Monday, June 27, 2005

The tangled web we weave 

My organisation is recruiting for a number of vacancies at the moment, one of which I'm directly involved in. In this context, it's been interesting to read blog postings in the last few days from iwhoelse on resumes and Hugging Trees on MBAs from obscure institutions. In lots of ways I really enjoy recruiting. I like the challenge of finding the best fit between job and person, finding out more about people through interviews, and having the opportunity to spot talent and potential. The aspect I always find depressing though is reading through so many CV's / resumes and covering letters that are really poor in terms of both content and format. So many people do themselves a disservice by not communicating themselves well.

This time one particularly stood out. While most people say too little, this applicant had said too much - a full page covering letter and multi-page CV, all in tiny font. There were huge amounts of information that was completely irrelevant or just didn't add anything, and lots of jargon which really said nothing. One thing that caught my eye though was an MBA from an place I'd never heard of, so I thought I'd google it. I came up with two possibilities, one a perfectly legitimate if slightly obscure school that doesn't appear to offer an MBA, and one an institution that offers qualifications on the basis of 'life experience' (essentially, mail order purchase, from what I could work out). This made me dig a little deeper into other elements, like the membership of an high powered-sounding professional organisation, the main qualification for which appears to be payment of a fee. One of the positions on the CV would have meant working with one of my colleagues, but she has absolutely no recollection of the person in question; some claims of achievements in other jobs were worded in such a way that I got a sense of an attempt to imply something that wasn't really there while not actually claiming something that was untrue. And there were other claims that I don't doubt to be true, but where I'd question the wisdom of including them to impress one of the few audiences that knows that they're not quite as impressive as they may sound. The sad thing is that if all of this hadn't been included , it would have been a strong application, and if we hadn't wanted the person for that particular job, we would probably have want to work with them on other projects. As it is, I think we'll be steering well clear.

I know the question of 'harmless exaggeration', 'embroidering the truth', outright lying, and verification procedures concern some people, so I offer this as a cautionary tale. Lies can and will be found out, and people can sense exaggeration and embroidery. It only takes one little thing to be 'off' for a question mark to be thrown over an entire application, and the benefits of very real skills and achievements can be rendered meaningless by an attempt to be 'a bit creative'.


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