Remember the Friends episode where Phoebe discovers Joey’s resume is riddled with skills like tap dancing, archery and horseback riding, none of which he actually knows how to do? Joey’s reasoning for including the faux skills? He could technically do those things if he tried, just not well.
Like Joey, many job seekers elaborate parts of their resumes to make them seem like a better match for the position. In some ways, exaggerating your resume is a big no-no. However, there are certain aspects of your professional history that can and should be exaggerated a bit. We’ve laid out clearly the dos and don’ts of exaggerating on your resume to help guide you through the writing process.
Be straightforward about your professional history, but use a perspective that makes them as positive as possible. For example, if you fell short of a goal but still showed impressive gain, a statement like, “Increased sales by 20%” reflects much better than “Reached 20% of my 50% sales goal”. Never lie about your history, just figure out how to show it in the best light.
Applicant tracking systems have made the importance of specific wording a major part of resume writing. Now, hiring managers will search resumes based on the job title. For example, if you are applying for a job with the title “Social Media Coordinator” and your previous job title was “Social Media Expert”, it is acceptable (and advised) to use the title “Social Media Coordinator” for that position on your resume, as long as the job requirements for each match. If you feel more comfortable, you can put your exact previous title in parentheses beside the new one.
The number one sign of an ATS optimized resume is the use of relevant skills. Skills/keywords are the words that are used repeatedly in a job posting. These keywords might be specific programs like “Photoshop” or “Adobe Dreamweaver”, or skills like “Spanish fluency”. You should always pick out the keywords from each job posting and weave them into your resume–as long as they are truthful.
Dates of employment can accentuate gaps in work history, but that isn’t a reason to lie by extending them beyond your actual time of employment. Having periods of unemployment is hugely common and frequently seen by hiring managers, so you shouldn’t feel like you need to hide them. Include correct dates (which help the ATS sort your work history properly) and answer honestly any questions about the gaps in later interviews.
Sorry Joey! Claiming you have skills that you don’t will only get you into trouble later. Even if you land the job based on false skills, you’ll end up falling short of expectations early on. If none of the skills/keywords in the job posting apply to you, it might be a sign that the job isn’t the right fit for you. Move on to job postings with keywords that you can honestly mirror in your resume.
Education and Certifications
Unfortunately, there’s no wiggle room when it comes to education. For example, if a job position requires a bachelor’s degree and you have an associate’s degree, exaggerating is not an option. You can still apply if you think you’re a great match, but be honest about your level of education and let the hiring manager decide how much it matters. The same goes for certifications; be straightforward to avoid later issues.
Bending your work history to fit a job is not necessarily a bad tactic, as long as you know which pieces are tweak-able and which shouldn’t be messed with. Keep it honest and positive and your resume will end up landing you the perfect job.