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When Your Real Job Experience Looks Fake on the Resume

by THEA kelley | December 7, 2022

Recently I heard of a job seeker being rejected for a job because the recruiter thought one of the employers he’d listed didn’t really exist. The work experience was real, but  here’s the rub: even real job experience can look fake on a resume.

Here are three examples of how that can happen.

No web presence for an employer.

The job seeker mentioned above had done some financial work related to her parents’ real estate holdings. The family used a business name in these activities, but it wasn’t an official company and had no website. Although the work was real, the recruiter decided it wasn’t and hired someone else.

What could she do differently in the future?

  • Create a website for the business. It’s not that hard to do if you keep it simple, and it doesn’t have to cost anything.
  • On the resume, include more specifics about the work that was done and any other businesses that were involved, as long as this doesn’t breach confidentiality. A fuller picture tends to be more believable.
  • Be prepared to provide even more specifics in the interview, including examples of challenges faced, obstacles overcome and results achieved.

The company name is misspelled.

“If this job seeker really worked there,” the recruiter may think, “surely they’d know how to spell the company’s name!”

It’s not enough that you know the work experience on your resume is real. You have to make sure it looks real, too.

Freelance or consulting work is described vaguely.

Too many people cover resume gaps with phony claims of self-employment, so recruiters have become suspicious. If you legitimately are, or were, self-employed, by all means include your freelance experience on your resume, but you’ll need to back it up with specific details about the nature of the work, including accomplishments if at all possible. Provide additional evidence:

  • If you can possibly include a client list, do so.
  • Set up a website and/or a web portfolio of work samples.
  • Be prepared to offer references, and mention them in your cover letter (but not on your resume).
  • Include the self-employment in your LinkedIn profile, preferably with media such as photographs depicting yourself working and/or examples of your work product.
  • Encourage your clients or customers to review you on social media.

The resume and the LinkedIn profile don’t agree.

Make sure your resume, LinkedIn profile and any other materials are all consistent with each other, especially regarding your job titles, dates of employment and company names. Watch out for even the most innocent inconsistencies. For example, some companies, especially smaller ones, get a little loose about titles, so you may have used two different versions of your title. Pick one and use it consistently–and make sure your references know which title you’re using.

Real job experience can look fake on your resume. It’s not enough that it is real, it has to look real!

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