Writing a Credible Resume

According to Smart Company over 56% of employers report having had applicants lie on their resumes, on everything from experience and work-specific skills to education and falsifying referees. In addition to explicit inaccuracy there is a significant grey area, filled with exaggeration, glossing over and telling the truth in advance (I’ll make sure I have learned to use that software before I start). Against this backdrop, how do you demonstrate your skills, experience and achievements credibly?

Some employers set tests as part of the application process, designed to differentiate between candidates. Although this process is often done poorly and may put off candidates who resent being treated like high school students, there is some merit to having candidates prove their claims. And this line of thought can be valuable for resume-writing.

Instead of simply writing a list of achievements, out of context, be specific about exactly what you did and then take the time to explain the strategy and mechanisms that drove those achievements. Describing the process will demonstrate that you understand how it is done. For example: Delivered significant sales growth The word significant is too generic to be valuable: it sounds like deliberately avoiding the real number. If it was genuinely strong result, show and contextualise it.

For example:

  • Delivered 12% growth in sales (against target of 6%)

Including the actual number instantly adds credibility; showing some sort of target or benchmark helps to make it relevant for an employer who may not know how significant that 12% was.

Even better would be:

  • Delivered 12% growth in sales (against target of 6%), through:
    • Re-activating existing clients, via eDMs, to drive repeat and referral business
    • Developing sales channels, including the new independent retailer wholesale channel
    • Rolling out eCommerce functionality to leverage increase in website traffic

The show don’t tell principle also applies to how you describe yourself.

Whilst it is certainly acceptable to use a few positive adjectives in your profile and cover letter, it is much better for the employer to come to the conclusion that you are ‘dynamic and motivated’ through what you have achieved. Bear in mind that they don’t know you yet so take the time to spell out what those qualities have meant for your career and previous employers.