Forest for the trees…

Penelope Trunk is a freelance writer with a column in the Boston Globe, and calls herself “The Brazen Careerist.” She recently wrote an article that was published on Yahoo!’s personal finance page, entitled Steer Clear of Bad Job-Hunting Advice.

The article lists 8 currently “Bad Rules” for job hunting/hunters, and includes some known HR staples such as resume misspellings, complete disclosure, etc. Then, a littany of comments follow her article, likely many of them from human resources professionals. As Penelope has given me her permission to do so, I’ll list the 8 “Bad Rules” here for convenience:

Bad Rule No. 1: Draw a clear picture of yourself

A résumé is not an autobiography, it’s a marketing document. So the goal is not to tell every single thing about yourself, but rather to get an interview. This is why a résumé should be a tease, not treatise.

Bad Rule No. 2: Don’t be too narrow

If you’re not narrow, then what are you selling? If you want to stand out, you have to stand for something. This is your unique selling proposition…

Bad Rule No. 3: Don’t job-hop

BLS reports that people under 30 switch jobs every 18 months. …who cares about loyalty? You know what it got the baby boomers? Layoffs. Job-hoppers are generally happier in their work. They have more passion for their career because their work changes before it gets boring.

Bad Rule No. 4: Don’t have gaps in your résumé

This is a good piece of advice if you’re going to make work the only thing in your life.

Bad Rule No. 5: Don’t have typos in your résumé

I’m not recommending that you misspell words on purpose, but I am recommending that you chill out about the typos. How can you possibly send out perfect résumés every time?

Bad Rule No. 6: Honesty is most important

Résumés are marketing documents, so write yours that way. Give an employer exactly what they want without saying something false. The bottom line about honesty: Don’t be more forthcoming in your own marketing materials than the marketing manager for Pop-Tarts would be in hers.

Bad Rule No. 7: Clean up your online identity

Stop stressing about the stupid stuff you posted when you were drunk (or worse, not drunk). It’s out of your control.

Bad Rule No. 8: Treat a job hunt like a project and be a project manager

That’s great advice if you look for a job four times in your whole life. But today, job hunting is so frequent that often there’s no downtime — not even while you start a new job.

I share these with you as a warning — agree, disagree as a matter of personal choice. But please, please don’t be the HR professional today who actually makes hiring decisions in this labor-shortage world we live in by excluding otherwise viable candidates for simple transgressions.

A misspelling is poor form, perhaps. But it isn’t the end of the world. Short timeline gaps, common exaggerations that don’t misstate a technical requirement, a short job tenure or two… these should not be forever auto-exclusionary. Consider the entire candidate first. Grill mercilessly, if you must, to ascertain the details you feel could be problematic. But do not simply screen out — at the resume stage — a candidate who seems otherwise qualified.

Just don’t be a total, narrow-minded schmuck who excludes potentially qualified candidates from hiring manager review merely because of a personal quirk. Get past it, get over it, or simply ignore it. Your organziation deserves that from you.

Look to screen in during the resume phase, not out. Start with the biggest possible pool of apparently-qualified candidates before winnowing; you may find out you were about to toss out a keeper…


Kevin Berchelmann

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