Jason Fried on why there’s no need to put up a front:
Bullshitting about scale is only part of the problem. There’s an awful lot of resumé enhancement going on as well. Think about what’s really happening when you see, say, Apple on someone’s client list. Do you think the person really worked for Apple? Or perhaps it was just a small job for the Apple reseller down the street? Or they were on a conference call with someone from Apple once. I’ve seen it all.
I love this. We are hiring at our company and in job interviews I always like to ask people exactly what they did when they have some big name client on their resume.
I don’t really care so much about who the client was – what I want to hear about is the work that was done, and also the interviewee’s reaction when they are questioned about something like this. Do they immediately admit that it wasn’t that big of a deal or do they go on and fabricate some story that it was really important?
I am guilty of bullshitting myself. As an example I was once hired by Microsoft as a designer to help out developers during a hackathon. It was a one day job, around the time Windows 8 was released. I sent them a bill and I got paid, so technically I worked for Microsoft… but really what I did was just a really small thing. They could have hired any UI designer for that job.
But at the time I really wanted to show off that I worked for them by putting Microsoft as a client on our website in our client roster. Mono was a new company and we didn’t really have a portfolio. But on our website we put this client roster full of company names that would definitely ring a bell with a Belgian audience like De Lijn, Bpost, Cisco etc.
While technically we had worked for all of the clients in our client roster in some capacity, most of it was through other agencies. We eventually removed that section from the website. Looking back it was a bit shameful to boast about something that wasn’t.
These days we just try to show off the real work in real cases. The client names might not sound that impressive but we can back up what is in there. You can call our clients and ask them about the work and I’m pretty certain they will a) know us and b) have something positive to say. I think that’s worth more than some vague reference to a company that you once did a very minor job for.
This weekend I listened to part of an ATP episode with Chris Lattner who worked on Clang, LLVM and eventually Swift. When you were the lead on something as significant as Swift I don’t think you will ever need to make your resume look good. You can just list that one thing really. This strengthens my belief that you should just try to always do great work and eventually you will be rewarded.