Real World Ethics for Writing Your Resume

Last Updated Jun 26, 2008 12:15 PM EDT

The Takeaway: When you're applying for that dream "reach" job the temptation is always there to, shall we say, enhance your resume, and there's ample evidence that many managers are succumbing to temptation to overstate their experience or job title. The Conversation Starter's Clinton D. Korver cites the New York Times which relays the findings of Nick Fishman, executive vice president of Background Information Services, whose research shows that 56 percent of resumes contain falsehoods. Even high flying executives get caught lying on their resumes. The Conversation Starter reminds us of the downfall of the bosses of Radio Shack, MIT, Notre Dame, and Herbalife.

Of course, you don't want to sell yourself short, and you can be sure than your competitors won't be understated in touting their accomplishments. Korver comes to the rescue with two rules of thumb to help you understand whether something on your resume is simply creative wording or crosses the line into outright deception:

  • Other-shoe Test: How would you feel if the shoe were on the other foot and you were the hiring manager looking at this resume?
  • Front-page Test: Would you think the same way if your accomplishment in question were reported on the front page of the Wall Street Journal?
If thinking about these questions makes you slightly uneasy, Korver offers one final test to determine is your resume is up ethical standards: ask an old boss. Though it might be awkward, doing so "forces you to think clearly and sometimes creatively... verifies the accuracy of your claims, trains your prior boss in how to represent you during reference checks, and sometimes your old boss may give you better ways to represent yourself."

Those intriqued by Korver's tips should consider picking up a copy of his book "Ethics in the Real World," out tomorrow.

The Question: In your view, when does resume creativity cross the line into downright deception?

(Image of lots of Pinnochios by Pperinik, CC 2.0)

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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.