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Years Later, Résumé Lies Can Haunt

Build your résumé and your reputation on integrity for ultimate success
Jim Huling CEO of MATRIX Resources Inc.

Julie's interview was outstanding. She was bright, articulate, and full of enthusiasm over the possibility of joining my team. Although she was relatively young, her résumé was impressive. Her first job out of college had offered her the opportunity to lead major projects, all of which ended successfully, and now she was ready for a new challenge. The decision to hire her was an easy one.

Early on, Julie surprisingly struggled with the projects assigned to her, but worked hard and soon proved she could do the job. At the end of her first full year, I was preparing to offer her a promotion into a leadership role – one that would bring her significantly increased responsibilities, as well as income. It was a promotion she had earned, but would never receive.

At this same time I happened to meet an executive from Julie's former company and I asked if he knew her, mentioning how well she had done as a project manager on my team. I reminded him of the projects she had led at his company and the results described in her résumé. Slowly, a look of recognition and concern spread across his face.

"I hate to tell you this," he said, "but Julie didn't lead any of those projects. She was a member of the team, but the leadership role as well as recognition for the results belongs to someone else." He shook his head sadly and said, "I'm sorry." So was I.

By the end of that day, Julie was no longer employed by my company. She tearfully explained that she had lied on her résumé, expanding the description of her former role in order to be given the chance to lead major projects – something she knew she could do.

Tragically, Julie was right. She was a fine project manager. Nevertheless, in manipulating her way into the position, she made a devastatingly bad decision. She assumed that her talent and skills were the only requirements and that once they were evident, nothing else would matter. In the process, she ignored her greatest asset: her character.

On the surface, Julie's mistake cost her a year of hard work and diligent learning, but on a deeper level, she damaged something far more difficult to regain – the respect of the people around her. Years later, my management team would still refer to an inflated résumé as being "like Julie's."

In your sincere desire to find your next great position, you may face the same temptation as Julie. If you do, you should answer two questions before you submit your résumé.

Are you really prepared?
If you have to exaggerate your experience to be qualified, you risk failing at the job once you get it. Experience is the one credential that can't be bought. It must be earned. If a company requires a certain number of years in a particular area, it's because they've learned the hard way that it's really necessary. Be patient. Take credit only for what you've actually accomplished. By earning your way to the next level you'll be prepared to succeed when you get there.

Is getting the job worth compromising your character?
I've often wondered how Julie felt each day in her role, knowing she had lied to get it. I imagine she was constantly afraid that somehow, someone would find out. I'll never know the price she paid in worry and lost energy, but I will never forget the anguish on her face when she realized that everything she had worked so hard to gain had been lost.

Remember that your character is the foundation of everything that really matters. You can learn skills, obtain experience and develop talents, but when you can no longer be trusted, your career can be damaged immeasurably.

Be guided by this phrase from my high school Latin class: "Esse Quam Videre," meaning "To be, rather than to appear." Build your job search, and your career, on integrity, honesty, and hard work. Over time, you will really be the person your résumé portrays and the success that follows will mean so much more because you've earned it.

Jim Huling is CEO of MATRIX Resources Inc., an IT services company recently named one of the 25 Best Small Companies to Work for in America for the third year in a row by the Great Place to Work Institute and the Society for Human Resource Management. Huling is also the author of the book, "Choose Your Life!" – a powerful, proven method for creating the life you want.


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