Guest post by Rhys Johnson (TheDreamLife_RJ)
Because employers usually take only between a few seconds and a couple minutes to read through a resume, you might feel pressure to embellish your profile, or to lie. The reality is that even if your “too good to be true” resume gets you through the door, a skilled interviewer will be able to poke holes in your application if you can’t elaborate on specific details in a satisfactory manner. And even if your fib doesn’t get noticed right away your entire employment will be based on falsified information, which could be detrimental to your career further down the road.
It’s always a good idea to be honest on your resume. Sometimes the honest approach may entail including your failures. And with appropriate context, articulating the adversity you faced can provide an employer with compelling reasons to hire you.
As an intellectual exercise, Princeton professor Johannes Haushofer took honesty to a whole new level by publishing his own “CV of failures” online. The Washington Post shared that his goal was to inspire people to continue in their respective fields and help them deal with their own shortcomings. The Telegraph reports a similar story of a senior creative professional’s experiment of sending in a resume highlighting his imperfections, which got several responses and interviews – as compared to his traditional resume, which received only a single response.
Let me be clear – a professional resume is not the place to demonstrate either your flaws or your inability to achieve results. But while I wouldn’t advise an an approach such as Professor Haushofer’s for the serious job hunter, building a resume with examples of your ability to overcome professional adversity can bolster your candidacy, by demonstrating the positive elements and by providing great fodder for the interview. Here are some examples:
Example 1: Willingness to push yourself, and to take sensible risks.
A person who doesn’t fail is either perfect (which nobody is) or unwilling to try new things. An experience where you stepped out of your comfort zone in spite of your fear of failing can reassure potential employers that you’re willing to take good, well-reasoned risks which may pay the company dividends. Even if the project as whole didn’t succeed, highlight on your resume the aspects of the project that indeed went right.
Resume Example: “Led pilot project testing new lines of business. Sold idea to CEO, organized project team, and managed initiative through test phases.”
Example 2: Professional resilience and an ability to cope with failure.
Conveying that you can handle challenging situations is also something that potential employers want to know about you. The Balance explains that employers want to know if the person they’re considering for the job will be able to keep their composure and focus in times of hardship. Corporate life is full of ups and downs. In your resume, highlight the obstacles you handled with finesse and grace and, most importantly, through which you persevered and were able to achieve satisfactory resolution.
Resume Example: “Managed rapid department reorganization following layoff of 90% of team. Conducted needs analysis, and redesigned workflows to adjust to smaller workforce.”
Example 3: An ability to learn.
Failures can be the best teachers if you’re willing to learn from them. Highlight real challenges you’ve overcome, in which you were able to adapt your learnings into a successful project. The best such examples for your resume are those in which you were able to quickly adapt to a difficult situation.
Resume Example: “Successfully turned around project 25% behind target timeline, achieving on-time completion below budget.”
A resume that showcases your ability to overcome adversity will catch a potential employer's attention. The skills for your job can be taught and acquired, but ultimately, your attitude and mindset are the factors that will truly help you succeed.
Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at email@example.com, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.