadowy cottage industry of resume specialists – often called “resume doctors” – there is a tendency to be too cute by half.  In other words, to help candidates hide poor performance or a short tenure, or any number of other issues, they recommend certain resume writing strategies – tricks, actually – in hopes that their client will skate through the hiring process.

The truth is, the best you can hope for in using those types of strategies is to dodge elimination in the first interview – the resume review.  As the candidate screening process progresses, the old saying, “It is what it is,” will usually win out.  That is, if you have problems or issues in your career, you probably cannot hide them through the entire hiring process, so why try?  It only compromises your candidacy and sows seeds of doubt regarding your integrity.  In the end, it damages your brand.

Are there companies that are so bad at candidate screening and hiring that candidates with problems might be able to slip through?  Yes, surprisingly more than you might think.  But typically they are second-tier operations that are more about using people for short-term gain than empowering them for long-term reward.

Here are a few recent examples:  One candidate was told by a resume consultant to omit her address because a metropolitan company might not hire her if they knew she had a long commute.  In a recent CFO search, I saw four resumes with no address.  For good recruiters, that is, at best, a yellow flag and more likely a red one.  So why try to outfox the system and run the risk of being eliminated during resume review because of dodgy tactics?

Another candidate listed a PhD with the disclaimer, “all but dissertation” – he completed the coursework but not the writing and defense of the dissertation.  The implication was that this credential was pending.  No dates were listed in hopes that deliberate vagueness would lead the hiring authority to conclude that this candidate was better educated – more qualified – than the dozens of other applicants.  In fact, he completed the coursework 10 years prior, and was no longer eligible for the PhD.  In addition, a fellowship credential listed after his name had lapsed with his membership in a professional association 14 months prior.  These bits of sleight-of -hand led the recruiter to believe the candidate was less than truthful and the fact that he did not finish an otherwise challenging degree program suggested that he was not someone who could see a tough challenge through to completion.  This clever candidate, whose defense was that the lapsed credential was an oversight and that a resume consultant recommended listing the PhD as if it was going to be awarded, was eliminated.

In a highly competitive job market, I am amazed at how sloppy, careless and misleading some candidates can be.  Do they not understand these types of behavior will reflect badly on their career brand?

Quite often, the convoluted act of resume deceit or distraction is a bigger sin than what the candidate is trying to cover up.

To learn more about the Do’s and Don’ts of resume writing, read the JohnGSelf Resume Guide

© 2012 John Gregory Self