The worst mistake I ever made with an otherwise powerful résumé

Fresh out of college, many years ago, I made a good impression on an interviewer for a job at a major media corporation in Manhattan. A strong résumé had earned me the interview; now a strong interview was inching me towards an offer.

The interviewer called his producer, the next person up the chain of command, to ask if he had a moment to meet with me. The producer did, but only for a minute. That was my minute to sell myself, and I was ready.

I walked confidently into the producer’s office, we shook hands, and I sat down. I had rehearsed answers to all the possible questions they could ask about my goals, my experience, and what I could bring to the company.

But he asked the one question I hadn’t anticipated:

“Do you have another copy of your résumé?”

And the answer was no. I had sent one in with an impeccable cover letter when I applied, which is how I got in the door to begin with. I assumed, rightly, that the interviewer would have a copy in front of him while we chatted, but it never occurred to me that somebody else might want one, too.

Wasting valuable time

I scrambled back to the first interviewer’s office to ask for his copy of my résumé to bring back to his producer. I raced back to the waiting producer’s office, and he read it over while we chatted briefly, but by then I realized the unwinnable situation I had just put myself in.

This busy New York City TV producer, who had spared some of his valuable time for me, had been kept waiting because I was young, disorganized, and unprepared.

I didn’t get the job.

But I did learn the lesson. Never again would I show up at a job interview without more copies of my résumé than I could possibly need. As my career advanced, my portfolios grew to include writing samples, performance reviews, and other relevant artifacts that testified to my skills and assets, and I brought those, too — multiple copies of each, one for anyone in the office who wanted to meet me on interview day.

Now, whenever I write a résumé for a client, I share this anecdote with them as they prepare for applications and the ensuing interviews. Because as important as it is to have a strong résumé when applying for a job, it’s just as vital to bring it with you every time.

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