The Truth and Nothing But the Truth in Your Professional Resume

You’ve undoubtedly heard the statement people are asked to swear to in court–promising to tell “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” That might be fine for court testimony, but what about the professional resume you plan to use in your next job search?

Topics You Would Like to Avoid

Assuming you don’t have any serious skeletons you need to hide from prospective employers, the question becomes: What truths should you share in your resume, and are there some you must share that you’d rather not?

For example, were you fired from your most recent job? No one in his/her right mind  would choose to disclose a firing in the resume, and that’s not the appropriate place for it. However, that begs the question of how to handle the situation in the resume.

Here’s another example: You resigned your position to move with your family due to a spouse’s new job. Would you put that in the resume?

What Normally Does NOT Go in Your Resume

Your reason for leaving a position doesn’t usually belong in the resume. I can think of one situation in which my clients and I have decided to make an exception to this “rule.” When you have been laid off multiple times in succession due to circumstances beyond your control–such as companies being acquired or closing down–that string of short-term stints tends to look bad. A simple “company closed” or other appropriate wording can help soften the impact.

Excessive detail about your various positions, particularly more than 10-12 years back, can discourage employers from reading your resume or give them the impression you don’t know when to stop. Avoid letting this temptation get the better of you! Also, longevity isn’t always a good thing. If you have 30+ years of executive experience, don’t say that. Employers don’t need to know you’ve been around that long!

The Truth that Does Need to Go in Your Resume

First, make sure you communicate your value-added/ROI message clearly from the outset. That truth belongs in your resume. In fact, it’s essential.

Anything the employer would have a genuine need to know in order to make an informed decision about you should be addressed. You might leave out information that’s irrelevant to your ability to do the job, for instance, if that’s not deceptive or misleading. However, if you withhold relevant information and manage to get hired, it could boomerang on you.

If a situation that’s somewhat tricky has to be noted in your resume, figure out the most effective way to handle it. Forestall employer questions with a convincing presentation of information that counterbalances items with potentially negative impact.

The truth and nothing but the truth–but not necessarily the whole truth. That’s the goal for your professional resume.