should you list a fun but fake fact on your resume to intrigue an employer?

A reader writes:

I am currently job searching and have heard that sometimes people put one fun thing on their resume that normally wouldn’t belong, which might seem to make them more interesting to a job recruiter who would want to know the rest of the story. One such suggestion was to list that you are Time Magazine’s “2006 Person of the Year.” Now, this wouldn’t technically be a lie. Time Magazine listed “You, yes You!” as their person of the year in 2006, so technically everyone can say that. But as a way to get a foot in the door, do you think listing that is overstepping the bounds of what is professional on a resume, or is it fun creativity to create a discussion between you and a potential employer to help you get your foot in the door?

(I almost hesitated to ask you this, in case you use it on your blog for fear everyone will start using this trick if it’s legit).


I’m sure there’s some hiring manager out there who would enjoy this, but the majority will either know right off the bat that it’s not real, in which case they’re likely to be annoyed that you’re not just giving them the actual facts about your qualifications, or they won’t know and then are likely to be annoyed and feel foolish when they ask you about it.

The way to make your application stand out is very straightforward: write a compelling cover letter, have a resume that shows a track record of achievement, and be friendly, responsive, thoughtful, and enthusiastic. That’s the only path, at least if you’re screening for competent managers (and you should be).

If you’re trying to get the hiring manager’s attention via anything not related to the actual quality of your candidacy, you’re probably getting too gimmicky and losing focus on what managers care about when they’re hiring.

{ 307 comments… read them below }

  1. Henrietta Gondorf*

    This is a new one on me. Now I’m wondering about the origins of such a suggestion because I’m aghast.

    1. EmilyG*

      There was a gimmicky college application essay circulating on the Internet years ago in which the candidate boasted of a long list of outrageous fake accomplishments. I bet this is an attempt to take that strategy into the world of job-seeking. That essay worked (according to Internet Legend, at least) for ONE GUY. Because it *was* creative and funny, and it was a *creative-writing assignment,* in essence. Resumes should not be creative writing!

      1. fposte*

        Maybe Alison can clarify on the fake thing–the actual question doesn’t suggest that the qualification be fake, and I’m wondering if that was a title that Alison added.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Oh, interesting. I consider “person of the year” to be essentially fake. I mean, it’s technically true, but it’s there to mislead the reader a little bit, at least at first. But now that you point it out, I feel like my framing wasn’t ideal.

          1. fposte*

            I guess I read “fake” as more like “demonstrably untrue” and the letter seemed to me to be more about the frivolousness; it made me think about the LW who had a cover letter where she’d said she’d won the same number of Oscars as Leo DiCaprio.

    2. Artemesia*

      Well it is not appropriate on the resume itself, but it is fine if you have it printed on a chocolate bar wrapper you send with your resume wrapped around it.

    1. Tiffy the Fed... Contractor*

      Also, make sure your resume is printed on high-quality paper, preferably scented.

        1. Snork Maiden*

          Yes! Make sure you fill the entire envelope with glitter. The amount of glitter is directly proportional to the amount of joy elicited.

          1. HR Generalist*

            On a tangent, I just found some old job descriptions (talking late 80’s, early 90’s here) from our organization that were printed….. in Comic Sans!

        1. Marcy*

          I received one in purple once- you have to be creative with the colors. You should probably even call the hiring manager directly to find out if they prefer purple or pink.

    2. BethRA*

      Skip the portrait and chocs, many of us prefer wine.

      Red wine – and I lean towards old world vs. new.

      1. RobM*

        If some of the applicants I see took the advice to use comic sans, that would save me some time, so its not all bad to be fair. Probably upset the cleaners though.

    3. HR Recruiter*

      What about a bathroom selfie wearing a robe, appearing to have just woken up, and dirty clothes in the background…yup I received that from someone (not kidding).

      1. Artemesia*

        I have received a lot of odd resumes but you win. My personal favorite (well after the person who wrote to apply on a postcard with the cover letter spiraling out from the center in colored pen) was the one with parchment like paper with elaborate scroll border with his picture in the center and X Companies New Vice President of Operations underneath. It was a very unattractive guy. My immediate thought was that this is a doctoral dissertation study and some people got applications with a black guy, some with an older woman, some with a handsome white guy etc etc and they are seeing if there is gender, race, appearance discrimination based on how many get interviews.

        Alas I never got a potted plant, a box of chocolates or even an envelope full of glitter.

        1. I'm a Little Teapot*

          A postcard with the cover letter spiraling out from the center? At least that’s a *creative* gimmick – I’ve never heard that one before.

    4. Snargulfuss*

      Ooo, Alison if you haven’t already done so, could you do a post on the most ridiculous things people have done to get noticed by a hiring manager? Anonymous of course, not something meant to be mean-spirited.

  2. C Average*

    Others may disagree, but I’ve found some benefit to including weird but true facts on my resume.

    This wasn’t a strategy exactly! I spent some time working as a training coordinator for the local chapter of the AGC and was researching possible classes to offer to our members, and I took many of the classes myself as part of my research. As a result, I had a whole stack of super-weird OSHA certifications that would normally never appear on the resume of a technical writer. I obtained, among other things, a crane operator’s license, and included that in my “skills” section.

    No one who interviewed me was looking for a crane operator, but EVERYONE wanted to talk to me about that item.

    1. GigglyPuff*

      But that was completely related to your job, and shows your skills/accomplishments. That makes sense, this is just…

    2. some1*

      I think the difference for you is that it’s still a professional accomplishment in the way that Person of the Year thing isn’t.

    3. Turanga Leela*

      I’ve had similar experiences with genuine qualifications on my resume that are unusual or fun. I wrote a paper ages ago on something obscure, and until it got pushed off my resume by more recent work, every single interviewer would say, “So tell me about the Mongolian yak-milk industry!”

      …I didn’t really write about Mongolian yak milk, but the real topic is just as weird.

        1. Turanga Leela*

          I must protect my secret identity! :)

          The best was an interview for something totally unrelated where the interviewer turned out to be from Mongolia and had raised yaks in her parents’ backyard. I found out later that she was a notoriously tough interviewer, but we got along great because we bonded over the yaks.

      1. JTD*

        I did something rather unusual over a decade ago that’s on my CV, because I had to explain the career break. It worked out nicely in interviews in the “getting to know you” bit, also it gave me certain soft skills that a good interviewer would appreciate.

        But, in contrast, I’d never list myself on a CV as a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize (a real, verifiable award), yet I am, because I’m an EU citizen.

    4. MK*

      I think that if there is a fact about you that a) is completely and utterly true, not just technically not-a-lie, b) shows you in a good light and c) is something that will be memorable, it’s not a disaster to mention it. If , for example, you competed in the Olympics or went round the world on foot or are a published poet, it might make people find you interenting and remember you. However, there will be many people who won’t care and probably some who will be annoyed by you putting irrelevant information on a CV, or even think you frivolous for mentioning it. But, in any case, I don’t believe it would help you to get anything part of you in any door; I might be intrigued to hear that someone is a world-champion in interpretive dance, but I wouldn’t give them an interview, much less a job, because of it, unless the “fun” fact had some sort of bearing on the role.

      1. Turanga Leela*

        I don’t know. If a well-qualified but not extraordinary candidate seems like an interesting person, or someone with unusual focus or determination, I’m more likely to want to meet her. When I hire, I’m hiring someone I have to be around every day, and I’m looking for a personality match as much as a set of skills. I’d definitely want to know if someone is an Olympian or a published poet, and it would absolutely make me more likely to interview the person.

        1. mweis77*

          Yes, but those are legitimate accomplishments. The example provided is cheesy and clearly a gimmick.

          1. Turanga Leela*

            Not arguing at all with the consensus on the “person of the year” gimmick, but I’m disagreeing with MK’s post, and these examples come directly from it. I hire as part of my job, and if you are any of the things MK mentioned (Olympic competitor, published poet, world-champion dancer, or person who walked around the world on foot), that will help you get an interview with me as long as you are otherwise qualified for the gig. It sounds like they won’t help with MK, but they really could help with other hiring managers, including ones who don’t respond well to gimmicks.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I’m curious about why. I could see if if you really have a large pool of perfectly qualified candidates who no one is more qualified than the others and so it’s basically a crapshoot who you call in, but it’s so rare for that to be the case – there are usually lots of differentiators, like cover letters, overall presentation, accomplishments, specifics of the work experience, etc.

              1. Turanga Leela*

                We have almost the opposite of what you describe—we tend to have a small pool of good-but-not-excellent candidates. When I comb through resumes, I’m looking for either someone who is much better than the rest of the pool, or else someone who is trainable and fun to work with. Interesting achievements from outside our field help me get a sense of the person as more than a resume, which makes me more likely to call the person for an initial interview (we use phone screens before meeting someone in person).

