If your resume or vitae is ready for an update or you want to tweak it because you are not getting return phone calls or interviews, make sure your resume is ethically sound. In this article, you’ll learn what you should and should not put on a resume or vitae.

One of the questions you might be asking is:  What are the guidelines about what you should or should not say on your resume. It might seem a trivial question, but it is discussed extensively – especially if you have something to hide.

Why is it important to be truthful on your resume or vitae?

Your resume should be an honest and accurate reflection of your work history and career. While your resume is not a legal document such as the job application, it is the first point of contact you have with a recruiter or hiring manager. Rarely is your job application kept outside of Human Resources, but you can bet that your resume will be kept in a file or in an e-mail for future reference.

During the interviewing process, the interviewer will ask questions about your resume content. Interviews end quickly when there are inconsistencies between what you said you did on paper and how you support or prove it verbally. Let’s be clear – during your interviewing you are judged on your ethics, honesty and trustworthiness.

How much resume or vitae “dress up” can you do?

You may have heard that you need to “dress up” your resume – a technique used to market yourself to recruiters and hiring managers better. There are ways to position what you did to look better without crossing the line of lying or misrepresenting your achievements.

For example, you might:

  • Use years instead of month/year for each position you held
  • Include accomplishments where you were a team member (note your specific role)
  • Highlight volunteer leadership positions or significant accomplishments
  • Identify specific coursework or continuing education for specialized skill development

Here’s what you don’t want to do:

  • Use a different job title than what your ex-employer has on record
  • List degrees that you did not earn
  • Claim accomplishments that you were not responsible for
  • Exaggerate your level of skills

Do you have to include educational information?

It is your option to include whatever you want on your resume. Some job hunters prefer to leave off graduation year and only include the degree information.

It doesn’t make sense to me to leave off all your degree information – often called “dummying down” your resume.  The rationale is that hiring managers may not want to hire someone who is smarter than themselves. In my opinion – why would you want to work for someone like that?

Do you have to include all your employers on your resume or vitae?

Let’s say you worked for an employer for a short period of time and left on negative terms. Do you include that employer on your resume or do you leave them off?

It is better to err on the side of truthfulness and to include the ex-employer on your resume and develop talking points to get through that sticky employment history.

I would not recommend doing either of the following:

  • Excluding the ex-employer and show an employment gap.
  • Excluding the ex-employer and close the employment gaps with the jobs you held before and after this employer.

The reason you want to include the employer is that your future employer will do an employment history check and they will find out the information. If you have left it off your resume, your new employer will question your ethics, honesty and trustworthiness.

If you need help with interview talking points, refer to these resources: