Reasons to Avoid Overselling Your Skills

July 2, 2010 at 11:30 am Leave a comment

There’s a big temptation to pitch your skills hard to prospective employers and to try to convince them that your expertise matches what they’re seeking. That’s fine and well — job candidates should make the best case possible for why they’d be a good fit for a position. Yet sometimes that pitch extends into the territory of overselling your skills and promising more than you’re likely to deliver.

Like so many things in job hunting and career planning in general, it’s all about degrees. There’s a fine line between appropriately describing your skills and crossing over into a too-good-to-be-true sales pitch. That’s why it is important to carefully research an opening — especially the job duties — before you throw your hat into the ring for it, so that you are confident that your skills are a fairly good match. Very rarely will the job description appear to be a “ideal” fit for your skills, experience and talents, but that’s okay — employers don’t necessarily expect that.

Here are some reasons to avoid overselling your skills on your resume or cover letter, and especially in job interviews:

*If you get the job, you’re unlikely to succeed at it. Often job candidates are so focused on landing a position that they don’t think ahead to how they’re likely to perform at it. If you’ve oversold your skills, in a few weeks you’re likely to find that there are duties your boss expects you to handle that are out of your reach. If some of these are fairly minor — say, learning a new editing or layout system you claimed you had mastered in the past —  it may be no big deal and you can come up to speed with some training and help from colleagues. Yet if, for instance, you claim to have “social networking marketing expertise,” which frankly consists of spending a lot of time on Facebook and Twitter but with no real experience creating a social networking business plan for a company, you may end up wishing you’d never taken this job. No amount of help from your new colleagues may be able to help you then, and they’re likely to become frustrated with your lack of skills in this area and also that you claimed to be something that you’re not.

*Little white lies can hurt your future career. If you don’t succeed at the job (as in the example above) and word gets around, this could follow you for a long time. Especially in a place like D.C. — where employers in fields like journalism talk all the time — you could easily become known as someone who can’t deliver the goods. Best to be honest in job interviews about what skills you really have, and how you have used them in the past.

*Your references may not be able to back up your claims. When checking references, sharp recruiters ask not only about a job candidate’s background and experience in a general way, but (especially with former bosses) how they specifically performed certain duties and in certain situations. And they’re likely to inquire about certain skill sets that will be important in this new position. If you’ve overpromised, say you overemphasize your Hill reporting experience (you occasionally wrote a story about Congress but you’re certainly no Hill rat that has spent a great deal of time actually reporting from the chambers) and the your reference mentions that to a hiring manager, they may wonder if they’ve caught you in a lie. And they may also wonder what else you have been less than truthful about with them. Again, it’s all degrees, but if you’re straightforward about your experience, it will be much easier for references to back that up and amplify your strengths when they are called by a prospective employer.

*Here’s some good advice from — targeted at MBAs yet broadly applicable — about how to learn from an internship that didn’t turn out quite as anticipated, and use the experience to actually benefit one’s career:

*And with a fairly grim unemployment report expected today, am happy to pass along some decent — or at least things-aren’t-getting-much-worse — news. According to a report noted on, the pace of layoffs planned by employers in the first half of this year slowed considerably:

Planned layoffs fall to fewest in a decade

*And now for some job leads to close out this work week:

*PDS Tech is hiring for a copy editor/proofreader to work in a D.C. office:

Copy Editor
PDS Tech, Inc. – Washington, DC
Individual will be responsible for copy editing, proofreading, QA’ing, and occasionally fact checking of materials for the DSO Editorial team, including web… $55.35 an hour
From sologig

*Clean Skies News has an opening in D.C. for an executive editor:
Executive Editor
Clean Skies News – Washington, DC
Executive Editor sought by Clean Skies News, an… editorial confidence of 20-person team. Executive Editor will help launch the program and oversee content…

*The Healthcare Distribution Management Association in Arlington is looking for a vice president of communications and marketing:
Vice President, Communications and Marketing
Healthcare Distribution Management Association – Arlington, VA
Vice President of Communications and Marketing… candidate will develop, manage and implement communications strategies and programs in support of HDMA’s…
From ASAE & The Center

*Here’s an interesting temporary position for someone looking for something to “tide them over” until they find a permanent job — the Mergis Group in D.C. is looking for a temp marketing communications specialist:

Marketing Communications Specialist – TEMP
The Mergis Group – Washington, DC
units in developing communication and marketing plans… communications / b2b marketing communications Experience supporting application/technical communications… $51 – $57 an hour
From CareerBuilder

*A regular dcworks contributor, the D.C. search firm Sterling Martin Associates, is leading the search for a chief development officer for the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) in Arlington:

