We all have strengths, and we all have areas in which we are less competent. Usually, these equal out. We eventually hone our strengths with the goal of becoming a recognized expert in several areas.
Sometimes, however, when job seeking and wanting to present the best possible application, we may over rate our competency level in some area. For example, did your two semesters of college French really result in your being “fluent in French?” Could you actually design a professional website if asked to do so by your new boss? How extensive is your proposal writing experience? How often have you led a team?
By the time you are hired for a position, your new employer has looked at your indicated skills and expertise and assumes (rightfully) that you have the competency indicated on your resume or application. If you have padded your resume, it may lead to future awkwardness, a poor review, or even dismissal at the end of your probation period.
The best course is to be as accurate as possible on your resume. Never, ever lie. If you left college after three years, don’t claim you have graduated. Facts like that are very easy to check, and many employers check them. Try being descriptive instead of definite — saying “two years of college French” instead of “fluent in French” doesn’t lock you in. Rather than simply claiming “strong leadership skills,” give a few examples: “elected class treasurer,” “team leader for fundraising event that raised $5000,” or “named volunteer leader of the year.” Saying you were a member of a proposal writing team that secured a significant grant for a community agency can be more accurate than simply saying “expert in grant writing.”
If it is not the first professional position you are seeking, but are changing jobs, honesty is still crucial. Don’t inflate your level of responsibility in your old job. Don’t claim individual success for things that were a team effort. Perhaps, most importantly, be certain you can explain why you want to change jobs without burning any bridges. Remember that your perspective employer may speak to (or know) your current employer. Being dishonest almost always works against you.
Most job interviews afford you the opportunity to expand on what you have included in your resume or on your job application. This is where you can fill in some blanks and where you can more accurately define your level of expertise and competence. You do want to present your best professional self, and you don’t want to minimize your talents and experience. You need to be able “to sell your competency,” to help the interviewer see that you would be an excellent fit with their company. However, honesty — as the old statement goes — is always the best policy.