Resume Writing Tips: Controlling Exaggeration

Tips on how to control exaggeration of your skill and capabilities on your resume.

The number one tool in the process of job hunting is the resume. This presents to the potential employer a brief documentation of your work history, your skills and abilities and your training. It could be said that the resume is the first impression that a potential employer gets of you, the job seeker.

At a glance, your resume tells the potential employer your possibility for being an asset to the company. Subsequently, you, the job seeker, have to sell yourself in the resume to the potential employer. Often, this entails a little exaggeration on your part as to your skills and abilities.

In almost all instances, the duties you've performed throughout your employment history will actually be a kind of index of what you're really capable of, whether you realize this or not. Here in comes the "exaggeration".

For example, say you were a childcare provider. The job description in its barest form is that you cared for the child or children in your charge. You made sure the child was fed, had a safe environment to play in, and in the case of older children, perhaps helped with homework and did some tutoring.

Now, when you stop to think about it, you actually performed other duties peripheral to your primary duty of caring for the child, such as cleaning up messes and organizing food preparation. These peripheral duties fall under the category of domestic services. So as a by-product, you have the skills necessary to clean homes on a professional basis.

So, even though you were not particularly paid to keep homes clean, should you decide to seek a job with a company that provides domestic services to customers, you actually have skills that would be usable in this endeavor. If you list these skills, though it is a stretch from your primary skill of child care, it is still a duty you can perform, hence you would put it on your resume as a viable skill.

The problem arises in the potential to "over-exaggerate".

For instance, if regular food preparation was part of your duties in your job as a child care worker, an exaggeration would be that you are a short order cook, able to prepare basic meals. An over-exaggeration would be if you put down on your resume that you are a chef (able to prepare full course, complex recipes) based entirely on your skill at preparing basic meals for the child you were caring for.

The key to controlling over-exaggeration in your resume is to be honest with yourself at what you are able to do beyond your primary skills with little or no additional training.

There is a useful tool to help you get a handle on this. It's called a Skill Tree List.

What this list does is categorize and extrapolates all of the skills you are capable of, branching off from the actually skills, your primary experiences, that you possess.

Using the child care provider example, here is what a Skill Tree List would look like:


Duties: Provide care and supervision for a child


Household cleaning

Yard Cleaning (if part of your duties was maintaining a safe playing environment)


Short order cook


Basic Math, Science, art, etc. (if you also helped the child with schoolwork).

Though each of these peripheral skills may not necessarily get you into the door of a company that outright performs these services, it may go a long way in either getting you hired at an entry level position or make you eligible for additional training the company may provide if they decide to hire you.

The thing you want to keep in mind as you prepare your resume in this manner is how capable are you in actually performing these exaggerated duties.

Another example would be if you were a word processor and possess good computer skills as well. Your Skill Tree List may look like this:


Build and Repair Computers (this would apply if you actually built and maintained your own PC)

Software Installation

Software De-installation

Network setup

Database Entry

Word Processing

In closing, as you assemble your resume, think about your primary duties, skills and abilities you have listed in your work experience, then think about all the other little duties attendant to your main duties. Consider how they may be slightly exaggerated to show that you have the ability to perform these additional duties without having to "fake it".

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