A Résumé Of Failures – A Counter-Intuitive Hypothesis

“Should I bold this word?” “Can you help me paraphrase this line?” “Should I add this at the top?”  The first-year students came to me for CV advice. Most of the questions were typical. I was in the same shoes last year with the same set of questions carrying a handful of fears and a list of insecurities. The resume can make or break the chances of getting a good shortlist, as my seniors had said. The stakes were too high. In the pursuit of a “masterpiece” (wink) resume, I toiled hard for hours, managing mid-term exams alongside.

Crafting a resume is a dicey situation. Students pick up the keywords that would essentially act as click-baits. These keywords are highlighted by making them bold – to capture the short span of attention of interviewers to the keywords. People will be similar in loads of ways: all overachievers, all very intelligent and hard-working, all with a lot of potentials. So, positioning one’s resume is tough. Right?

When companies have to choose one among say, twenty candidates – all these resumes look almost similar – all overachievers. It becomes all the more challenging to choose one. If you have only the achievements to compare, and all of them have identical ones, what would you look for next?

The next alternative will be to check if the candidate fits into the kind of system built in the company and so on. But how does one differentiate the candidates skill-wise further? One might wish to look at their experience and the kind of projects one has done. But that will also be similar. The resume is a leveller, that way.

A Resume of Failures

I have an alternative hypothesis. The idea is unconventional. Instead of one page glorified mediocrity, companies should request the candidates for a resume that only contains failures. No top rank achievements. Just the failures.

Sounds strange? Let me put this another way.

Would you like to choose someone who has never failed at anything or who has failed several times before succeeding? Because the probability of people who have never failed at anything is too low, regular resumes are nothing but the glorified mediocrities. Someone who has failed at multiple things has taken risks many times, still embraced the failures and moved forward. On the contrary, someone who has never failed anytime will be too afraid to risk at all.

I know that the idea is ridiculously over-idealistic. What are the chances that one gets shortlisted if there are only failures on the resume? It’s close to zero unless the one who shortlists understands the philosophy of resume of failures. I thought extensively of this idea and imagined how I’d impress the interviewer with my out of the box concept. But, I still went ahead with a conventional resume – achievement decked, bold-lettered resume, an “I’m so awesome” variant of one page which would decide my fate in summer internship placement, containing a series of achievements, keywords carefully picked and highlighted with bold letters.

And guess what was the first question in my SIP interview – Tell me something apart from your resume?


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INSIDEIIM STUDENT TEAM | IIM Ranchi | Armchair thinker | Half-baked artist | Loves reading Classics | Failed Hockey Player | Teetotaler | Asocial | He writes on anything that catches his eyes and pricks his brain | You can reach out to him at Twitter: @batmahann