Q. I know you should never tell lies on a resume, but It never seems to me that I am telling the complete truth. It seems like I’m telling a lie if I simply summarize my early jobs or brag that I met my sales quota when I know that some people did even better or, worst of all, I ask someone else write my resume. Where do you draw the line between the truth and lying?
A. I applaud you for wanting to stick to the truth in your resume. But you should keep in mind that your resume is not a biography. It is a selection from your career history; and it is your story, not anyone else’s, told in the most efficient and powerful way possible.
Your resume is a tool. It shows employers that you have the skills, education, accomplishments, and potential that they are looking for. You are going to bore recruiters and hiring managers if you try to list everything you did in every job you ever held—that is information they do not want or need.
Let’s say you are applying for a job as a shoe salesperson. If early in your career, you worked as a gardener, you should mention that job; but if it has nothing to do with your ability to sell shoes, you do not need to give details. Your resume should always focus on what the hiring manager and recruiter need to know. You should find that information in the job posting or advertisement.
When you write that you recently sold 100 pairs of shoes in a week, you do not need to mention every brand or type of shoe unless the hiring manager or recruiter specifically asked for that information. You do not need to mention that someone else in your department sold 125 shoes; the important truth is that you accurately describe what you yourself accomplished.
Now let us tackle the question of whether people who use professional resume writers are lying. I write executive resumes all the time; if the executives of companies rely on professional resume writers, you can, too. This is a question of skill sets: you are not a professional resume writer. We always turn to professionals when we lack essential skills. For example, if you own a house, but hire a licensed electrician to rewire it, are you lying about owning the house? Of course not. If you have built a career, but you lack the skills to write about it fluently, hire a professional resume writer. The result is still your resume.