                We also hire people pretty early in their careers, so people often don’t have professional accomplishments yet. In that case, a record of achievement outside the field can indicate that the person knows how to focus and commit to a goal, which is a good sign for us. Otherwise, we wind up relying a lot on grades, which have been a really imperfect guide in the past.

                1. mweis77*

                  I agree. I wouldn’t hire someone based just on an interesting accomplishment, but it could help tip the scales. I hire student interns or graduate assistants and agree that other types of achievements. I had an intern that was captain of the university (large state school) soccer team that won a conference championship. Her ability to communicate, focus and make a plan on the athletic field transferred well.

                2. Florida*

                  When I was in college, I practiced Japanese karate. After college when I started applying for jobs, my resume said that I had a black belt in karate. People always commented on it in interviews. It demonstrates a certain amount of commitment and focus. After about five years, when I had more work experience and work-related accomplishments, I took it off my resume.

                  Now, if you are talking about a professional bio, that’s different. For example, if your company website has a bio of certain staff members, I think it is OK to mention a fun fact such as, “Oliver enjoys running marathons and has a pet iguana.”

                3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                  Same. We usually hire people right out of college or we are their second job, and nobody has achievements in teapots.

                  I would be all over C-average’s crane operator’s license. We’d talk about her beforehand “hey, when is the woman with crane operator’s license coming in? I want to be in on that interview.”

                  People with varied interests and weird specializations fit our culture. You have to enjoy random things to work in teapots.

                4. WorkingMom*

                  I totally agree with you on this. If an individual has any kind of great achievement, it shows they understand commitment, what it takes to succeed, hard work, etc. For example, in my line of work we tend to interview a lot of fitness-minded individuals. Those who played college sports or have excelled in some area (champion chess player, accomplished pianist, semi-pro basketball, anything) shows me that this individual has been in the trenches, had battled adversity of some kind, and is coachable. You don’t become an expert or highly accomplished in ANYTHING without these characteristics.

                5. Green*

                  Law firms like this for summer associate jobs. When everyone applying has a 3.8 from a top 10 school, being able to vaguely remember the candidate or having had an interesting conversation with them at lunch makes a difference in who gets hired.

                6. Snargulfuss*

                  I’m a career counselor, and in gathering feedback from employers (both in quantitative surveys and anecdotally) I’ve found that they tend to be about 50/50 on whether or not they want to see interests and not-exactly-relevant achievements on a resume.

                  I usually tell students that if they have some interests that truly set them apart and don’t take anything away from presenting themselves as a professional, then they can include a line or two on their resume, but it’s not something they should be including at the expense of relevant skills and experience.

              2. LBK*

                This – I can’t imagine having so few qualified candidates that someone who would normally be, say, 50th on my list is worth bumping up to my top 5 just based on personality. Yeah, I have to be around them every day, but I also have to manage them every day. That’s way less stressful if they’re more qualified for the job and concurrently makes it easier to like them as a person, because I won’t be annoyed at their work quality all the time.

                I have some coworkers I should get along with great on paper whom I can’t stand in actuality because they’re underperformers and my inability to get work productivity out of them negates our personality match.

                1. Turanga Leela*

                  Oh, I see what you’re thinking. No, I wouldn’t bump someone up that much either. We never get 50 applicants. Last time I had maybe 15, and I did phone screens for my top group (no set number). Candidates who seemed both interesting and qualified were more likely to get a call than people who seemed qualified but cookie-cutter. Candidates who were very impressive professionally/academically got a call regardless of human interest factors.

                  If it matters, the people I found intriguing during the last round of hiring were a returned Peace Corps volunteer and a former national-level junior athletic champion. Both were qualified, and if I remember correctly, both had sort of bland cover letters. The resumes suggested that they were interesting in ways that weren’t showing up in their other materials.

                2. MK*

                  I can see looking for a personality match when interviewing the top three candidates, but not before.

                3. LBK*

                  That makes more sense. I didn’t see your last response to AAM until after I’d written my comment, so the context of the kind of hiring pool and position you’re working with also helps clarify.

                4. Burlington*

                  In response to MK: I think that it would be terrifying to have it down to three candidates and find that you didn’t personally like any of them (or that none of the three are a good personality fit for the team). Because you’d almost certainly hire someone from that pool, and then possibly regret it later on. I think it’s totally reasonable to screen for fit waaay earlier than the final cut.

                  (I might be making an assumption that we’re talking general personality fit and not just whether or not I personally like them, but the two are going to be so tied-in together, and then both of those are going to be tied in with cultural fit, that to try to separate them out as separate concepts probably isn’t useful from an individual interviewer standpoint.)

              3. C Average*

                My company is also a place where having something interesting but not necessarily directly relevant to the job is likely to be helpful.

                Our whole schtick as a company is pop culture savvy, adventurousness, charisma, and creativity. From what I’ve seen in my 7+ years here, we try not to hire boring* people. They don’t fit and they don’t thrive. Everyone here was the former state champion of a sport you’ve never heard of or a member of a band or a puppeteer or [fill in quirky accomplishment]. When you meet new people, you swap titles and, just as often, interesting personal stories.

                *I know no one is truly boring. But if you come across as serious, buttoned-up, and uncharismatic, you’re going to be labeled “boring” here, even if you have many other fine qualities.

                1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                  Same here.

                  And now I want to look for someone with a crane operator’s license. You’ve spoiled me for all else.

            2. MK*

              That was also a point I made. Some people will find it interesting, but for most I don’t think it will matter enough to make a difference; and it might rub others the wrong way. This probably varies with the field; I am in a profession that takes itself very seriously.

              1. Marcy*

                I am also in a serious profession and I would assume the person is probably lying and not interview them. My boss interviews them just to catch them in the lie- it is entertainment for her. We’ve also had those who like to name drop to get attention. The last one went on and on about how he used to work for the guy who used to run the agency I work for. He was definitely well known, but also hated by all so it didn’t exactly help him to go on and on about how wonderful the guy was.

            3. Cheryl*

              I think it might be specific for the field as well. My cousin got a job in a crowded my medical field by including on his application (resume?) that he hopped boxcars around the country for a couple months.

      2. olives*

        Knowing if someone is interesting is one thing, but it’s also a thing where you’ve got to know your audience, and when you’re just throwing your resume into a pool largely anonymously, it’s not easy to know your audience. I recently saw a resume that included a job as a model for a major retailer on it, despite there being several jobs on there that were more related to the job we were hiring for (it’s a technical position, so a completely different industry). I don’t have anything against modeling in particular, and wouldn’t discriminate against someone for having been a model, but it did make me reluctant to interview them because it struck me as incredibly tone-deaf to use the little space on your 1-page resume that way.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Maybe s/he did not have anything else to for that time frame, rather than leave a gap, they decided to just put in the truth?

      3. NHPoet*

        I actually am a published poet, and I coached the inaugural national poetry slam team for my state. I do include this very, very briefly at the end my resume, even though it has nothing to do with my career path as a director of advancement. It’s there because anyone who Googles me will find LOTS of poetry stuff. I had one CEO ask about it in an interview because it was her impression that poets are flaky and disorganized. (And some are! But not me). I did get the job because I was super-qualified and am well along in my career with an excellent track record. I’ve since moved on, but I wonder if it’s worth including in the future.

      4. Annalee*

        I did this by accident, and I can tell you: the utterly true part is no joke.

        I was part of an Esperanto club in college, so I had listed Esperanto under ‘languages’ on my linkedin profile as a joke, even though it’d been a few years since I spoke it. When I was interviewed for my current job, it was a really quick turnaround and I wasn’t actively searching, so I didn’t have an up-to-date resume. The interviewers went off my linkedin profile (I brought a real resume to the interview, which did not list Esperanto).

        When the technical interviewer walked into the room, he immediately started speaking to me in fluent Esperanto.

        Fortunately for me, he was training an interviewer who did not speak Esperanto, so I translated what he had said into English before saying–in English–that I didn’t think I could handle a technical interview in Esperanto.

        So, yeah, let that be a lesson that there is pretty much nothing so obscure that you don’t run the risk of someone knowing it and checking you on it. Esperanto isn’t needed for my job, but if I hadn’t understood him, I wouldn’t have blamed him one bit for doubting my integrity and possibly passing me over for the position.

        (We now work together and he still occasionally speaks to me in Esperanto. We have another Esperantist on staff as well, so I’ve been trying to brush up).

        1. Cath in Canada*


          I think putting something like that on LinkedIn is a great solution, if you want to demonstrate quirky / non-work interests but don’t want to risk putting them on a CV. I got a question in an interview once about the “beer snob” part of my Twitter bio – obviously that wasn’t on my CV, but at least one interviewer had Googled me and found a common interest!

