Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The First Honest Resume

The standard resume helps neither the candidate nor employer to find the right match:
  • Job seekers, often with the help of a resume-writing whore, excise or put makeup on their warts and pad their accomplishments more than a flat-chested hooker pads her bra.
  • Employers are routinely deceived by resumes and at minimum learn little about what the candidate is really like. That's also true of job interviews but I'll save that for another post.
Wouldn't a candidate be more likely to be hooked up with his or her right employer if, for example:
  • She said she's not a "team player who delights in exceeding customer expectations." Rather, she's motivated by meaningful projects that require her to work by herself, and her resume included a quote from her last performance appraisal that indicates that.
  • Rather than saying how fascinated he is with the company's widget, he said he doesn't care either way about the widget. He cares mainly that he's working with smart, ethical people and that he gets moderately difficult projects in moderate quantity.
  • Rather than saying she left her position because the company changed direction, she said she got fired from her job because she couldn't stand her boss who insisted on micromanaging her even though he had half her IQ. She included a quote from her co-worker that attests to that.
  • Rather than saying, "I'm open to new opportunities," he said, "After three years of sitting in front of a computer all day I've had enough of that, I'm eager to use my people skills."
  • Instead of filling her resume's employment gap with a series of BS consulting assignments, she said she took two years off to care for her new baby. (Bosses unsympathetic to hiring mommy-track employees will rarely give parents the flexibility and lower workload that involved parents often want.)
  • Rather than hiding that he's 60 years old and weighs 300 pounds, he includes a current photo with his application. If the employer doesn't want an old fatty, s/he won't give him the job anyway. The employer would have wasted his time and an interview slot and the job seeker will have wasted the time and energy to prep, go to and through the interview. The right employer will be impressed with that applicant's integrity.
I am well aware that many employers will reject an honest resume but if you send out enough of them, the right employer for you will be more interested in you than someone who falsely claims to be a "team player and a dynamic self-starter who delights in exceeding customer expectations."


Jeffrie said...

I, for one, would love honesty all around, from potential employers and potential employees. Both sides are selling instead of really determining good fit, so all the surprises, sometimes unpleasant ones, don't emerge until later. Meanwhile, the best applicant may have gotten away, or the job seeker might have been better off holding out for one more week.

But the game of selling ourselves will continue, because we're attracted by the right appearance, and if that's all we have to present, that's all we'll have to use in making such a big decision.

Jerry Autry said...

Marty, ordinarily I don't respond to articles, blogs, etc. I enjoy your long posting, sent to me by my nephew herein NC. I liked the article. Part of it seemed to almost be BS but then again, it is life. I agree with you on much and think merely we need to keep fighting about such issues as you're talking about. And, if people don't like it, f...'em.

It is also obvious to me that you need a bunch of old guys to hang out with who will always tell it like it is. Guys who have no agendas. We hang out at La Boulange in Strawberry a couple of times a week and then at Cafe Trea in San Rafael.

Jeff Shore said...

The way most managers are trained by their own HR departments, this would be (alas) a recipe for disaster.

Marty, what do you think about video resume's, just a couple of minutes that show the hiring manager that you a) have a personality, and b) take initiative?

Marty Nemko said...

Of course, as I wrote, many hiring managers will not be open to candor in a resume--they're too steeped in the game, either because they were trained or just been in the silly game too long. But, especially, with a cover letter explaining that you're trying to break with convention and be honest, if (as I wrote), you send out enough resumes, the right one will say yes, and I'd argue you'll generally get a job more quickly than with the usual look-alike, sound-alike- B.S-feeling resume.

Re video resumes, if you one of the minority of people who can come off well on video, yes, it's a plus. But it's an art to come off well, and we're used to seeing TV pros on video so if we see someone less TV-savvy than that, we could be turned off.

Marty Nemko said...


It's funny, after reading your suggestion, I found myself resisting. Why? Maybe I just want to claim superiority but don't really want to engage. After all, I don't seek people out. I spend discretionary time writing, reading, walking my dog, etc.

Cornhusker said...

You are afraid of men with beer guts who are straight-shooters.

Anonymous said...

curious why the blog seems directly only towards jobs requiring resume's. Do the blue collar folks not rate good job hunting advice? There are probably just as many jobs requiring just an application.

Sometimes I wonder if office drones of this world realize that there is a whole other way out there to make a living.

Many of us find office jobs souless and unfulfilling. There's a reason people have to include such BS in their resume's. Maybe "with-it" employers aren't collecting resumes at all.

When we stop treating other kinds of work like it's beneath us, we might find more people going into fields they enjoy, rather than just what society expects.

I sweat all day and make a lot more per hour than most of my customers. They have no clue, though.

Marty Nemko said...


I have great respect for working class people: they work with no prestige and often little pay, and literally or figuratively break their backs.

