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What happens when your resume sends the wrong message

Sarah Dudney

Mixed messages in resumes usually derive from the writer’s own mind set and that rule applies to investment bankers, fund managers, private bankers, traders of any age or nationality.

From my experience, I find there are usually two mind sets which create mixed messages: superhero and scarecrow.

What are these and how can they be resolved?

The superhero and his resume

His (the mind set transcends gender) resume over-promises and under-delivers. This applies in the interview and – if you have the misfortune to hire a superhero – it applies in the workplace.

You can spot a superhero and his resume by the copious references to me, myself and I. Every bullet point holds a superlative. Superhero resume details enormous empires, impossibly lucrative deals and golden revenues being brought to the bank’s coffers.

Hiring managers and HR directors frequently tell me that they want to “explore the substance behind the resume’s claims.” Superhero resume labors unhappily under the curse of expectation as the interviewer gets so excited by the resume that the disappointment on meeting the physical reality behind the resume is impossible to mask.

Superheroes emerge when they have been in a job search for a prolonged period, or sometimes in the very immediate aftershock of a layoff. The superhero is a grandiose but ultimately defensive persona. The resume is the billowing cloak.

Superhero resume can be given a balanced reality check by reading through with a close friend or mentor. How did the superhero collaborate with both senior and junior colleagues? What actual revenues did he produce for Mega Bank? Superheroes need specifics and context.

The scarecrow and his resume

The second mind set is the scarecrow. Scarecrows have limited self-esteem. Scarecrows’ resumes transmit the notion, “I don’t care so why should you?”

Scarecrow resumes contain many typographical errors and many grammatical mistakes. These could easily have been corrected by thorough proofreading. Often the actual resume content is valuable and relevant but the HR manager at Barclays, Goldman Sachs or indeed any other bank will not waste more than two minutes of their time reading it.

In the event that they make it to an interview, scarecrows can easily be spotted as they look unkempt. They benefit from advice with their physical presentation as well as their resume.

Scarecrows can be more easily redeemed than superheroes. Once their external image has been transformed they often start to register positive feedback from interviews and networking attempts. This is their light bulb moment. They start to care about themselves and how they present.

Are you a scarecrow? Are you a superhero? Remember this: We all live and work in a rapid response world. We only get one shot to get it right the first time. No one can afford any mixed messages in today’s job market.

Sarah Dudney is a career coach at Ignite Career. You can get in touch with her at sarah@ignitecareer.com, or through www.ignitecareer.com.

Editor’s note: This first appeared on our UK site but it is applicable here as well.

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