The Untold Resume Story


Last week, I attended a client meeting discussing the merits of candidates for a key position. At one point, the conversation turned to a current freelance contributor with whom they had developed a long relationship . The conversation went something like this:

Company Executive A: “What about bringing in Erin on this one? Her work is beautiful.”

Company Executive B: “We should think about the required progress on this project — we need to keep things moving along quickly.”

Company Executive C: “I really would like to see Erin here, but I worry about her ability to handle the schedule when the pressure heats up.”

Hmmmm. The information shared by Company Executive C was certainly never mentioned previously. This candidate had completed multiple projects with the company quite successfully. Her work was described as “inspired” — and she usually hit budget targets. However, it appeared that a portion of her “invisible” or “unwritten” resume was affecting her chances with the current opportunity.

This poses an interesting aspect of resumes.

It is likely that we all have an alternative or unwritten resume —  which effectively captures what is not included in the more formal version. (See a great discussion of the topic in this classic HBR post.) This unwritten version, might include aspects of our work life including attitude, performance under pressure and our overall ability to collaborate.

We all have a side to our broader career story that we may be overlooking — and its elements may have a significant impact on our future. We need to ascertain the complete story and address it. The sooner the better.

So what do you think might be included in your “invisible resume”?

Time to think on that.

Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist. She also writes for Linkedin and US News & World Report.

5 thoughts on “The Untold Resume Story

  1. Great story. This is one of the reasons I built an online resume tool, Most job postings will have job skill traits that are desired such as “hard worker” or “does beautiful work.” But when applying for a job, I found the tedious but necessary work of tailoring my resume to each specific job very time consuming and, frankly, hand-wringing. So, I partnered with the very same company that employers use to weed out resumes and used their Applicant Tracking System (ATS) technology to analyze my resume to the job posting and extract the key job skills – and attributes – to merge and integrate into my resume. This automated process is now a reality with Here’s the link:


  2. All very good points. And especially true in this job market. The competition is quite stiff, so candidates need a 360 understand of how they work, and behavior, is perceived in the workplace.


  3. Very interesting point. I have been very successful in “all” my career areas. I never elaborate on specific highs etc. Reason being this should be obvious simply by the “Name” of the company worked for and/or “Job Title” or both. For example when you say, “Harvard” everyone knows that name. The company for which I am applying for a position. Let’s just say the company has notable recognition and reputation if I would be applying for a position there. I would only expect some level of intelligence on their behalf. More importantly, intelligent and “knowledgeable” in order to maintain the position they have already been deemed knowledgeable in. Right? Assuming the company I am applying to work with deems this “HR” person “trustworthy” enough to be able to ask the correct questions in the interview if they aren’t on paper. Once upon a time I used to bring a portfolio with my letters of recognition with me when called for an interview. But when companies started making copies of my coveted credentials and I never heard from those companies I began to wonder if their superiors ever viewed my credentials. I had to wonder what happened to letters of recommendation after the interview. Months later you touch base with the HR office when you never hear from them. They did say,”we will keep all this on file if you fit a future job description”. Isn’t this HR person supposed to be knowledgeable enough to hold the title of their position and to be able to give me an interview or a toss in the waste paper basket shouldn’t they already know this information without me spoon feeding this information or leave myself wide open for Fraudulent activity by those that will be evaluating me? It’s just “common knowledge” in order to be a part of “Harvard University” one generally knows the difficulty expected to accomplish this credibility. Right? What are your feelings? To me that seems to be tooting my own horn and sort of brazen, blatant and rude professionally. That’s the way people have been towards me 9 times out of ten in my professional arenas. I am nice, I am kind and I am also professional. But I won’t be discredited or go unacknowledged for my hard earned credit as though I’m loving it. Sorry, that’s not the American dream nor what I signed up for.

    Granted, some “Professions” are very competitive more so then others. Which brings me back to the point of who deemed some of these “Managers” creditable enough to make such decisions? Will these HR people be trustworthy enough on my behalf? Are they monitored? Who checks to see if they are doing their jobs? If so how often? At times these qualifying people seem to be one of those wanna B’s and never did and jealous of any one that has. One has to then wonder about the level of “professionalism and skills at this company or is it just this location in which this problem arrises so often? I ask you, am I really supposed to trust these people by giving them copies of my hard earned letters of recognition and education? Toot, TooT 🙂


  4. It is very important to be aware of the your unwritten story and how you and your work are perceived by others. But there are a number of “what ifs” involved. In your example Exec B obviously has some concerns. Have they been shared with the individual? Are they legitimate? Does Exec B have another agenda? Will anybody tell Erin if she misses this opportunity? Developing a relationships inside and outside the organization where you can get honest feedback you can trust will help you navigate the “what ifs” without getting bogged down in all the possibilities.

    We have created a business process (Talent Acquisition) where bright, shiny resumes and candidates meet bright, shiny recruiters and managers. Decisions are made on best case scenarios. When reality sets in it is usually because of the unwritten and unsaid stories that are disallowed in the process. Just think how much difference it would make if both sides could tell the whole story.


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