      5. ella*

        Wouldn’t things like that go better in a cover letter than on a resume? I can see an Olympian or someone who walked around the world using that as a gateway to talk about their determination, or their ability to secure funding for ultimately frivolous projects,* or something. It’s also a good way to explain why you never held a job before the age of 25 (because you were training full time to crush the half pipe). But it would just seem sort of random on a resume.

        *Not saying frivolous in a detrimental way here, I enjoy watching and admire athletes’ skills, but their substantive value to society is a little fuzzy around the edges.

    5. East Coast Anon*

      I know someone who bartended through college and has Master Mixologist as a skill on her resume. It’s not related to her current career field, but she often gets questions/comments on it.

      1. HR Recruiter*

        In addition to the person of the year advice someone must be giving out advice to list mixologist as a skill. Over the last 4 weeks have probably received 50+ resumes with that listed….and no its not at all relevant to any positions I am hiring for….and no it did not make me want to contact them.

        1. Burlington*

          Eh, “mixology” is an actual skill, with certifications and all, and it’s often related to one’s profession (the recession caused an awful lot of people to bartend for a few years post-grad). I can see it not specifically contributing to their application, but I hope you don’t screen people out who use it!

          1. HR Recruiter*

            I don’t screen people out for using a skill. I screen people out who’s ONLY skill is mixology and they are say applying for head of accounting…sorry, you need relevant skills to get a job.

    6. Stephanie*

      Yeah, I’ve had weird and semi-relevant volunteer experiences, hobbies, and jobs that people are curious about. Thing is, they’re (1) true and (2) usually something at can at least relate to the job at hand.

      1. Lizzie*

        As a bonus for me, interviewers usually ask about my relevant-but-interesting experience right off the bat, which always helps me to start out the interview at ease. For as much as I’ve practiced, I still get nervous in interviews, so it’s nice when the first thing they say is, “Peace Corps, huh? What was that like?”

    7. KatJ_NZ*

      I had a job as a tour guide at a sewage treatment plant for a few years whilst studying. That generates conversation in a similar way, but it isn’t made-up or facetious!

    8. CT*

      I generally use a CV instead of a resume (I’m academia-adjacent), with a subheading at the end for “other experience and skills”. In addition to skills like programming, I have listed that I solo through-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail (Mexico to Canada in < 5 months). It's actually somewhat relevant – I'm a biologist who does some fieldwork, which means long, tough, dirty days in the wilderness. But mostly it's on there because it was a really interesting part of my life and speaks to intangible skills (organization, motivation, etc) in a different way than academic achievement alone. Also I get great street cred with other biologists, who are a fairly outdoorsy set.

      If I ever need a resume again (as opposed to a CV), I'll probably try to keep it on – but I'm curious if AAM readers think it would look odd?

      1. Texas HR pro*

        No, not odd at all if you’re applying for those biologist jobs where fieldwork is required. It’s relevant there!

        It might be odd if you are applying for my front-desk reception position, though. I would wonder why you were spending precious resume real estate that could better be used to showcase admin support skills.

    9. Sherm*

      I think weird but true facts could help, too, a way to show you are a real person and not Applicant #23439231. It would help if it has some relevance to your qualifications, showing that you are persistent, or creative, or you’re not just in it for the money, etc. And as someone who hates awkward silences, I appreciate how fun facts can keep a conversation moving.

      “Person of the Year Award” is not helpful, one reason because it is not a conversation starter. No one is going to say “Were you flown into Time Magazine headquarters? Who took your picture? Do you get stopped on the street by people recognizing you?” It’s an empty calorie.

    10. AnotherAlison*

      It seems fine in your case to include crane operator, but I would worry someone would actually expect me to know how to run a crane, even though none of the positions on my resume say anything about machine operation. I work for a really big national contractor. : )

    11. Connie-Lynne*

      I think the key point here, as everyone else says, is that you had legit work experience to report.

      For seven years I ran a grilled cheese food festival, and you can bet that’s on my resume — not just because everyone wants to talk about it, but because you can bet that running a 10,000-attendee festival in your spare time shows some management skill. Similarly, I downplay the dildo manufacturer I worked for by having them down on my resume by their incorporated name and referring to them as a toy manufacturing company. This is because, as relevant as my experience there may be, I don’t really want to discuss sex toys with my interviewers.

        1. Connie-Lynne*

          Indeed — my career path has taken a number of interesting turns, leading to, if nothing else, good cocktail stories.

          The toy manufacturer was way more boring than one might think; the food festival, though, that I love and I’m sorry we had to eventually stop throwing it (declining attendance).

    12. beckythetechie*

      My theatre resume includes familiarity with heavy equipment (my father was a professional operator and diesel mechanic) but my “real world” resume doesn’t. Not that I’m planning to add the bobcat skills to my other resume but it does gain comments.

    13. WorkingMom*

      C Average – I think your approach is the complete opposite of the OP. Here – you are listing certifications, licenses, and other skills that were earned as a result of your research as a technical writer. Even though those unique skills may not apply to the “role” of technical writer – it speaks volumes about your professional integrity. If you’ve been hired to write a manual on how to operate a crane, another writer may just follow the directions provided to him. However, you went above and beyond and actually took a course, learned how to DO it, and therefore can write a better manual. (And those who are using said manual to learn to operate a crane would truly appreciate that the writer of the manual actually KNOWS HOW TO operate a crane!)

      So, I say kudos to you for going the extra mile, and bonus that it lends itself to a great conversation starter in interviews. That’s something that makes a candidate memorable. The unique skill – but also how you perform your work.

  3. GigglyPuff*

    Even if I didn’t know the magazine did that, I would know, based on who the person of the year typically is (celebrities, advocates, etc), that it most likely wasn’t you, and then would question everything else on your resume, and what else you might be “lying” about.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Yep. I didn’t remember that Time chose “You” that year, so I would have assumed that the person had a major combustion event of the trousers….but even if I had remembered, adding something that tells me nothing about the applicant just to try to “stand out from the crowd” is like putting your name in glitter or sending chocolates to the hiring manager with your photo underneath the chocolates.

      1. Adonday Veeah*

        “…had a major combustion event of the trousers….”

        Busting my gut! (Stealing this.)

      2. Kyrielle*

        Or sending the hiring manager chocolates with your name written on them in glitter.

        Yeah, the person-of-the-year line, I would have perceived as a lie without bothering to research it, and it could have taken a _stellar_ resume that was just what we wanted and got it pitched without a phone screen. Seriously, who has time for someone who thinks they’re All That or that it’s a good idea? (And if they really ARE a celebrity, why would we hire them for this job? Wrong fit!)

  4. fposte*

    WTFs don’t serve you on a resume. You really, really don’t want the hiring manager to think “WTF?” about your application.

    If you have an interesting and significant actual accomplishment, there may be a place for that on a resume, but it’s still less likely to be a foot in the door than a topic that comes up during the interview. So for the love of employment, don’t assume you have to force random stuff into the “interesting and significant actual accomplishment” category if you don’t have anything worthy of listing.

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      I’d go further than your sentence of ‘WTFs don’t serve you on a resume’ by saying that WTFs don’t get you a job…

  5. Adam*

    It’s been a while since I read the article, but I remember thinking “You” as person of the year 2006 was a rather bogus choice anyways…

    1. Lily in NYC*

      And that stupid mirror on the cover, ugh. I worked for their main competitor when that issue came out and we all mocked it mercilessly.

  6. Satanic Mechanic*

    OP, please don’t take this as an attack, but this whole idea of “getting a foot in the door” is really outdated. When I hear that phrase I am reminded of The Onion’s headline “Grandfather gets Job by Just Walking Right Up and Asking.”

    Yes, there is networking. But, there is really no such thing as “getting a foot in the door”. Either you get your whole body in, or you do not. There is no in between. And, I’m not just picking apart your language. This phrase (to me, at least, others may disagree) seems to indicate a preference for tricks or gimmicks that grab an employer’s attention. As AAM has pointed out countless times, these never work (and if they do, that is not a person you want to work for).

    I would strongly encourage you to extract this phrase from your vocabulary and focus on getting your whole body in the door.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      This is such a good way of putting it. “Foot in the door” calls to mind the pushy door-to-door salesman that won’t let you physically close the door because he’s sure if you just hear five more minutes of his pitch you’ll realize you DO need a new carpet-cleaning machine and a set of chef’s knives.

      You don’t want to work at a company that hires the pushiest people; you want to work somewhere that hires actually-skilled people.

