The purpose of your resume is to sell your skills, talents, and achievements to hiring managers and recruiters with the hopes of landing an interview. It highlights your best achievements and demonstrates how your skills and experience are suited for the job for which you are applying. While your resume is about you, it doesn’t mean that you need to include everything you’ve ever done.
In fact, incorporating tons of awards, multiple non-relevant accomplishments, or excessive references can do more harm than good. Including too many extras into your resume will be perceived as an attempt to oversell yourself, and yes - overselling is a major annoyance to recruiters.
By definition, overselling is the act of exaggerating merits or services after a client is ready to buy or already interested. When applied to the job seeker, it means adding excessive details to make yourself look better beyond the relevant information necessary to show your fit. When candidates oversell their achievements in a resume, they’ve created a marketing error that will most likely ruin any chances of landing an interview. Not only is this kind of hyperbole self-serving, it immediately turns recruiters off.
You’d be surprised at how easy it is to oversell in a resume, but there are plenty of simple fixes to avoid common mistakes that qualify as overselling yourself. Here are 5 ways to avoid letting overselling creep into your resume.
If you wouldn’t say it aloud, don’t include it on your resume
You wouldn’t talk with a recruiter on the phone declaring; “I’m the most reliable, highly creative, most talented person for this job!” Does that sound good to you? Honestly, it does nothing for your credibility or lend to any of your talents. It speaks, “Me, me, me” to the recruiter when the goal is to relay how you can help the company.
To avoid being overly self-serving in your resume, refrain from listing too many subjective words, such as “highly dependable, creative, passionate, talented, and innovative.” To provide emphasis or highlight a particularly strong talent, you can list one, maybe two of these adjectives in your professional career summary at the top of your resume. Usually, descriptors such as these are perfect for the opening sentence, but beyond that, avoid stuffing these subjective words into your resume. Let the hiring manager or recruiter decide whether you’re dependable, creative, and innovative, based on the facts you include in your resume.
Sending a biography instead of a resume
Recruiters love short, concise resumes that get to the point and are tailored to the job description. They know what they’re looking for, and that’s what they want to see on your resume. It makes their job easier if they can quickly and easily scan your concise resume to get the data they need.
When you send a resume that’s a biography, it instantly raises red flags and alerts the recruiter that you may be overly confident or self-absorbed. They aren’t interested in reading beyond the first few sentences and become annoyed as you drone on and on about how you’re a great employee while listing everything you’ve ever done in your entire career. Not only have you lost the recruiter’s attention, but you’ve created a resume exceeding the two-page limit, and often stretching on to four or even six pages.
Avoid sending a biography that will never get read by paring down your resume to what’s relevant to the job you’re seeking. Refrain from including non-relevant information and write your content in brief, concise sentences to grab the recruiter’s attention. When you include unnecessary details and run-on sentences, your resume becomes a drag to read.
Embellishing accomplishments, job history, and awards
It’s easy to toot your own horn and shout out your accomplishments to everyone. However, if you want to communicate effectively, you’ll need to take a step back and really consider what you’ve done in your career. When you’re working on resume accomplishments, review your career history and be certain that you can take credit.
For example, if you completed a huge project with a group, don’t take credit for the entire group by saying you did all the work. However, if you were the leader of the group, you can say you led the group to help reach the company’s goals and leave it at that.
Embellishing facts, accomplishments, and even job history is the same as lying. Although an extreme example, don’t say you worked at Apple, Inc. for ten years (when you didn’t) simply to drop the popular employer name. In a less dramatic example, don’t want to include incorrect employment dates to hide massive gaps. While you might get away with exaggerations or false information in the short term, the truth always comes out in the end.
Adding a Photo to Your Resume
Too many resumes now try to incorporate much of the social media aspect. While it’s a keen idea, it’s not a good one. Adding a photo in your resume distracts readers from the content. Plus, if you’re an older job seeker trying for a position without revealing all your years of experience, your photo will do that for you and may prompt age discrimination. Adding a photo can also be viewed as narcissistic, disrupt the reader, and immediately turn off recruiters.
Avoiding including a photo in your resume, but be sure to include professional photos of yourself in your online digital profiles. Digital profiles work together with your resume to provide the color, details, and information you can’t add to your resume.
References and testimonials
References and testimonials are fine to have, especially to display in digital profiles. Potential employers often ask for references at some point in the interview and recruiting process. However, testimonials don’t belong on resumes and are considered to be too salesy. In addition, testimonials can’t be verified on the resume and are no use to the recruiter - unless you can support it with a digital profile.
Avoid appearing salesy by leaving references and testimonials off your resume. If an employer asks for references, include them on a separate paper with the same header as your resume. And, only list the amount that the employer requests.
Recruiters often ask for two or three references. Respond only with the information they request and avoid the temptation to flood them with ten references—it’s a quick way to be disqualified. When an employer asks for testimonials, point them to your LinkedIn profile so they can read them there.
Reduce overselling in your resume by following these simple steps. Remember, your resume should clearly communicate to the employer what you can do for them and not appear to be a biography written by a braggart.