You've probably heard the term "false advertising" in reference to a product or service that failed to live up to a claim stated in an advertisement, sometimes placing its owner in a bit of legal trouble.
Like a product or service advertisement, your resume acts as an advertisement of your skills and experience. But while there are no laws against false advertising on a resume, there are consequences. If you fail to promote yourself in a job interview in a way that supports and complements what you've written in your resume, your claims will appear to be false, even if they're true. To avoid that, you need to match the expectations your resume has built in the hiring manager's mind, so you'll come across in the interview "as advertised."
According to a recent survey by Robert Half International, more than 70% of senior executives interviewed said it's common for candidates with promising resumes to not live up to expectations during the interview. Granted, employers may be at least partly to blame for that high figure if their expectations are unreasonable. But you can make sure the fault doesn't lie with you by following these two guidelines:
(1) Have stories that support what you claim on your resume. The skills and accomplishments you list on your resume are merely a snapshot of what you offer an employer. In the interview, be prepared to respond to questions that ask for a broader picture. For example, if your resume says: Generated 20% increase in sales in 2008 from three clients in a struggling industry, prepare your answer for these obvious follow-up questions at the interview: How did you do that when they were struggling? What did you do with them that you didn't do with other clients?
(2) Do your homework before the interview. If your resume gives the impression that you have a high level of knowledge about the company or industry, then you must take the time to research both before the interview. Your resume could lead the hiring manager to believe – rightly or wrongly – that you're the perfect candidate, but if you're unable to answer a question about the company in the interview, you may fall short of those expectations, even though your resume is 100% truth.
These guidelines are no guarantee you'll succeed in the interview and win the offer. (See? I'm protecting this advice against a "false advertising" claim!) The important lesson here is to be sure you're able to back up any expectations you might have placed in the hiring manager's head.
A good way to accomplish that is to have a trusted friend coach you prior to a scheduled interview on how to answer questions you might expect. Preparing well and meeting expectations can help you be the "perfect" applicant they expected and the colleague they really want to have.
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