    2. Stephanie*

      I think there are still companies where you can start at the bottom and work your way up or move around, but those companies are becoming increasingly rare and it’s usually not some hidden secret that that’s possible. Even then, you still have to interview and get hired for the mail room (or whatever job), do well, and interview for the next role.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Just my opinion, there is usually a catch of some sort. One company I worked for was good on the promotions, but you could never say no to a promotion. Once you said no, the train ride was over.

      2. Graciosa*

        In my function at my current employer, it is very unusual to hire in above our entry level – we promote internally, but very rarely source externally. This is so true that a senior level person who left for another job and wanted to return took an entry level position because it was the only way he could get back in. He did get promoted fairly quickly after that, so this actually worked for him.

        But I do agree it’s not the norm.

      3. PurpleMonkeyDishwasher*

        Even in the circumstances Stephanie describes though (company heavy on internal promotion), I wouldn’t refer to the entry-level mail room job as getting my “foot in the door” – it’s an actual job all on its own for which I’d need to have skills/ability in order to be hired, so that’s “full body in the door” territory to me.

        I guess maybe unpaid internships, or contract jobs, or volunteer work in the non-profit world could qualify as “foot in the door” positions, since they’re not positions that are guaranteed to lead to long-term, stable employment, but to think of a regular full-time paying job that way? Not helpful (and not accurate).

    3. themmases*

      I agree, it makes me think of a door to door salesman who won’t leave until you take some samples or let him demonstrate the vacuum on your sofa or something. So to me it implies that you’re trying to get and keep the attention of someone who fundamentally doesn’t want to talk to you.

      1. I'm a Little Teapot*

        If I had a door-to-door salesman who told me he wouldn’t leave until I did X, I’d tell him he’d be welcome to explain that to the police.

        (Not that I imagine the police in my city would actually show up; they don’t actually show up for muggings a lot of the time. But he might not know that.)

    4. JB*

      I agree with I think your point is, but it depends on how a person is using that phrase, which means different things to different people. Many people use the term “get your foot in the door” to mean “get someone with hiring authority or weight to interview me or at least consider it,” and that is a thing. Sometimes, even if you wouldn’t get a resume screener’s attention through normal channels, you can get someone on the inside to talk you, and that foot in the door leads to getting your whole body in the door, i.e., becoming a serious candidate or getting hired. But that where the networking thing you were talking about comes in. The idea that you can use smoke and mirrors–“facts” on your resume, gifts, videos instead of resumes–to somehow snag someone’s attention and get them willing to talk to you when they otherwise wouldn’t, you’re right, that doesn’t really happen (except, as Alison said, for people you wouldn’t really want to work for).

      1. Felicia*

        All that gimmicky stuff will totally get someone’s attention and make you memorable for most people, but in a bad way and they won’t interview you. They’ll just talk about that weird and crazy resume they got that time.

    5. Artemesia*

      I actually disagree. After a merger the company that had dropped me and others hired someone in my field. I knew he would be doing work in my area and might have projects that would be perfect for my talents, so I wrote him a letter bringing his good luck to his attention. I think a pretty fair ‘cover letter’ by AAM standards. At the same time, I had a former major professor who knew him slightly contact him with the same good news. On the very same day I received two letters in the mail: 1. obvious form letter from secretary saying basically ‘we’ll keep your letter on file, drop dead.’ You know the ones. 2. addressed to me personally by the personage asking me to contact his secretary in two weeks because he had a project he wanted me to work with him on and could offer a half time position.

      It was about getting on his radar i.e. getting a foot in the door. In this case, a note from someone he knew rather than random stranger worked. He probably didn’t even read the first letter from me. I might add that that initial part time gig resulted in rather swiftly full time employment and advancement in the organization for decades, because once I got my whole self in the door, I quickly became obviously useful to his efforts and then to the organization.

      1. A Bug!*

        You say you disagree but in reading both your comments I get the impression you don’t. Satanic Mechanic specifically says that actual networking isn’t “foot-in-the-door” gimmickry, and networking is pretty much exactly what you describe in your comment.

        Having a mutual connection who will vouch for your competence is pretty different from the kinds of strategies that are usually promoted as a way to get your foot in the door. The former is leveraging existing connections while the latter is trying to fabricate them, if that makes sense.

        1. Satanic Mechanic*

          Yes, exactly. I was never referring to networking and said so explicitly in my post. I was referring only to the manner in which the OP appears to be using the phrase (ie., some trick or gimmick to grab a person’s attention).

      2. Lily in NYC*

        I have a related question – We have an “XX Award” that is given out once a year to an employee who went above and beyond the call of duty. People get nominated by a boss and then everyone votes. After Hurricane Sandy, the award was given to my entire office for our hard work after the storm (we work for the City so it was crazy for weeks – sleeping on the floor in the office, working without heat for weeks, coming to work for 18 hour days when most of us had damaged homes and no power and problems of our own, etc..)
        Would it be ok to put that on my resume as an accomplishment? It feels weird because it’s usually only awarded to one person.

        1. PurpleMonkeyDishwasher*

          I don’t think it’s as weird as what OP is suggesting, because you really put in the work to back up the award, you know? I’d probably phrase it as “Part of team that received XX Award in YEAR for efforts related to Hurricane Sandy” or similar, to keep it clear that you weren’t the sole recipient while also highlighting that you truly did go above and beyond in your position there.

    6. A Bug!*

      I feel like the idea of getting your foot in the door has become too muddled to have any real meaning. I do think there are non-gimmicky ways to get your foot in the door, but as with most career strategies, they aren’t one-size-fits-all.

      For example, taking an entry-level position with a company because they like to promote from within. Or volunteering with an organization you’d like to work for. I’d consider those to be valid “foot-in-the-door” strategies, assuming that the employer does have a proven track record of internal hiring, or of hiring from the volunteer pool.

  7. Tiffy the Fed... Contractor*

    I think all questions like this should be banned. Allison has covered it so many times: Don’t use gimmicks.

    1. fposte*

      But advice to use gimmicks unfortunately continues to circulate, so it’s a continued service to let people know it’s bad, bad advice.

        1. C Average*


          (Also, if you’re like me and follow a few marketing blogs, you’ll not infrequently see a “how to GET NOTICED by a hiring manager!” on some marketing blog and then take unholy glee in . . . wait for it . . . seeing the same dumb idea get thoroughly debunked on AAM a day or two later.)

        2. The Cosmic Avenger*

          That, and maybe if someone heard about this and Googles “time man of the year 2006 resume” they’ll also come up with this blog post!

      1. Stephanie*

        Yeah, and to be fair, people may write about these in earnest and just not know. At the very least, they’re writing in and asking, so I don’t think it’s fair to give a genuine answer. Plus, if you’ve been in that desperate job seeker head space before, crazier ideas start to sound better and better…

        1. DrPepper Addict*

          This is exactly what I was going to say. Obviously it’s a bad idea but 1. Some people are just naïve and at least they came here to ask before doing it. and 2. I’ve been in situations when I’m desperate for work and not get any replies from resumes after working an 8 hour days just applying for jobs. It’s at that moment you reevaluate everything and wonder if gimmicks actually would work in your instance (not that I’ve done it however, but definitely considered it!).

        2. A Bug!*

          I agree. It can be hard to separate gimmick advice from sound advice when you’re not super familiar with hiring norms. There’s lots of advice that sounds pretty plausible, and when you’ve got tons of people in positions of seeming authority on the subject offering bad advice, or endless anecdata about this one time a gimmick worked so you should totally do this all the time, it makes it even trickier.

          I mean, it’s easy to recognize some suggestions as gimmicks*, but others are really more about arbitrary customs that you need to observe, and “what goes on my resume and cover letter” is definitely one of those areas.

          *I’m job-searching, so I’m getting a lot of such unsolicited advice from friends and family. “Corrupt the PDF of your resume, so that when the hiring manager finishes reading your cover letter and discovers she can’t open the resume, she’ll have to get in touch with you to send it again. Since your cover letter arrived intact, she’ll dismiss the inconvenience as a technological hiccup, and she will subconsciously value your application more because she had to spend more effort to review it.” I had to give points for creativity, because I had not in fact heard that one before.

    2. Florida*

      People are always going to look for gimmicks and always hope they work. Deep down we know they don’t work, but people like to think their might be an easier way. This is true with everything. There is a multi-billion dollar industry that focuses on people who are looking for a gimmick to lose weight. There has to be something easier than eating right and exercise. Right?

      Same with job searching. There has to something easier than having a solid resume/cover letter, preparing for an interview, etc. Right?

      I think sometime people believe it because of naivete. But sometimes I think it’s wishful thinking. Deep down, someone might know that there is no shortcut, they just wish there was so they continue to buy into the latest, greatest job-searching idea, however ridiculous it might be.

