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.


The Syracuse Pen provides résumé, writing, and editing services for students, professionals and small businesses. Visit our home page for more information about what we can do for you.