Resumes, Hobos and Human Machines [Guest Column]

By Jennifer Love Faulkner

Somewhere in the core of just about every technical professional’s brain is the desire to refer to themselves as a genius in their respective technology stack.

Dice's Guest AppearanceYears ago I started seeing the emergence of words like “Evangelist,” “Guru,” “Torch Bearer,” and the like on resumes.   I get it and agree… you guys are brilliant and capable of incredible cutting-edge development in infrastructure and software. Each of your efforts support a vast array of non-technical personnel, essentially keeping life as we know it moving forward.

However: Keep some perspective about your brilliance as you push your professional profile forward.  (Note: I thank you for your dedication to technology as my entire world revolves around it. As I sit here and type I see my digital phone, my cell phone, my  iPad, my laptop, my Nook – your brilliance created almost everything within my immediate reach.)

This movement toward borderline ridiculous titles seems to be at an apex. Actually, there are two trends occurring.  First, the selection of grandiose titles and, second, the addition of superfluous “stuff” that is so distracting I’m left either laughing or just aghast.

Examples? Why Certainly!

Let’s start with the superfluous.

Recently, I got a resume on which the candidate had written, just below his name, “Part-time Landlord, Full-time Programmer.” So let’s apply a bit of logic here. When has any renter ever asked their landlord for their resume? Never? Exactly. So my question becomes, “I wonder how much time this person spends on his rental business and is he going to be dedicated to the role I have available here?” The resume then moves to my “maybe” file. I hate to push it there, but if this person feels so strongly about telling me he’s a landlord, shouldn’t I take that as a clue?

Another memorable resume was Mr. Hobo. This candidate was an incredibly gifted Enterprise Architect that had taken a respite of sorts for a period of two years. During that time, he listed his job title as “Hobo.” Under that was the explanation, “Took two years off to explore the woods, gather my thoughts, practice meditation and the arts.”

I interviewed the candidate, felt he was exceptionally qualified and encouraged him to modify the resume to read “Sabbatical” or something more professionally acceptable. Unfortunately, he’d quite gotten used to referring to his hobo years and felt this best reflected a “type” he’d like to portray. I did submit the profile to my decisioners and from that point forward, the team referred to him as — “Mr. Hobo.”  Brilliant though he was, nobody could get past this self-selected title. What a shame.

In the Grandeur category, I’ve seen  “Human Machine,” “Chief Unix Whisperer,” “Master Lord over all things Dojo,” and “Coder, Dreamer, Visionary Technologist with Breathtaking Perspective.” OK, I get it, but I still end up wondering, “Will this person fit into the team?”

Honorable mention goes to a candidate who listed a period of time off for dealing with a case of the gout. Rest assured, unless you are a podiatrist, the word gout should never appear on your resume.

Jennifer’s Guidelines

So with all that said, here are some general guidelines to consider.

    • Go ahead and embrace creativity if you are applying to a startup, a think-tank, a social media company or any organization in which you know for certain your moniker will garner the “oohs and “ahhs” desired. But still, cautiously edit for each company you apply to. Do your research always. Do you know the organization will embrace your unusual moniker?
    • Review  your resume and question yourself, “Is there anything on my resume that would give rise to someone questioning my ability to make money for the company?” If there is, drop it.
    • For mid-market and corporate jobs, stick to the job title given by your current company. If your current business card says “Overlord of Production Issues,” well, then you have carte-blanche to proceed. If not, you might just end up as a hobo at the bottom of the stack. And that would be a shame.

Jennifer FaulknerJennifer Love Faulkner is a seasoned Employment Specialist with 17 years of experience in recruitment, workforce development and training.  As a career coach and speaker, her specialties are candidate relationships and no-nonsense communication. In addition to being a Corporate Recruiter at CGI, Jennifer and husband Brandon support their son’s comic book habit, keep his power cords straight and often hatch Dragons with him in DragonVale.  Her postings on Dice represent her own opinions and do not necessarily represent CGI’s strategies, views or opinions. She blogs at

Image: Bigstock

3 Responses to “Resumes, Hobos and Human Machines [Guest Column]”

  1. Judy Morris

    I appreciate the author’s comments and perspective. But I do have a few comments to offer. First of all, every odd title or seemingly unnecessary bit of information on most resumes has been suggested by at least one blogger, columnist, or recruiter. We are really living dangling by a string, with the strings handled by professional (or otherwise, but on first contact we cannot tell the difference) recruiters. One says “you must do [something] or I’ll put your resume in the Pile of Doom”. Another says “if I see [that thing] on a resume, I put it immediately into the Pile of Doom.”

    Another thing I feel a strong need to point out is that terms such as “Evangelist” or “Torchbearer” don’t mean what you seem to think they mean. They are not at all the same as “Guru”, “Rockstar”, “Ninja”, “Jedi”, etc. Evangelist or torchbearer refer to the people – maybe tech geniuses, maybe more business-oriented – who discover, learn, embrace, promote, and educate on some standard, method, or technology. There is no self-aggrandizing involved – it’s all about promoting new improved standards and methods, and is more about the product and the team (both qualities I would definitely look for if I were recruiting) than about “look at how much I know”.

  2. Hi Judy, thanks for the read. You are correct – not every recruiter is professional (not every worker is professional) and everyone has their own opinions on resumes. These are mine.

    I fully agree as well with your definition of torchbearer and evangelist and in fact, I refer to myself as a STEM jobs evangelist on my Linkedin profile, as will preach/promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics jobs or jobs associated with these industries.

    My main point was to caution job seekers to think critically if they are going to “self title” on how they might be viewed by potential employers. In my mind there is a big difference in “evangelist” verses “battalion commander” (yes – I’ve seen this title.)

    • Judy Morris

      Yes, some of those self-titles are downright silly. And the name does nothing to show what he or she actually does and is capable of doing. They are mostly attempts to show either influence or skill, or both. And honestly, I’m just as stumped right now as those other applicants probably are in how to show those things on a resume, and in a professional manner. Mr. Hobo is an interesting case – he is clearly targeting only a small subset of the companies that are hiring and doesn’t mind eliminating himself from the competition for others – and if he’s so used to being a hobo he can afford to hold out for that – more power to him.

      On a slight aside, if I am ever again in a position to hire someone, I tend to immediately disqualify those who try to present themselves as knowing everything about something. For most subjects worth being expert on, no one can ever know everything. I prefer to work with people who know enough to know what they don’t know. And if what we each know – and don’t know – complements each other, we have the makings for a very good team and a very good professional development experience for each member of the team.

      But I’m digressing into my own agenda. Thank you for the interesting perspective from a professional recruiter and I hope to see more, here or elsewhere.