While I worked with very low income kids when I left the research lab to be a good liberal--as a teacher in the inner city, but I have little experience as a career coach working with people who don't have to submit a resume for a job.

ST said...

I already commented in the college graduate glut/IQ testing for jobs post, but I wish for a day when people could demonstrate their talents and skills in the interview (blue or white collar). Maybe they already do some what in blue, but I don't know.

God knows why the resume ever took hold, but being cynical, I think it's their laziness (and in their minds cost effectiveness, and way they were trained/required to to it, etc.), that prevents them from doing an intelligent candidate search.

This goes for the ubiquitous "status report" too. God help me, if managers would just manage, they would know in general what their people were working on. I remember one job where I spent the entire Friday morning on THE status report, because my manager would need my stuff, then he'd reformat it for his manager. It would go around and around for awhile until maybe by lunch we'd get it done.

Fortunately, my current boss, while not NOT requiring one, he doesn't enforce it, and he does know what I work on, so he just puts it in his report to his boss. He does have a point, that it does serve as sort of a diary to major accomplishments and projects and can be used for the ....

... (now) quarterly performance review! I won't even get going on that! The semi annual review was bad enough. No one ever liked the annual either.

I have your "shortest management course" printed out and taped in my cube ("Create vision, inspire vision, don't micromanage, fire bad quickly, take time to hire great employees").

Maureen Nelson said...

Seems to me, it goes both ways: Some very good people are held back by their crappy resumes. Resume writers merely eliminate barriers and smooth the way for the good people.

It's the same question as, "Which is the best criminal justice model: Crime Control or Due Process?"
One will inadvertently imprison innocents while the other will inadvertently release some of the guilty.

The people who go to resume writers are already self-selecting. They're motivated enough to go to a resume writer. Not everyone does that.

BTW, keep in mind that some people come to me with resumes that have great content but look ugly. I'm working with a woman now who's extremely talented and accomplished in a lot of areas; her resume was even structured as Challenge-Action-Result all the way through, but it was too crowded. I thinned it out for her and now recruiters rave about her resume. Sometimes it's a matter of chipping away to reveal David.

Marty Nemko said...


So you made a resume look prettier. Is that a justification for resume writing as a career? Whether you're putting lipstick on a pig or a prince, it's helping someone to sell sizzle rather than steak, giving her or him and edge over someone with more steak and less sizzle.

And that's the most benign example you gave. When you do make an inferior candidate look better than they are--which is a most frequent scenario--you really are making it more likely that a good candidate gets turned down in favor of an inferior one. That is unfair to the better candidate, to the employer, and indirectly to society.

And with regard to the argument that the people who self-select to see a resume writer are already a better-than-average group because they made the effort to seek out a resume writer, that's a weak argument. It takes little effort to seek out a resume writer, a lot less effort than to write their own resume. To me, it self-selects for laziness and for inability to write their own resume.

Anonymous said...

I can read my wife's resume and not be able to tell what the heck she does for a living. That pretty much sums up my opinion of resumes as an employment tool. I was a personnel director for a small business in a previous life. They're a joke.

My earlier point about resumes is that while I have had management jobs and now am self employed, I am continually dismayed at how little value seems to be put on the good blue collar positions out there. Our society simply does not value that sort of "work". Parents consider themselves failures if little Johnny goes that route. I earn about $60/hour in my business, have the nice home, sports car, vacations, etc. But my mother for years would still try to prod me into getting a "job". I know self employed HVAC guys and electricians who make $90/hour but they're still treated like retards socially by nitwits with community college degrees wearing dockers and sitting in a cubicle all day for $50K a year. I'd like to see America get back to valuing all work, not just the stuff we consider glamorous. I realize that to a highly educated person more interested in the mental aspects of work it seems like a wasted life sometimes, but I actually do more thinking and learning at work than most people do in college. The relative simplicity of the work leaves my mind free. Listening to talk radio, listening to e-books, etc. Not everyone fulfills their intellectual needs via work. Why is that so hard for many to accept?

You should see the eyes glaze over at social gatherings when I am asked what I do for a living. Since when did we develop a caste system?

Maureen Nelson said...

This from Ross Macpherson (as quoted in Wendy Enelow's Career Thought Leaders newsletter):
One of the trickiest things to articulate in resumes is "fit," that elusive match beyond skills and experience. One under-utilized technique is to directly describe the type of organization or culture that's a perfect fit. Come right out and say it:

"I work best with companies that aren't afraid to make bold changes… companies that are looking for fresh ideas and groundbreaking thinking."
"I'm known for 'shaking things up,' and I do my best work in organizations that are ready for change."

This technique is perfect for LinkedIn summaries, cover letters, marketing letters, networking letters, and can even work in a resume in certain situations. When you include this information, you come across as confident, and companies looking for this type will most likely be interested. Everybody wins.