4 take aways from Jeff Scardino's 'failure' resume experiment

One thing that gets me excited is hearing about people who flip the status quo on its head. Chances are if you’re reading this, you’re the same way. So I thought I’d share a brilliant little experiment I just read about, and a few of my thoughts on what we can learn from it. 

According to this article by Kathleen Elkins, a clever guy named Jeff Scardino, was applying for a new job and decided to write two versions of his resume. The first one was similar to what you and I would very like write – packed with positive achievements, and screaming with how effective and wonderful we are. I mean surely we’re supposed to cover up our warts and present a super-human exterior, right?!

Wrong! Jeff’s second resume was full of his mishaps, failures, and bad references. And it was this one that landed him the most responses and interview requests. 

Talk about result!

It is worth reading the original article to see the picture of his resume and read the responses he received from some employers. I don't know Jeff Scardino, or Kathleen Elkins who wrote the article, but thanks to them for sharing such an interesting experiment!

Let’s take a look at the 4 things we can learn from Jeff’s ‘failure’ resume experiment

1. Stand out by shaking people out of their own status quo

The first step when applying for a new job is getting your foot in the door.

Jeff’s ‘failure’ resume landed him 8 responses and 5 requests to meet, while his ‘perfect’ resume, got him 1 email response and no chances to meet anyone in the flesh. 

Jeff cleverly figured out how to snap his reader out of their tick-boxing, autopilot stupor. And frankly, it sounds like that is exactly what the hiring manager wanted! 

TIP: If you’re not getting the results you want, try shaking up your standard way of presenting your ideas. Ask yourself: “How might I present this radically different?” For example, if you always meet with your boss in a meeting room, what if you went for a walk together instead? Or if you tend to rely on presentation slides, what if you tried going without next time? 

2. Make connections by keeping it real

Yesterday I called the Apple store and was greeted by a computer who told me he would speak to me like a human. Three perfectly asked questions later, I freaked out and hung up. I didn’t want to connect with a perfect robot... I wanted a human, full of flaws, just like me! 

Jeff kept it real, and chances are this allowed his potential employers to feel they'd be able to relate more with him and that would have put them more at ease.

TIP: For those on the job hunt, you may have hobbies listed in your resume. What else could you include that would show the hiring manager that you are someone genuine and real who they would enjoy connecting with over a coffee? 

3. Free yourself of unnecessary interview anxiety by eliminating the chances of being ‘found out’

When I coach people who are preparing for interviews, often we’re working through some pre-interview anxiety. One reason why this can exist is when a person is worried about what will happen if the interviewer scratches beneath the surface. 

If you’ve embellished your resume, then go back and edit it. You’ve got enough going for you that you don’t need to lie your way into your next role. If you don't see that, then we should talk asap. If you’ve had some turbulent times, confront them and figure out what you’ve learned from them. If you try to tuck them under the rug, they could come back to bite you in the form of anxiety and negative energy during your interview. 

As Andrew Carnegie once said, “Most real failures are due to limitations which men set up in their own minds. If they had the courage to go one step further, they would discover their error”. 

Jeff’s ‘failure’ resume scratched the surface before he even entered the room. Therefore there was nothing left for him to be worry the hiring manager would discover and ask him about. He could enter the interview room with a calm feeling of, “you’ve seen the real me, now lets talk openly and honestly”. 

TIP: Confront and learn from the things you potentially view as ‘failures’ and short-comings. If you bury them, they’ll become toxic. If you explore them, you can learn and grow. Revealing your ‘failures’ in your resume or during an interview demonstrates your appetite to take risks and learn. If a hiring manager is unable to see it this way, then you could very well be barking up the wrong tree and entering into a work culture that isn’t right for a changemaker like yourself. 

4. You can inch closer to a yes by helping the hiring manager not feel ‘caught out’

HR makes you jump through hoops during the interview process because they don’t want to make a costly hiring mistake. They want to observe you from every angle because effectively they don’t want any buyer’s remorse. Take a read of any book on selling and you’ll start to understand this better.

I personally like this quote from the Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield in his book An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: “In my experience, fear comes from not knowing what to expect and not feeling you have any control over what’s about to happen. When you feel helpless, you’re far more afraid than you would be if you knew the facts.” 

Jeff lays his cards on the table. He provides the hiring manager with his ‘failure’ facts. The hiring manager can see right from the start what they are getting with him. This reduces their worry about being ‘caught out’ at some point down the line. Plus they can tick some boxes in advance of the meeting, and this benefits Jeff because he has helped put them at ease even before they’ve met. 

TIP: Hiring managers are naturally going to wonder about why you left each of your previous roles. Why not try including a statement for each role that explains why you left. This will help answer their natural curiosities (and worries) right up front.

Are you considering changing jobs or are actively looking for a new one? Get in touch, and I can help you prepare for your interviews so you sail straight through them and land the jobs you want! I coach people on a range of personal and professional areas and you can read about my coaching services here and scroll to the bottom of that page to get in touch for a FREE 30-minute conversation.

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