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Self-Promotion in Resumes and Curriculum Vitaes – Am I a fraud?

What Constitutes Good Marketing Strategy

Your resume or curriculum vitae is the key marketing tool at your disposal to engage the interest of a potential employer. Consequently, your resume or CV has to be informative, relevant and unique for the right reasons.

It would be safe to wager that most readers have come across this, or similar advice many times before, including advice provided on this site. There is no doubting that the above statements are sound. However, candidates ask about what constitutes good marketing strategy and is there a risk of being accused of fraud?

There is no simple response to this question, but in essence you must be prepared to rationally defend every statement within your resume.

A broad interpretation of fraud within a resume is anything designed to deceive the reader. Clear cases of fraud subject the author to disciplinary action, probably including loss of the position if initially successful. Prosecution under relevant laws of a constituency is also possible (e.g. organizations such as police or military forces and some government departments). Obvious examples of fraud that lead to negative consequences may include falsification of employment history (i.e. employers, tenures, salary information, qualifications, criminal or civil convictions etc).

There is a level of deception that stops short of outright lying, but is highly deceptive in intent. Writing “I had significant leadership and management responsibilities in XYZ Company”, when in fact the scope of your management responsibility was for petty cash and an office assistant is highly deceptive. In reality, it may be difficult for a prospective or new employer to invoke a disciplinary procedure in the case of gross exaggeration, but you can be sure that the perpetrator has done themselves no favors in the long-term.

Marketing or self-promotion however is about presenting your strengths in the most positive and defensible light possible, based on factual information. The employer is a prospective customer and you need to present a persuasive “pitch”, or “call to action”. For example:

Fact: I was a member of a software project development team.

Pitch: As a key member of a 4-person software project development team, I successfully researched and developed…

The pitch is where the candidate reconciles the employer’s needs as a customer, with their own knowledge, skills, attributes and experience. A legitimate pitch leaves room for ethical self-promotion, implying or emphasizing significant competence in relevant areas. The reader understands that words or phrases such as “successful”, “significant”, “leading role”, or “key contributor” are perceptions, but the use of positive language is acceptable and powerful nonetheless. Lack of self-confidence is a “virus” that easily transmits to others.

Self-Promotion in Resumes and CV - Fishguardtaxis.comThe most potent form of self-promotion in your resume or CV is to select the most compelling examples at your disposal and be very specific about the nature of your contribution to previous employers or projects. Be truthful, be positive and show professional pride in achievements. These qualities alone are a great recipe for career success and employers understand this very well.

Of course, it is possible that the position you are considering may be too big a “leap” at this stage of your development and that no amount of marketing will sufficiently bridge the gap. If so, be honest with yourself about this and understand that this is not a weakness or flaw, but simply a stage in your career path. Have confidence in your potential to reach greater heights.

As an individual it is easy to give in to self-doubt or an abhorrence of “blowing your own trumpet”. However, try to look at what you can offer as if you were your own colleague, without internal prejudices and fears of inadequacy that sometimes exist for no reason. If you find this difficult, find someone within your professional context that who would be willing to think about and describe what they see as your strengths. Doing so may produce some encouraging perspectives.