True or false?

“A resume is supposed to make you look good.”

Answer:  FALSE

Well, I’ll concede, it’s only partially false.  Although you want your resume to look good and to portray your job history and accomplishments in a clear and impressive manner, it’s important not to overdo your attempts to impress your reader.

The misconception that a resume is supposed to make you look good can lead to mischaracterization of job duties, inflation of accomplishments, and flowery, high-falutin language.  None of those things belong on a resume!  Stick to the truth instead.

Example #1:  A client who was applying for development jobs wrote in a bullet that she “[a]ssisted in organizing” a conference.  Since I do not like to see the word “assist” on a resume (see Words to Delete from Your Resume), I asked her what exactly she did to assist.  It turns out she set up tables and provided registration assistance on the day of the conference, but had no involvement in the planning or organization of the event.  We changed the verb in her bullet to “Staffed” – a much more accurate description of what this applicant did.

Example #2:  A client stated that she “[p]articipated in” company meetings.  In actuality, she had organized materials for the meetings and attended them.  We made her language more specific, thus accurately reflecting her activities.

Why not stretch the truth just a little?

First of all, I never condone lying about anything and always support acting with integrity.  Additionally, if your resume gets you an interview, you could be asked questions about absolutely anything you’ve written.  You don’t want to get caught in even the tiniest lie.

I’m glad I asked my clients questions about their bullets before an interviewer did.  The first client was applying to jobs where she could easily be called upon to organize a conference; if she submitted a resume that overstated her experience in conference organization, it could lead to an embarrassing and deal-killing interview moment.  Similarly, the second client was applying to jobs that entailed numerous meetings, and familiarity with meeting protocol was required.  It was dangerous for him as well to represent his experience inaccurately.

When you are creating resume bullet points, and even when you are writing your Summary of Qualifications, make sure to report your activities, qualifications and accomplishments accurately.  Without using impressive or flowery language, you can succeed in writing a resume that makes you look good by clearly and truthfully conveying your accomplishments.

As in so many other things, honesty on your resume is the best policy.  Think of the most impressive thing you can truthfully report and let it speak for itself.  Follow this advice and you’ll look good without even trying.

Need resume help?  Contact The Essay Expert for a free 15 minute consultation.


  1. Brenda — Good advice for job seekers. I couldn’t agree more that it’s essential to be honest on your resume. One of the biggest no-no’s is claiming degrees that you don’t have. This has tripped up several politicians and, sadly, a terrific manager I worked for many years ago was fired because he said he had a master’s degree when he didn’t.

  2. Brenda –

    This is a great article. As an person who is unemployed and is sending out resumes I often wonder two things:

    1- What would make me stand out more to the hiring manager and should I be more ‘creative’ with it? The answer has always been no because if you are constantly changing information on your resume that is not true you could end up getting caught as you point out and trying to remember what you put on resume #1 versus resume #100 would be almost impossible

    2- What are others putting on their resume and why haven’t I gotten a call since I think I am a perfect fit? Well since your article talks about ‘building’ up one’s accomplishments, that might just be the case here. By being patient maybe those that have embelished their resume will get uncovered and I WILL eventually get that call.

    Thank you for this post.

    • You’re welcome Jason. It might be that you are not being specific enough on your resume. Specificity helps your accomplishments stand out. Make sure you have items on the resume that do not sound like a job description! If you’d like me to take a look I can give you a free 15 minute assessment. See my article published in New Grad Life, Back to the Future

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