Zablonski: Quality over quantity: résumé bulking harms applicants

As college admissions and the job market become more competitive, the quality of one’s résumé is increasingly important. Often, our interests and activities do not constitute a stellar résumé, meaning many of us must participate in clubs or activities out of our field of interest to appear well-rounded.

At a certain point, however, “résumé padding” becomes detrimental to both businesses and school organizations and will continue to be until priorities change from quantity to quality. Although résumé padding may appear as a harmless issue—after all, there are worse problems than having too many high school students volunteering—it is dangerous to promote exaggeration in regard to one’s qualifications. A student who dishonestly adds a half hour of service to his college application may later be tempted to add to his credentials when applying for a job, potentially leading to an uninformed decision by an employer with negative consequences.

According to CNN’s Emanuella Grinberg, 69 percent of employers caught an applicant lying in a 2010 survey of 1,818 organizations, with the most common lie having to do with the applicant’s education. If an employer doesn’t catch a fraudulent applicant with embellished educational qualifications, what is to prevent this applicant from improperly doing their job and endangering themselves or others in the process?

Similarly, the organizations in which some high school or college students half-heartedly participate to bolster their résumés also suffer. These types of students may show up for a weekly meeting, not pay attention and leave without contributing anything productive to the organization’s goals. This overcrowding of uninterested students can cause organizational headaches for those in charge and may limit the input of those who actually want to participate.

This type of behavior cannot be overly criticized, as it is merely the result of a system that emphasizes a wide breadth of activities to appear as a balanced and mature student. As long as colleges and graduate schools continue to promote the “ideal” student as one that has volunteered for 12 different soup kitchens, founded a charity, plays three sports and is the president of the student body, students will continue to feel pressured to participate in activities they are not interested in.

To avoid résumé padding behavior in students and prevent future dishonesty, colleges need to demonstrate a willingness to accept students who display a strong passion for only few things. Admissions committees must realize that each student will not be interested in every subject or sport, but rather only a few. If these interests are extensively pursued, they should hold as much weight as activities that may be slightly more diverse in nature.

This is not to say that students or job applicants should have to work less, but should do things in which they are genuinely interested. For instance, community service is undoubtedly a significant part of modern college applications, but a devoted student who volunteers for the same charity month after month should be considered equal in standing to a student who volunteers to several charities less frequently.

Until colleges and employers start prioritizing dedicated applicants who may not have innumerable interests, résumé padding and deceit will persist.