To Hype or Not to Hype

or You ain’t said nothing yet.

Hype is the shortened form of hyperbole. Hyperbole is a figure of speech which is an intentional exaggeration used to make someone or something sound impressive. Advertising agencies and public relations firms are fond of making inflated and extravagant claims when publicising or promoting products, services and people. Real Estate agents also like hype. We often call hype something more direct: BS. I use the term hype to include anything that doesn’t add value or anything that doesn’t need to be said.

I have noticed a tendency towards hype in resumes people write for themselves and which some resume writing services write for their clients. The problem with hype is that the person reading it knows it for what it is: BS. Not only is it not necessary to hype up your skills or achievements, but it’s also an insult to the readers’ intelligence.

It’s worth considering the damage you could do to your chances of securing career opportunities if you hype up your achievements, skills and experience to make you sound more “impressive”. For a start, the reader knows you are using BS  – you’ve got to give them some credit …. after all, they are the person who might be your boss.  Secondly, hype usually says very little of value.

The biggest culprit is the “adjective”. Over-using adjectives to describe experience, achievements or expertise gets you into hot water with the reader and can harm your chances.

Let me give you some examples of some of the hype going around:

Highly motivated, resourceful, creative and versatile real estate executive, especially skilled at building effective, productive working relationships. What is this actually telling the reader? Everyone thinks they are highly motivated and creative. And, if you are not building effective and productive working relationships, what are you doing? Anyone want to tell an employer that they build ineffective and unproductive relationships?

Energetic, highly capable, self-starter with excellent blah blah blah. If you are not an energetic self-starter and you aren’t highly capable, then don’t bother applying … for anything. It’s just not useful to say this. And, by the way, how do you prove it?

Strong and persuasive interpersonal skills. While not exactly hype in the usual sense, what are strong skills? I mean, who admits to weak skills? If you are going to rave about your interpersonal skills, give examples of where, when and to what effect you have applied them.

Results-oriented, high-energy, hands-on professional with a multi-layer of management skills with a successful track record of accomplishment. Oh please!! If you are not oriented to results, what are you oriented towards? Sleep? If you are not high-energy, what do you do? Watch television? If you are not hands-on, what are you? Hands-off? And, can you have an unsuccessful track record of accomplishment?

Dynamic entrepreneur who utilises creativity, leadership and teamwork to design and execute solutions that create customer value. What was this guy on?

Using hype (or more technically correct: BS) can cause the reader to become suspicious: “Why is this applicant using this kind of language to impress me? Can’t their achievements speak for themselves?” The more BS you use, the more you try to impress people with this kind of language, the further down the list you go.

OK, it’s easy to criticise, but what’s the solution if you are tempted to use hype, even in mild doses, in your resume? Stick to simple, direct and straightforward language and ask yourself whether any adjectives you use are necessary or whether they add value. Ask someone whose opinion you value and who is not afraid to give you honest feedback to read your resume and watch their body language. If they wince, shake their head or rush to the bathroom, find out what caused that reaction. Then remove the offending language.

You don’t get interviews by convincing employers that you can construct impressive-sounding but meaningless statements about yourself; you get interviews by convincing employers that you can add value to their organisations by focusing their attention on your contributions, accomplishments, achievements, experience and expertise.