  8. Maude*

    I recently received a resume from a candidate with a bullet point about being the Time Magazine 2006 Person of the Year. I was annoyed that I spent time googling this information to find out what he was talking about. It was especially ridiculous among the four pages of other irrelevant information he listed. I only went that far with it because he was an internal candidate from a location in another part of the country. I didn’t know it was supposed to be fun, I thought he was delusional in believing he really was the Time Person of the Year.

    1. fposte*

      Wow, you’ve seen this in the wild? That’s fascinating. It must be getting around. Which could lead to an ironic result–candidates are trying to stand out by using an achievement that literally everybody achieved.

      1. Elysian*

        I saw this once on a really famous computer scientist’s resume, but I can’t for the life of me remember who. It was someone who was so famous they didn’t really need a resume, and it was listed as the last thing on a list of “accomplishments” that were otherwise actual and really impressive accomplishments. It was tongue in cheek and pretty funny when the resume was posted online but again… this person didn’t really need a resume. Also this was in like 2007 so it was fresh in everyone’s mind.

          1. C Average*

            I clicked that link, had a good laugh at his impressive AND entertaining resume, and found a typo, about which I emailed him. (He seems like a detail person, so I figured he’d want to know.)

            Sometimes I wish the red-pen setting in my brain had a kill switch. I can look at a page of text and see the misspelled word as if it’s highlighted. It’s freakish and can be distracting.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I call that headiting (I didn’t make it up). I can’t even read a novel anymore without mentally rewriting sentences. Mel Gibson allegedly said much the same thing about directing–he said, “I can’t watch movies anymore. I can see the strings.”

              1. I'm a Little Teapot*

                Fellow writer here with the same problem.

                Though, if Mad Mel was watching Plan 9 from Outer Space, he wasn’t imagining the strings – they’re really visible.

            2. A. D. Kay*

              Professional editor here! I have the same red-pen switch. Wonder how many AAM readers will notice the correct hyphen usage in our comments? (Since it’s AAM, I’m betting that a lot of them will.)

        1. HumbleOnion*

          I can see it being funny in 2007. But in 2015, it just feels dated, in addition to being inappropriate.

          1. fposte*

            Heh. I just think it’s funny that the frivolous accomplishment mention is too dated to help you. Like even your frivolity has to be up to date.

      2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        I also have seen this on a real resume submitted for a real job. A high-level job, no less!

      3. Cara*

        I have also seen this in the wild. Someone who applied to be an intern at my science museum had it as a bullet point under “Other Accomplishments” on their resume, along with something about hitchhiking across the country and some other random recognitions. I have to admit, I was intrigued and also Googled it, though I suspected what it was before confirming. The candidate was a board member’s relative so we are still considering him, but now that I think more about it, I am scared that he’ll be a “class clown” type of person who is always trying to be “clever” and then congratulating himself for it.

          1. fposte*

            I think Kelly L. is quoting Life of Brian, where the whole crowd chants “Yes, we are all individuals!” (save for one dissenter who then says, “I’m not”).

    2. Angela*

      I had a candidate for an IT internship put “Time’s Person of the Year 2006” on his resume. I’ve never heard the hiring manager laugh so hard! Nevertheless, he didn’t get the job.

  9. AMT*

    Whenever you think about putting something on your resume, ask yourself: does this demonstrate actual, quantifiable skills or traits? If you want to show your boss that you’re creative or interesting, you’d be better off listing creative projects you’ve completed, interesting (and relevant) skills you’ve acquired, or classes you’ve taken. If anything, lame jokes show that you’re a bandwagon-jumper because every other idiot is doing this, too.

    1. AMT*

      Didn’t mean to address this directly to the OP — I meant it as a sort of general “you” to job applicants. The Time Person of the Year thing is just one of many “expert” gimmicks out there.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      Yes, the OP can certainly take an interesting class or volunteer with an unusual organization. I have interesting items in my Volunteer section and every interviewer asks about them. But it is really skills that get the interview, no one is going to call you in when you are unqualified. But the interesting item will be a fun talking point during the interview, once you get there with a great resume.

  10. AmyNYC*

    What about fun and true… but not 100% job related? For example, I won a game show, and currently have it under Awards and Commendations. It’s one line, I have other directly related awards listed too, and it’s a good conversation starter. Yea or nay?

    1. Turanga Leela*

      I enjoy seeing this sort of thing as long as the rest of the resume is professional (and short). A “miscellaneous” or “hobbies” section is perfect for this sort of thing. I probably wouldn’t put it under awards and commendations, unless it’s directly related to your work (i.e. you won Top Chef and you’re a chef), but you could leave it there if there’s nowhere else it fits.

    2. GigglyPuff*

      I’d say depends, how long ago was it? what type of game show? one have to use intelligence to get on? or randomly selected from the audience, type of thing?

      But honestly after thinking about it, probably not, unless you really are able to direct the conversation it started into job related stuff…but still, it’s just so iffy, I’d say no.

    3. Nerd Girl*

      Depends on the game show. Did you win Jeopardy? The Price is Right? or were you the winner on The Bachelor? If you were on either of the first two… I’d include it. The other? Keep that one under your hat!

      1. HeyNonnyNonny*

        I would appreciate it even more if it was, say, a writer who had won on Wheel of Fortune or an economist on the Price Is Right.

    4. The Cosmic Avenger*

      There’s nothing about that that’s misleading, and it indicates that you probably can do public presentations and work well under intense time pressure (depending on the game show). If nothing else, it’s kind of interesting, and if you don’t need the space for professional info, it’s hard for me to see how it would hurt you.

    5. MJH*

      I did not win, but was a contestant on, Jeopardy. The producers actually said that we should put that on our resumes, as they know of people who have gotten jobs (or at least interviews) from that tidbit.

      1. PlainJane*

        Another Jeopardy contestant here. I’ve thought about putting it on my resume but never have. Maybe next time (though I hope there won’t be a next time – I love my current gig).

        1. De Minimis*

          Have two acquaintances who have been on the show….one gave Ken Jennings a run for his money, but ultimately lost in Final. The other I think was a one day champion and lost on her second day.

          Weird in both cases, they were people I’d met online years before…I didn’t know they were going to be on the show so I had the experience of tuning in and thinking, “Wait, I know that person…”

    6. shirley*

      Interesting! I too was on a game show, and have considered putting it on my resume. I figured it showed gumption and the ability to perform under pressure, and I did very well. In fact, I did so well that I’ve always ultimately left it off the resume, because I won so much I figured employers might think I didn’t need the money. Therefore it’s like my little secret that no one knows unless they google me.

      Maybe I should reconsider and put one line in about it.

      1. Connie-Lynne*

        I actually got a job because of being on a game show. One of the other contestants was in my field while I was in school, and so I asked him if his company was hiring. They were, and after seeing me win my round (a quiz show) he offered me his card and I scheduled an interview.

    7. AndersonDarling*

      I’d say yea. But you will be labeled as the employee who was on “Big Name Gameshow.”

    8. Wolfey*

      FWIW, I took a year off to travel after my last job and ended up using some of the volunteering on my resume to explain the gap. Nothing super impressive like Peace Corps, but I was a surrogate kangaroo mom at a 2 women wildlife rescue (I was #2) for a bit and can say in all honesty that I was responsible for the survival of orphaned and injured macropods before they were released to the bush.

      Had absolutely nothing to do with anything I ended up applying for when I got back to the US, but it came up in every single interview. On its own it wouldn’t help me out, but I do think being able to talk articulately and knowledgeably about what I did in so weird a thing helped give dimension to a strong but honestly boring professional record. The key things are that it’s true and I’m super passionate about that experience.

      1. Graciosa*

        I liked the way you said this item on your resume gave it “dimension.” It’s a great insight – the person of the year thing does not really bring that candidate to life (other than as a person who resorts to silly gimmicks, and there are lots of those).

        But we spend a lot of time at the office, and want to do it with pleasant, interesting people rather than automatons. Sharing some of the varied experiences that added color to your life can set you apart from other candidates in a good way, and that’s the differentiator.

  11. Jay*

    This is not the same what the OP is talking about, but as a hiring manager I sometimes appreciate what might be called extracurricular activities at the bottom of a resume. They are unrelated to the job yet legit and round out a person. For instance, a candidate once had three short bullets at the bottom of her resume that said something “avid swimmer, chorus member, lover of puns.” She was rather dry in person, but several different folks she interviewed with saw the pun line and used it as an opening to explore her personality. It brought out a very strong candidate who we hired and she was great. It is borderline gimmicky but in this case is humanized someone who might otherwise have been overlooked.

