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The Golden Test and Other Ways to Craft an Ethical Résumé

Photo via Ben Kolde on Unsplash

Published on September 19, 2018, at 4:12 p.m.
by Elizabeth Summers.

Ethical decision making remains essential in the public relations field. As PR professionals, it is vital we uphold a standard of ethics in all scenarios, including crafting résumés.

Statistics show 85 percent of job applicants lie on their résumés. Résumés testify to the hard work we invest in our professional development. Naturally, we want our résumés to be a strong asset, proving our worth and eligibility to potential employers. But, how can one make the most of a résumé while remaining ethical? Here are a few guidelines to ensure you are presenting an honest résumé and avoiding ethical dilemmas:

Rethink your skills section
Including a skills section on a résumé is a common trend. A skills section risks crossing the ethical line when evidence is not provided validating the listed skills, which leads individuals to exaggerate and overpromise. According to PR Daily, a skills section is a waste of space that is better utilized telling your audience how you applied these skills.

In order to avoid claiming skills that lack legitimacy, use extra space on your résumé to explain how you applied these skills to certain situations. A recent article published on Business Insider suggested to not say what you accomplished but to show it by quantifying the facts. For example, instead of simply listing “design” beneath a skills section, explain how you utilized a design program: “Used Illustrator to create a graphic promoting the opening of a new restaurant for a client that was posted on both Instagram and Facebook.”

Re-evaluate your terminology

Photo via Rawpixel on Unsplash

Be intentional with your words and avoid vague language on your résumé. An article on Glassdoor explained that using ambiguous phrases like “familiar with” or “involved in” signifies a lack of direct experience. Be transparent by using specific language that translates your level of experience in a particular category. This approach will avoid an employer’s misperception of your experience.

It is imperative to ensure the terms on your résumé are factual and exact. Misrepresentation occurs through incorrect phrasing and word choice. For example, you state on your résumé “proficient in Adobe Suite.” Prior to making this claim, be sure you are proficient in all Adobe Suite programs, including Photoshop, InDesign, Dreamweaver, After Effects, Acrobat and so on. Although one may make a false claim innocently, it still misrepresents the level of ability to a potential employer.

Check your numbers

Numbers offer a strong testament to the work you invested in a company. Whether the digits show an increase in Instagram followers you gained for a client or display your loyalty to a company by your lengthy employment, numbers provide solid evidence of your dedication. According to an article on Glassdoor, roughly a quarter of candidates lie about employment duration. Always maintain a truthful résumé by diligently computing numbers and dates prior to listing them.

The Golden Test
Guarantee your résumé is not crossing the ethical line by applying this simple test. Think to yourself: If I showed this to my past supervisor, would the supervisor confirm the information I am presenting? Would I feel comfortable showing my co-workers this information? If yes, then you have passed the test. If no, rework your résumé and tweak the areas of concern. You have worked hard, so let it show!


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