“What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

by Julie Vick, Senior Career Adviser

My husband says that his mother often recited this tidbit from a Sir Walter Scott poem to him and his siblings when they were growing up to instill honesty.  With the current cause célèbre around anchorman, Brian Williams where some say he lied outright, others believe he simply embellished the truth and still others maintain he is a victim of false memory, that maxim and another  — “Honesty is the best policy,” coined by that famous Philadelphian, Benjamin Franklin – have been running through my mind.

When it comes to the job search I do believe that honesty is always important.  Advice on writing resumes and cover letters encourages using vivid action verbs to describe experience and language that portrays qualifications in the most positive light.  This can be where sometimes job seekers get in trouble by inflating what they’ve done.  In attempts to highlight leadership or teamwork job hunters sometimes exaggerate reality.  “Coordinating” an event isn’t always the same thing as “designing and implementing” it although it can be.  It’s important to reflect on each experience and describe it in an accurate and interesting way that resonates with the job to which you’re applying.

For international students, it’s necessary to understand the conventions in American resume writing.  Receiving a Bachelor’s degree with four majors is not the same thing as being awarded four Bachelor’s degrees.  Auditing a course in the business school does not make an arts and sciences student a business student.

Most employers check references of potential employees and if there is a mismatch between the resume and/or letter and what the most recent boss says, the employer will see a red flag and question the hire.  In addition, there have been many high profile cases of people who lied for years on their resume only to be caught and fired many years later.

As Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself; everybody else is already taken.”  If you need help telling your story in your resume and other job-hunting materials, come see a career advisor in Career Services.  We’ll be happy to help you.

Author: Julie Miller Vick

Julie Miller Vick is the Senior Associate Director in Career Services for graduate students and post docs.