    1. LBK*

      How was the rest of her resume, though? If you’re already a great candidate I suppose it can’t hurt, but I’d be willing to bet you were already somewhat interested in hiring her based on her work experience and achievements. Too often, people just plain aren’t qualified or aren’t as qualified as many other candidates, but they try to throw some gimmick on there to theoretically help them rise to the top of the list.

    2. Turanga Leela*

      I like these sections as well, but they have to be real, and it helps if they’re memorable. My law school encouraged everyone to do these, and honestly I have no interesting hobbies to put in there. I think someone on AAM has already talked about how all young attorneys say they like to run marathons.

      1. bridget*

        Right. My legal resume has never included a “hobbies” or “miscellaneous” section, because it would say “reading novels, watching netflix, drinking wine, and cooking food that is medium-fancy.”

        Also, there’s some downside to any demonstrable skill that you could be called on. I have a classmate who listed he was good at solving Rubik’s cubes quickly, and in at least one interview, the interviewer had a Rubik’s cube waiting on his desk so the interviewee could prove it.

        1. Mallorie, the recruiter*

          Ha! Mine would say “Watching Netflix until unconscious while spilling various food-stuffs on myself” ….. hired!!

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I like to include figure skating where I can, and it’s in the About page on my blog, but I feel really strange putting it on a resume. Two reasons: 1) no one cares and I feel like it makes me look silly, and 2) if they do care, they’ll ask the same dumb question–“When are you going to the Olympics?” >_<

        Every once in a while, I run across someone with whom I can discuss it, but most of the time, I can't bring myself to include it.

        1. Stephanie*

          I do alumni interviewing for my alma mater and had an applicant who is a pretty serious figure skater. I thought it was really cool and spent a lot of our chat asking her about it. Alma Mater is pretty selective, so you tend to get the same type of kid for these alumni interviews (AP/IB classes, National Honor Society, cursory volunteer work, etc), so I find it really cool when an applicant has some really dedicated, sort-of unique hobby like that.

          But that’s a college interview (and I *think* they’re optional) where they want to admit people who have unique stories that will sound good in an admission guidebook. And Alma Mater has a kind of quirky student body where a specifically intense hobby like that would be appreciated. Plus, my interview report was just one factor. I’d imagine a job interview where the company is trying to run a business (or achieve a mission) and already knows the job they’re hiring for, well-roundedness is less of a draw.

    3. Blue_eyes*

      This is good to know, thanks for your perspective. I have a few of those sort of interesting tid bits at the end of my resume and I often get asked about them (especially the one about how I walked 500 miles across Spain, they always have questions about that!). I’ve found it’s a nice way to include a few little accomplishments and experiences that may provide some connection with the interviewer and help me to be seen as more of a whole person instead of just a list of jobs.

    4. neverjaunty*

      Here’s where that would worry me as a hiring manager: people already have a tendency to unconscious bias to like and prefer ‘people like me’. Somebody whose hobbies could disclose personal information that might create bias against them in hiring may very well not want those things on their resume, even though it makes them a more ‘interesting person’. People who have fewer resources and/or free time may also have a lot less time to pursue ‘interesting’ or unusual activities.

      This kind of thing is a huge problem in some industries, like tech, where “culture fit” is in theory just a way of making sure you like your co-workers, but in practice ends up excluding groups who don’t look and act just like the dudes doing the hiring.

  12. LBK*

    I’ve actually seen at least one resume advice article that specifically suggested this – as in, they specifically said you should put on your resume that you were Time Magazine’s 2006 PotY, because everyone was. I almost hurled from the ridiculousness.

  13. Gene*

    Other licenses:

    Commercial Pilot, SMEL, Hot Air Balloon
    Coast Guard 50-Ton Master with Sail Addendum

    Both generated discussion, but didn’t get my foot (or any other part of me) in the door.

  14. Karyn*

    Wow. Yeah, no, I wouldn’t do that.

    However, I HAVE listed “interests” at the very bottom of my resume, and several hiring managers have started conversations with me based on those things. Of course they’re not anything embarrassing or controversial (I don’t list my interest in throwing shade at John Boehner, for instance, or my intense love of Alan Cumming) but things like yoga, writing short stories, reading science fiction, etc. It might not work for all managers, but at least a couple have told me it was a conversation starter.

    1. C Average*

      I would very much like to talk to a candidate whose interests included “throwing shade at John Boehner,” but yeah, not resume material.

      1. Karyn*

        I live in the city where the RNC is taking place in 2016, and I am actually going out of town on vacation that week because I cannot be trusted not to throw pies at people.

          1. Karyn*

            Heyyyyy there fellow sad Browns-towner! :) Yeah, I work downtown… even if I were of the Elephant Persuasion, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere NEAR work during that week… parking will be a disaster, security will be a disaster, lunchtime will be a disaster… HELLOOOOOOOO CHICAGO.

        1. Nerd Girl*

          I once rescheduled an interview with a client because the president and his cronies were in town and speaking just a few blocks from where the meeting was being held. The urge to go do something stupid was too great. (Obviously, very different political views, but similar behavior urges ;) )

          1. Chinook*

            DH once had to walk home (across the interprovinicial bridge and thena couple of hours of walking) when the Secret Service shut down downtown Ottawa so the president could go have a cookie (I think he also talked to Parliament). He said it was cool to see National Defense Headquarters get buzzed by helicopters with guys in black with ak-47s strapped to them but it sucked because no one could go anywhere for hours on a work day and they shut down the only bridges that crossed into Quebec wiothout giving anyone a heads up.

        2. AnonEMoose*

          When the RNC was near where I live in 2008, my husband and I also fled. To Washington, DC.

          Seriously, it was awesome. Since it was the week of Labor Day, it wasn’t very crowded, and the weather was warm but not especially humid.

          We also toured the Gettysburg battlefield (did you know that if you book in advance, you can get a licensed guide who will drive your car around and give you an amazing tour? Totally worth the cost – I think it was about $50 or so. The guide even asked if there was anything specific we wanted to see, and made sure we got there.)

          The funny part was when we were touring various places in DC itself. People would ask where we were from, we’d tell them, and they’d respond with some variation of “Good thinking!” or “Smart idea!”

    2. Blue_eyes*

      I do this too. I list some past jobs that are interesting but irrelevant (I was a white water rafting guide) and some certifications (EMT, Wilderness First Responder). They can definitely work as conversation starters. But unlike the letter writer, they’re true. And I’m relying on the strength of the rest of my resume to get me an interview, not the couple lines at the end.

  15. Apollo Warbucks*

    One possible use for a fun fact like that is part of an ice breaker I’ve seen used at away days and conferences.

    You have to say three things about yourself 2 true and 1 false, then people guess the lie. You could say you were once voted time person of the year which everyone would say that was your lie.

    But there’s no place for it on your cv or cover letter.

  16. brian35242*

    My ex-wife graduated from a prestigious law school, but was in the bottom of her class.
    She had “poet, coffee lover” at the bottom of her resume. She had far, far more interviews than her peers with higher GPAs. All her interviews included discussions about coffee and poems, and one of the interviews was followed up with email exchanges in haiku that eventually led to an offer.

    1. Stephanie*

      With that, I bet it’s that a lot of law students have really similar backgrounds and experience and it helped to differentiate her from all the other students. I was editing my friend’s resume when he was in law school and suggested he delete his hobbies. He said the career center suggested they do that.

    2. Corporate Attorney*

      Counterpoint: I am a lawyer at a very large firm that hires, and just got a resume that included something similar in the “other interests” section (think “pie”), and would strongly advise candidates against that sort of thing. Ultimately, we run a business, and I don’t care if you like coffee, or poetry, or pie – I care if you have skills that are relevant to the job, and thinking that a fondness for pie belongs on a professional resume smacks of bad judgment (in this case, bad judgment by the student’s career center, which reviewed the resume, so I won’t hold it against him).

      1. Turanga Leela*

        Definitely blame the career center. Ours told us that someone put her love of “Top Chef” on her resume, and she got a job in part because she and her interviewer talked about how much they both loved “Top Chef.”

        You were the person who said that all 2Ls enjoy cooking and marathons, right?

        1. Stephanie*

          I’ve mentioned this before, but I think my long-standing cello hobby landed me an internship in college. I totally dropped the ball and missed the online resume drop deadline and I barely qualified GPA-wise. But the interviewer decided to fit me in and we met over lunch. Interview went fine and he asked about hobbies. I mentioned I had played the cello for 11 years (at that point) and did the nonmajor orchestra at my school and he was fascinated. I think we spent more time talking about that (he wanted to know how long I practiced and my favorite pieces and if my roommates cared when I practiced) and said he found the dedication and skill required for that impressive.

