Posted Sept. 2, 2008 -- Most of us accept the fact that, many times, a sales pitch tends to stretch the truth: That stain remover really can't make a grape juice stain disappear from white carpeting "like magic," and Sea Monkeys aren't really cute little mermaid-like creatures that frolic around in an underwater kingdom.
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But stretching the truth on your résumé, even though it is the equivalent of a sales pitch promoting you, is never acceptable.
So how can you enhance your résumé without going overboard? Try some of these tricks:
Avoid half-truths and gross exaggerations.
Most hiring managers and recruitment professionals have had their share of résumés pass across their desks during their career. So they are usually adept at deciphering embellishments in a résumé. They know that spending the last 10 years as a "domestic engineer" means you simply were home with your kids.
Keywords can help your résumé stand out.
Rather than embellish your titles and accomplishments, use recognizable industry keywords that will jump out at hiring managers reading your résumé and communicate exactly where your expertise lies. Keywords also help your résumé get flagged if you're submitting it electronically or posting it on a job site.
Focus on quantifiable accomplishments.
Use specifics when detailing your past accomplishments -- the amount of money you saved the company, the number of employees you managed, etc. Rather than saying you saved the company millions, state precisely that you "saved the company $2.4 million." Actual numbers and percentages sound much more credible.
Change titles only if it clarifies your position.
If your title uses little known, company-specific jargon, such as being called an "office contact," when you performed duties consistent with an "administrative assistant," then go ahead and use the better suited title. You could list your title on your résumé as "office contact/administrative assistant." Of course that doesn't give you the latitude to promote yourself to "vice president of administration."
Address gaps in your résumé.
Instead of fudging the dates of your past jobs to cover an employment gap, address the lapse in your résumé or cover letter to maintain chronological clarity. For instance, if you were out of work for a year during which time you took courses to enhance your education or professional credentials, list this academic stint on your résumé, rather than pretending the period of unemployment never happened.
Half-finished degrees should not be listed.
If you "almost" completed your degree, you cannot list it as an earned degree on your résumé. However, no education is ever wasted. Be sure to give yourself credit and list any completed coursework in a particular major or concentration.