Featured Search « STERLING | MARTIN
*With a hat tip to (for these next several positions), Stars and Stripes has an opening in D.C. for a sports layout/copy editor:
Company: Stars and Stripes
Editor (Newspaper Copy)
Washington, District of Columbia
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: $45,000 to $50,000
Ad Expires:
August 5, 2010
Job ID: 648217

Stars and Stripes, the editorially independent daily newspaper serving members of the U.S. military community worldwide, is seeking a sports page layout copy editor in its Washington, D.C., office. This editor, who will report to the Assistant Managing Editor/Sports, will shape wire and staff stories, write engaging headlines and design dynamic pages. Daily newspaper experience is a must, and military knowledge is a plus. Website experience is preferred, as we are expanding our presence on the Internet. We’re looking for an All-Star with a team-first attitude. The salary range is $35-50,000. To apply for this position, please visit Announcement Number NANAFAN100628.

*Exchange Monitor Publications in D.C. is looking for an energy and environment reporter:
Company: Exchange Monitor Publications, Inc.
Energy and Environment Reporter
Washington, District of Columbia
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: Not Specified
Ad Expires:
August 4, 2010
Job ID: 1126887

ExchangeMonitor Publications is seeking a take-charge reporter to cover one of the most critical issues facing the world today: climate change. Our focus is on the technologies, policies and regulations that will underpin the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. We’re looking for an individual who can go beyond the headlines and get into the details of subjects like carbon credit trading, carbon sequestration and clean coal technologies.
Both mid-career professionals and reporters with 1-3 years experience are encouraged to apply (recent college graduates with college newspaper experience and strong newswriting skills will also be considered). Familiarity with the field and experience covering Congress, federal agencies or state government is a plus, though it is certainly not necessary. Competitive salary and benefits. Send resume, three clips and list of references to

*And to wrap up today’s (and this week’s) listings, the Gazette newspapers in suburban Maryland have reporting openings in several offices:

Company: The Gazette
Suburban Washington, Maryland
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: Negotiable
Ad Expires:
August 2, 2010
Job ID: 1180234

The Gazette, publisher of award-winning community weeklies and a website covering the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C., has openings for reporters in several offices. In all positions, experience with social media and multimedia, including video, is helpful as we advance our online coverage.

We’re looking for reporters who have a passion for community journalism can develop and work with sources to uncover stories and produce enterprising reports for weekly print and daily online packages. Our reporters are expected to regularly demonstrate vision and understanding of news events and suggest story ideas.

Education reporter, Montgomery County – The county’s public school system, the largest in Maryland, is sophisticated and generally considered one of the best in the nation. The candidate for the position should have three to five years of reporting experience, preferably including covering education. The reporter should have general knowledge of education issues and policies, experience working with budget numbers and a general interest and curiosity about education matters. The reporter should be a self-starter who is good at coming up with story ideas, and have a desire to write both policy stories, including coverage of the school board, and in-class educational trend and issue stories. This position is based in the Gaithersburg newsroom.

Community reporter, City of Frederick – Duties include coverage of community events and meetings, breaking fire and police news, features and other community-based topics. Some evening and weekend work required. In addition to filing for our weekly newspapers, reporters contribute to daily Web postings on The position requires a self-starter with experience in enterprise reporting. Requirements include a bachelor’s degree in journalism, English, or related field; at least three years of experience covering a municipal government; and the ability to develop and work with sources to uncover stories and produce enterprising reports. This position is based in the Frederick newsroom.

Community reporter, Bethesda – Reporting duties include coverage of events and meetings, breaking fire and police news, features and other community-based topics. Some evening and weekend work required. This position is based in the Gaithersburg newsroom.

Community reporter, East Montgomery County – Silver Spring, Takoma Park, Burtonsville and Wheaton. Some evening and weekend work required. This position is based in the Laurel newsroom.

Part-time community reporter, Prince George’s County –This position is 25 hours per week and is based in the Laurel newsroom.

Please review the qualifications carefully and submit resume, clips and cover letter that includes salary requirements to By mail: Human Resources/Editorial, The Gazette, 9030 Comprint Court, Gaithersburg, MD 20877. Because of the volume of resumes received, we are only able to contact finalists for these positions. Reporters must have their own transportation. No phone calls, please.

The Gazette offers a competitive package of benefits, including health insurance, 401(k) and tuition reimbursement.

Happy hunting and have a relaxing Independence Day weekend! Like so many of you,  I’m headed to the beach but will be back with you bright and early Tuesday morning!



Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

How to Take Advantage of a Hiring Uptick The Fine Points of Interview Etiquette

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