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Stop Telling The (Whole) Truth


Where do they ask you the following question:

Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?

If you answered in a court room, excellent. You apparently know a bit about our legal system---or watch Law & Order! I wonder whether any of you provided some other answer.

But, I'm willing to bet a dollar that you didn't answer on my resume or in a job interview.

No, I'm not advising you to lie, and I'm certainly not saying you should stop telling the truth--just too much of it.

Interviewer (I): You admitted on your application that you were let go from your most recent position. Tell me about that.

Applicant (A): I called my boss a fool and told him he didn't know how to run the operation. We didn't get along.

Interviewer: Wow. Tell me more.

And then the applicant pours their heart out. They may feel better, but their application just sunk like a boat carrying steel ore with a hull full of holes.

Could that have gone differently?

Interviewer (I): You admitted on your application that you were let go from your most recent position.

Applicant (A): (Pauses....Hmmm. I shouldn't say what I thought of my boss. How shall I phrase this?)

I was hired for my expertise and experience with specific operations. The role, however, differed from how I thought it had been presented. Management had its way of doing things; they were successful, but I felt I wasn't in the right place. I couldn't use my talents to my best ability. When I mentioned this to management, they agreed. So, when I saw the position for this role at your company, I saw a real opportunity.

Interviewer: So, how what specifically attracted you to our company?

Consider this bullet from an applicant resume:

Executed a 6-month benchmarking exercise aimed at evaluating industry standards which led to the revision of 40 job descriptions across 5 organizational levels.

Wow, there's a lot going on in there. Multiple thoughts, activities, and results. What's the most important portion? What will interest the reader the most?

Usually it's the result. But, what is the result here, and will it interest the reader?

If this role were for an HR Generalist role, then the result of revising 40 job descriptions to fit industry standards might be appropriate. But, the role was for an HR VP position; so, it didn't make sense to even mention this action on the resume.


In other words, the applicant told the truth, but it is irrelevant to the the position. And even if the action had been relevant, the bullet was over-explained.

Remember, a resume should not simply list what you've done, it must present you as qualified for the next role you want.

You may have heard the expression less is more. This is definitely true for your resume. Be selective with what you include. Don't try to explain everything. A manager once told me, "Ed , tell your clients it's OK to leave something to talk about during the interview."

And during the interview, yes, be sure to answer the question truthfully, but do it concisely and without telling everything---leave out the sordid details.


Even if you are a bit too concise, the interviewer can always prompt you to tell more.

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