          That being said…it was an internship. So at that point, I didn’t have that much experience and if I was a disaster, I would have been gone in three months. I don’t really mention it too much nowadays (seems a little too irrelevant) unless an interviewer just asks about hobbies point blank.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            That’s also a hobby that shows some accomplishment. Coffee, poetry, and pie typically don’t.

            1. Jean*

              A gentle disputation: An avocational poet can achieve a modest level of presentable quality after writing poetry seriously–even if intermittently and without publication–for several decades. My own near-total lack of publication is due to shyness, perfectionism, and a lack of dedicated time and space in which to pursue my craft. (I know, I know, a writer has to decide to find the time and space, but sometimes it’s difficult to set aside one’s life circumstances or responsibilities on a regular basis.)

              That said, I only mention my poetry on my resume when I’m feeling insecure about presenting myself as a thoughtful, serious, engaged, professional with skills and experience to contribute.

        2. Corporate Attorney*

          YES. It’s in everyone’s summer associate bio and is pretty common on resumes.

          Also in online dating, incidentally (along with “loves to laugh”).

      2. Kelly L.*

        I was applying to a library job a few years ago, and not really having any library experience, I made a joke about Barnes and Noble in my cover letter. I spent a lot of time trying to correct the misconception that I had years of experience working at B&N, which they somehow inferred from the letter even though my resume had no mention of it. It was odd.

      3. Anna*

        I feel like if the rest of the resume is strong and all the skills listed were things you were interested in and the fact they put they like pie was on there and that was what put you off, you’re just as bad as the people who think that’s the only thing that will get them an offer.

        1. Corporate Attorney*

          It’s not going to be the one thing that causes you not to get the job, but it creates an impression of a lack of professionalism, and that matters a great deal in my job. I’m not going to hold it against a student – they get bad advice from the career center. I would consider it a negative for a lateral candidate, however.

      4. Office Girl*

        I agree with you on bizarre factoids like that. Honestly if someone put “Pie lover” on their resume I’d think they were a total freak. Not for loving pie–pie is great–but for putting that on a resume. What?! As a hiring manager myself I am indeed a fan of the “interests” section–we work in a field where people can often be dry/boring/robots, but we need people that are well-rounded and good communicators, and sometimes things like “started my own running club” or “volunteer at shelter” can help clarify that someone is an actual human being who can talk to others. But the “interests” section should definitely be for real/normal/typical interests like music, art, singing etc not for oddball things like “lego aficionado” or “underwater basket weaver”.

  17. KatJ_NZ*

    Sorry, no. If I was handed a resume that had irrelevant/strange information where you could have used that space to talk about actual achievements, I would strongly question your judgement. That resume would immediately go on the “no way” pile. And then it would be endlessly brought up and laughed about everytime we advertised a job in the future.

  18. just laura*

    My first reaction upon reading the headline: “OMG nooooooo!” I think an interesting, semi-relevant, TRUE fact could help to give you a little dimension, especially in certain company cultures. But this? OMG noooooo.

  19. Cat*

    Apparently all law school career centers tell students to list interests and hobbies on their resume because virtually every law student resume we get has them. I try and ignore them because I don’t think they should be relevant and we are hiring for positions where we do want particular substantive interests and expertise so we have other things to talk about. All the same, occasionally you see something like “Paleo dieting and Crossfit” and think “shit, the last thing I need is a co-worker who can’t stop telling me about how I shouldn’t be eating cheese,” which has made me dislike the whole convention.

    1. Elysian*

      Yes. I was told this by my law school career center. They said, “Everyone coming out of law school has good grades and internships. You need to put something personal on your resume. Grades and internships will you get so far, and then you need to prove to your potential coworkers that you’re the kind of person they won’t hate when you’re both staying at the office until midnight every night on a deadline.”

      I think the last part is true, but I don’t really know if an “interests” section on your resume is the way to demonstrate it. I keep mine though (community orchestra member) and almost everyone asks me about it in interviews, so I’ve found it worthwhile.

      1. Stephanie*

        I wonder if this advice should be amended. Like tell students to include substantive hobbies, volunteer activities, or interests? I think that advice ends up playing out such that people include something nice, but generic like running with no accomplishments listed. Like if someone included “running”, I would shrug it off like “Ok, sure. Me too. I struggle-ran my 12:00/mi three miles yesterday.” If someone said they qualified for the Boston Marathon, I would be more impressed and consider that maybe their dedication and focus would translate to the job (assuming the person was otherwise qualified with job-relevant experience). Same deal if it was something more involved like a community orchestra or long-term volunteer project.

        1. Blue_eyes*

          Good point. Listing things you like is different than listing non-job-related accomplishments. My husband ran a marathon last year and he will sometimes include that on resumes because it’s interesting, and also shows dedication and working towards a goal. But he would never just include “I like running” or something.

        2. Marcy*

          Ha! I had to chuckle at that one. The last time I hired, one of the analysts who works for me looked over the resumes of the people we would be interviewing and saw one that ran marathons. She immediately said- “Get rid of this one- no more runners!” We had a runner once. He was horrible- especially to her. If you run, don’t apply with my group- my employees won’t let me hire you!

        3. neverjaunty*

          It’s horrible advice. Here are things that law students can put on their resume (if true) that would interest a hiring manager: Membership in professional organizations*, pro bono work, volunteer work with local legal groups. That is much more than most students do, and is a lot more interesting and useful to a hiring manager than “Docent at the Teapot Museum”.

          *These are often free, or very cheap, for law students – things like the ABA and local bar associations.

      2. De Minimis*

        I saw similar advice as an accounting student, though I think it was more to bring the personal things out during the interview, not to put them on the resume.

    2. MJH*

      Yep, my lawyer husband’s resume had this on it the first time I looked at it. I told him to take it off, but I don’t know law convention. But it must be standard advice…he said it was meant to make a personal connection with his interviewer.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Your advice was good and your husband’s career center was wrong. The best way to make a personal connection with an interviewer in law is to have something substantive on your resume that the interviewer can connect to – like being in the same local bar association, or having attended the same school, or volunteering for a pro bono organization that the interviewer did (or does) work with.

    3. Corporate Attorney*

      I just posted above, but I absolutely hate this. I think it actively hurts students – that is precious real estate, and you need to use if for something that is germane to your ability to do this job. Fluent in Spanish? Yes, that might be a useful skill. Former professional athlete of some sort? Yes, that indicates dedication and focus. A leadership role in a community organization or significant volunteer commitment? Yes, that indicates that you’re willing to take on tasks for which you may not be directly compensated (i.e., to go above and beyond the job description when necessary). A fondness for pie, or CW shows, or shopping (all real examples that I’ve seen)? No. I don’t care if you like pie.

      1. Turanga Leela*

        I always thought that some of the problem was that for a lot of law students, the resume isn’t precious real estate at all. They’re looking for filler. It’s still surprising to me, since you’d think most law students would have a ton of stuff to talk about—at least summer jobs, internships, or significant student leadership roles, even if they haven’t worked before. But I think a lot don’t.

        1. bridget*

          Part of the problem is insanely early hiring. My first round of interviews (which could translate into post-graduate jobs) was in February of my first year. I had no internships, no skills, barely any legal training. I went straight through to law school, so I also had no prior work experience. I had one semester of grades and my charm.

        2. Corporate Attorney*

          The odd thing is that in this particular example, the candidate has fantastic other credentials – substantial overseas work experience, very cool and relevant prior jobs, etc. I’m actually interviewing him next week, and at least on paper, he’s stellar. I have to imagine that there are plenty of other (relevant) things he could have included there, and that his career services office told him to add something to make him more relatable or something.

          1. Turanga Leela*

            Now all I can hear is my inner Cartman voice saying, “More people will come if they think we have punch and pie!”

          2. Nerdling*

            You’re actually interviewing Dean Winchester. Be on the lookout for anyone or anything that smells like sulfur in the next week, because it’s probably a demon that he’s hunting. ;)

          3. Office Girl*

            Ooh, in my experience that could be a red flag. Someone has great work experience or prior jobs that they don’t think to put on their resume? Might actually indicate that this person has poor judgment. A resume is supposed to be one’s best effort and if you can’t even bother to think carefully about what prior experience you have that is relevant and then include that, how well are you going to do with tasks at work? This person’s idea of “best effort” could end up being pretty lacking.

    4. themmases*

      I have seen these a lot on physician CVs as well, especially younger doctors. (I would be looking at the CVs that fellows gave us in their application or the updated one they gave when hired, so they’d be looking for a full attending job at the end of their 1-2 years with us.)

      I always kind of figured that it was because the qualifications needed were both very high and very homogeneous. The details might be more or less impressive, but everyone went to med school, did a residency, published a couple papers along the way, fellowship trained in X, board certified in X and Y. You wouldn’t even get someone’s CV if they didn’t have some pretty specific qualifications. Maybe people thought that adding running was the unique, humanizing thing on the otherwise form doctor resume. If only they knew.

