When is it not only beneficial, but also morally acceptable, to lie on your resume? Only in instances when you’re lying to yourself for the benefit of self-confidence.
Much has been written about building confidence for an interview. But how do you get the interview in the first place? It still comes down to how you look on paper—your resume and cover letter have to pop.
To be sure, lying to yourself without misrepresenting who you truly are is a balancing act. Here are some tips you can use to pull it off:
It’s okay to brag about success
Own your successes, big or small. You’ve done some remarkable things. Find an artful way to include these achievements in your resume or cover letter. You might not think it’s a big deal, but this is where you need to overcome the subjectivity of your self-view and derive confidence from your accomplishments.
If you worked part-time as a server while maintaining a 3.5 GPA throughout school, point to this as a demonstration of your impeccable work ethic.
If you were president of your fraternity and raised $5,000 for a local charity through an event you organized, highlight your advanced organizational and management skills.
Allow others to define your strengths
Train yourself to accept compliments and use them to your advantage. If your supervisor at your latest internship tells you you’re a great problem solver, roll with it, regardless of whether or not you agree with the assessment.
Rather than asking for a formal reference, ask former employers and professors—those who have worked with you and can speak to your abilities—to help you craft a resume and cover letter that helps you put your best foot forward.
Use these comments and compliments to help you define your strengths as a job candidate. Your self-view might be conflicted to an extent, but consider the source.
Avoid looking for the perfect fit
Don’t let the pursuit of the perfect job stand in your way of getting hired. The truth is, most job descriptions list attributes and qualifications they assume the right candidate will possess. Some are strict. Others are, at best, an educated guess.
In a highly competitive job market, employers continue to enjoy the luxury of selectivity in the hiring process. You’ve probably seen it: it’s the perfect job description, but you’re missing out on one of the 10 soft skills they’re requiring. (“I’m not sure if I’m a true ‘self-starter.’”)
Rest assured, if you’re checking off most of the boxes in the qualifications and requirements sections of a job description, you’re likely a highly competitive candidate. Whether you believe it or not, present yourself to employers as the candidate they’ve been looking for all along.
You don’t need to be an expert
Finally, know your limits as a candidate. The word “expert” is one of the most commonly overused words on resumes and one that can come back to bite you.
For example, knowing how to use Microsoft Excel does not make you an Excel expert. If you consider yourself to be an advanced user, by all means, work that into your resume. But be careful not to overstate things.
Confidence is a double-edged sword. Displaying overconfidence can paint you as out of touch or arrogant, while being more reserved or timid can come across as weak. As with everything in life, make it a goal to strike that healthy balance.
And if you have to lie to yourself to get there, do so confidently.
(Of course, never lie about facts. It’s wrong on many levels and is a huge resume blunder that’s easily avoidable.)
Eddie Earnest is the lead marketer at HigherNext and a regular contributor to Corporate Casual, a blog focused on exploring trends in higher education, entry-level hiring and the assessment of business skills.