Avoiding the ‘over-promise, under-deliver’ dilemma of job hunting

  March 10, 2017

As a graduate job-seeker, getting ahead of the pack is never easy; in terms of qualifications and experience you have very little to differentiate yourself from your peers. But that’s obviously not very helpful when trying to get a job; you need something that is going to help you stand out from the crowd, especially at the CV stage where virtually every resume is going to look the same. This is where a lot of people will choose to ‘embellish’ their experience and oversell their expertise, and it makes perfect sense: by exaggerating slightly you’ll have a much better chance of getting your foot in the door and being invited for an interview, and during the interview you can dazzle the employer with your passion, personality and drive to perform. And then, ta-da – job!

The only problem with this approach is that you’re potentially setting yourself up for a much bigger failure. If you were invited to interview based on what your CV or application said, and that’s not entirely accurate, then you are very likely to get into an ‘over-promise, under deliver’ dilemma where you can’t actually do half of what you said, making you look incompetent. ‘But I can do most of what they asked for; how hard can it be to learn the other stuff?’ is the usual response, but if you are thrown in at the deep end and expected to do a whole host of stuff you have no clue about, you’re going to struggle from the off, meaning you’ll probably have a horrible time, and the employer will wonder why they even hired you in the first place.

The obvious answer to this is not to lie on your CV or application. Of course, the drawback here is that then you have less chance of getting a ‘good’ job because you can’t demonstrate how you’re different and superior to everyone else, and this is why graduate recruitment is fundamentally flawed. As a grad you have no way to distinguish yourself from another graduate job-seeker, and you either end up having to lie to get invited to interview, or you have to start applying for jobs you don’t even want, because you think you’ll have a better chance. The key is to start applying to jobs that you really do have the skills for, and be willing to explore alternatives to what you believe is your ‘perfect job’. The fact is you won’t know your perfect job until you do it, so don’t pigeon-hole yourself before you’ve even started your career. Look for opportunities where you’ll actually fit the role, and above all, resist the urge to lie. If anything go the other way and be overly truthful – ‘I don’t currently know how to do X, but I’d love the opportunity to learn’ - that way if an employer likes the rest of your application they’re not lured by false pretences. When it comes to job hunting, honesty really is the best policy.

And don’t forget to fill in your Happy Work profile, where we will help you find jobs that match your skills, meaning you don’t even have to do the hunting part.