      1. Vancouver Reader*

        Is that because when students apply to med school, they’re asked for what other interests they have to show they’re well rounded? And then they continue to use that line of logic?

  20. Joolsey woolsey*

    My old boss, many years ago, interviewed someone who was unqualified for the job because she put on her resume that she had competed in Miss World about 20 years earlier – she had no chance of getting the job, he just wanted to say he’s met a Miss World contestant.

  21. Senor Poncho*

    Just had a thought that, assuming one’s qualifications are marginal for whatever the job is, taking (calculated, not stupid) risks in a cover letter or resume is probably the optimal strategy for getting to the interview stage.

    1. Senor Poncho*

      I mean, the problem with the Time Person of the Year thing is that it’s not really clever, funny, or interesting, even assuming that the general strategy might have been appropriate.

  22. HR Manager*

    I think something that shows your personality can be added on occasions, but it needs to be done tastefully and in a way that does not detract from the overall professionalism in the resume. The Time example is too hokey. If you can’t tell if it’s too hokey or gimmicky, then leave it off. The same for a cover letter.

    I have a “personal interest” listed that is just subtle enough and also slightly off-kilter that I’ve had recruiters tell me if gave them a giggle, so I understand someone wanting to stand out from just the printed word on the resume.

  23. former raft guide*

    After college, I worked at an outdoor recreation company and ended up working as a raft guide, part-time, for a few summers (pretty much everyone at this company guides rafts on the busiest days). I also had some great professional experience there, and I include all of it on my resume.

    When I was brand new to my current field, I didn’t like talking about it as much — I was trying to make a career shift — but I realized that it was a fun thing and a great conversation starter, and the questions were always genuine.

    So, my recommendation: do a genuinely fun job if you can after college or during the summers, and keep it on your resume. Weird and true facts, ta-da!

    1. Blue_eyes*

      I am also a former rafting guide! Hi! I guided for a few summers during high school and college and I keep it on the end of my resume just because it’s interesting and not something most people have done.

    2. Michele*

      I have seen resumes that list former jobs like brew master or something else fun and unconventional. It isn’t enough to get the person an interview, but if I were to interview them, I would have asked about that.

  24. Melanie*

    I have mentioned on my resume that I’m a big Superman fan, but I’m a graphic designer, and its common to have geeky interests like that. Most interviewers have mentioned it to me favorably– so far anyway:) Hopefully I won’t be job searching for a very long time.

    1. AnonPi*

      Sounds like a great example of knowing your industry and instances when something like that could actually help (or at least not hinder)

  25. Purr purr purr*

    If I came across this in a resume and it turned out to be a fake but fun fact, i.e. a lie, then I would wonder what else they were lying about. I’d also think it was totally stupid and question the attitude of a person who’d think it was a good idea!

  26. nep*

    Nope — no big worries about anyone on here stealing this idea, I reckon.
    Could there be an emphatic enough ‘no’?

  27. Snarkus Aurelius*

    True story.

    I received a resume that had the Time 2006 Person of the Year nonsense on it. I didn’t hire that person for that reason and that reason alone.

    Do not do this!!

    1. qkate*

      Almost as fascinating as the advice itself, is that people have actually _seen this in the wild_. If I received a resume with that on it, I too would toss it out immediately. Next!

  28. Michele*

    If I saw that on a resume, I would do the same thing I did to the one that claimed to have spear-headed the human genome project– assume the person was a nut and put the resume in the “not a chance” pile.

  29. AnotherAlison*

    I checked out an old friend’s LinkedIn profile yesterday, and the content had me laughing. This guy is a West Point grad and US Marshall. He has more description of his fast food high school job than his military career. He also had his only education listed as his elementary school, with the following: “Activities and Societies: 3rd Grade Christmas Play (supporting role) Spelling Bee Champ (5th AND 6th Grade).”

    Obviously this wouldn’t fly on a resume, but it was a nice change from the usual blowhard LI profiles I see.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Make an entire employer? With fake company websites, LI, employees etc.?
      wow, just wow.
      This might make an interesting post at some point, Alison.

    2. NickelandDime*

      I’m speechless. This is not a little white lie. Competent people wouldn’t need to use a service like this.

  30. Krusty*

    The 2006 reference is a bit dated. If the person used it prior to 2010, when the reader would recall the broad category that was “awarded” the title, I would not have a problem with the statement, it is NOT a lie. Personalities and teamwork, and ability to learn the job in our company’s culture are more important to me than keywords of achievement at a previous employer [once the candidate has met the minimum qualifications]. I know of a Div. 1 football player who listed “Heisman Trophy Candidate” on his resume (technically true for all his teammates and opponents). If he or she is the first person to come up with this creativity, I like it, and would not assign someone to review resumes that did not have the ability to see the joie de vivre in a statement that could not be processed by a machine algorithm. The best advice I could give job seekers is to avoid Human Resources. Find a job opening via networking friends, family, colleagues, professional associations. Meet with them, make an impression (honestly). The goal is to find a fit between the candidate and the supervisor/team. In my experience, the goal of HR is weeding, rather than cultivating.

    1. HR Manager*

      This — this is why the “circumvent HR and get your resume right to the hiring manager” (and please follow up with numerous calls to re-emphasize your interest) never die out. It gets repeated over and over, even though in many years of HR work and discussions with my HR colleagues and with hiring managers I’ve worked with and met, this is just not what hiring managers want. Virtually none of my hiring managers have ever wanted a side job as a sourcer for candidates for their openings. They may be happy with a referral or knowing a contact who could do a good job, but not one manager has ever come up to me or a recruiter colleague to say “No – you just sit back, I’ll find and screen the candidates.”

      1. Krusty*

        I disagree with the “circumvent HR and get your resume to the hiring manager” strategy. Because I disagree with the entire resume/want ad process. From 12 to 49 years old, I was hired for ONE job (19 year old summer sales position) via want ads/resume/career placement center. I have a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree. In most all the times I was hired, the resume/application process was after I had secured the job. The topic of this string: “TIME POTY 2006” is OLD; but it is NOT a lie/untruth. If any resume screener was mislead to think: “I wonder if this resume belongs to Paul Hewson, or Vladimir Putin” (’05 & ’07 awardees), then they are not bright enough to vote. The bitter and dismissive judgments in this string “absolutely not, in the trash, can’t trust” support my above statement that HR is where resumes are weeded out for being more creative than a ping-pong ball. I realize this may be necessary, given the volume of mail HR receives, which is why networking BEFORE you need a job, and BEFORE there is a job opening, so that when a manager is planning a new project/opening she/he thinks of your name before calling HR for screening.

  31. Claire (Scotland)*

    Off-topic: Alison, is the site meant to be asking to use my current location every time I visit (on iPad)? It just started today.

    1. Kat*

      It’s doing that to me too. I selected ‘block’. It’s also giving me a warning that the site isnt secure. I always check the site from my phone (samsung S5, chrome browser).

    2. KAZ2Y5*

      This happens to me, but only when I read the site on my iPad and go through FaceBook. I thought it was some weird FB setting I had messed up!

  32. Gigs*

    I would just like to say that I interviewed an undergraduate student for an on campus job who listed herself as Time’s Person of The Year in 2006 in her awards/recognition section of her resume.

    It was totally bizarre and my little hiring committee was sort of speechless.

  33. JustPickANameAlready*

    I am an individual and want to stand out! So on my resumes, under hobbies, I list “aggressively stalking hiring managers who do not recognize my invaluable skill set and intrinsic worth as a human being!”

  34. nyxalinth*

    Made up accomplishments remind me of Chuck Norris jokes. “Chuck Norris can divide by zero” “Chuck Norris is so tough, there’s no chin under his beard. Only another fist.” or “Chuck Norris can strangle you with a cordless phone.”

    I have spent waaaaay too much time in Barrens chat in World of Warcraft.

  35. Kathryn T.*

    I know someone who has a (very short) “Other Experience” section on his resume, and one of the items is “Bacon-Erdos number: 6”. It’s provoked discussion in nearly every interview he’s been in, and has given him an opportunity to discuss how some of his non-work experience demonstrates soft skills that aren’t directly related to his job description, but are valuable nonetheless; things like managing several sub-projects to deadline, dealing with temperamental personalities, strong technical writing capabilities, etc. So it’s not JUST a random (true!) fact, but it’s not directly work related — but he can spin it that way.

  36. C*

    Piggybacking off of what Alison said, I also feel that a lie like this — even something intended to be innocent fun — would cause the hiring manager to wonder what else you might be lying about on your resume.

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