Last week we received an unsolicited resume from an executive whose experience caught our attention. As we entered his particulars into our database we found reference to prior dealings with him some 5 years ago including a resume prepared at that time. This was not surprising as we have been in business a long time and for better or worse keep a fairly large repository of resumes and other candidate related records. But when we examined our notes from those earlier interactions and compared the old resume with its latest version we found something new that caught our attention. Specifically, three employers had been altogether erased from the executive’s resume. The resulting 7 year hole was then filled-in by extending his stays at two other employers. The executive had effectively removed the short-term bumps on the road of his career, in the process changing the overall arc of his career. It was a rather brazen re-imagining of his career.
In the past, when we have sought to clarify such editing liberties, executives have defended them in all manner of fashion. Most have attributed them as attempts to comply with expected 2-3 page resume formats. They have argued that the revisions took nothing away from the substantive accomplishments in their careers. Still others have indicated that the deleted positions were short term or contract roles inconsequential to the overall narratives of their careers. A few have actually said they simply forgot they had worked at the missing companies…..
To be very clear, I have not walked in the shoes of someone dealing with a hostile employment market and thus I cannot judge the drastic steps they may feel forced to take. However, executives are cautioned to think carefully before making material changes to their resumes as these open a moral Pandora’s box which is very difficult to re-seal. And the odds of getting caught are increasing not decreasing. Careers leave trails, whether in headhunter or company archives or in the memories of former colleagues who can be found much more easily via social media. Dates and information can and will be validated. And at the end of the day, the scarlet letter you will wear is much more difficult to erase than whatever imperfection in your career narrative you were trying to correct in the first place.
About the Author
Robert Hebert is the founder and Managing Partner of StoneWood Group Inc., a leading executive search firm in Canada. Since 1981, he has helped firms across a wide range of sectors address their senior recruiting, assessment and leadership development requirements.