Quotes on Your Resume: A Waste of Valuable Real Estate

Last week, a reader found himself quoted without his permission on a former colleague’s resume. He sent me this email about resume quotes:

Donna,

I have seen resumes in varying formats over the years, but have you ever seen one with quotes about the person embedded in the middle of each place they worked?

I was taken by surprise to see comments I shared in a letter of introduction embedded in this person’s resume without my permission. I thought it was like using me as a reference without my permission.

What do you think?

John

The Problems with Resume Quotes

I have received many resumes that feature quotes, but I don’t remember ever interviewing a person who sent me that type of resume.

Here’s why:

1. Quotes Share Opinions, Not Facts

The quotes I’ve seen share opinions, not facts, about the applicant.

You get one or two resume pages to share compelling facts about where you’ve worked, what your responsibilities have been, and what you’ve accomplished.

That’s often a tight fit. Don’t waste resume real estate with opinions (weaker) when you can share facts (stronger).

2. Using Quotes on Your Resume Sends a Message That You Lack Self-Confidence

Your resume is the place for you to toot your own horn. When you enlist the help of others, you indicate you can’t do this for yourself.

Don’t diminish yourself by sending that message.

3. Resume Quotes Lack Credibility

Quotes on resumes lack credibility. They would be so easy to make up that featuring them switches on the reader’s bull**** meter.

Don’t activate that meter. Once it’s on, it stays on.

4. You Annoy People

Using quotes without permission can annoy the person who said nice things about you (see John’s email above).

Where Should You Use Validation from Others?

1. LinkedIn Recommendations

Ask for LinkedIn recommendations. They’re public statements. Thus, readers feel confident that they’re more truthful than not.

2. References

Ask people to serve as references. Potential employers can talk with them, ask questions, listen to what your referees say and how they say it, and decide what to believe.

3. Share Your Performance Evaluations

Give prospective employers copies of your performance evaluations. Written reviews show how your boss(es) evaluates your performance — positively and negatively.

A balanced picture is always more credible than one that’s 100% positive or negative.

Conclusion

Use your resume real estate wisely by keeping it factual.

Couple it with accepted, credible (off resume) sources of third-party validation. This will best help employers understand why they should hire you.

I write executive resumes and LinkedIn profiles. Save time. Get hired. Email me at donnasvei@gmail.com for more information.

Image: Fotolia/jura
Updated February 2018

© 2015 – 2018, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.

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Comments 16

  1. Donna, good points! For what it’s worth, quotes I’ve embedded in resumes use the quoter’s title (NOT name). It isn’t about what Mr. Wonderful said, it’s about the fact that Mr. Wonderful is the CEO, who mentioned the quotee’s specific achievements on the ABC Project. I agree that quotes should be minimal (a brand-relevant sound bite, if you will). This is a fascinating discussion.

    Laura

  2. I use a quote at an end to my cover letter in a box…it has everything to do with the job and I also use the position title. I think it adds a bit of what I an offer from someone else’s point of view. I happen to slightly disagree with some of your assessment, just a tad bit. But will take your advice to heart. Thanks

  3. With an advertising background, I would definitely support the careful use of a quote. Both consciously and unconsciously, ‘buyer behaviour’ is heavily influenced by 3rd party endorsements. A resume is trying to ‘sell’ a product (the person) to the buyer (recruiter), and a lot of recruiters these days only seem to review written references after a considerable cull of applications. I would consider a 3rd party endorsement on a key skill, from a reputable, verifiable senior source, a worthy resume inclusion, especially if it got you past the first cull.

  4. There’s one specific case when testimonials are useful in a resume. If you’ve got a big employment gap and your last job ended by you being fired, positive quote from your ex boss could support you in explaining that it was not your fault being fired.

    Also, if you can provide a positive quote about yourself from an industry superstar, include it (imagine Bill Gates or Elon Musk saying good things about your work performance).

    In other cases, I agree with you, Donna.

  5. Hi Vladimir,

    I agree that it’s good to explain gaps.

    I’m remain unconvinced about quotes.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. There’s rarely one right answer to anything about resumes. I love comments because I learn from them and because they help readers make decisions with the support of a variety of perspectives.

    Donna

  6. Hi Gwen,

    “Verifiable” is key and hard to deliver via a resume. That’s why I prefer a LinkedIn recommendation or a reference call. Thank you sharing the advertising perspective!

    Donna

  7. Hi Hope,

    I like the cover letter approach better than the resume approach. There’s usually more available real estate on a cover letter. Thank you for sharing.

    Donna

  8. Hi Laura,

    Thank you for commenting. I’m curious, what do you think about Hope’s approach where the quote almost becomes a part of the writer’s letterhead for their cover letter?

    Donna

  9. This post was really interesting to me as it never even occurred to me to directly embed quotes into your resume!

    What would you say about scanning personal letters of recommendation and including those images in the resume file? Not the same thing as quoting, but would it make more sense to send it as an individual file?

    It’d be interesting to hear your opinion as this is something I used to do.

    Thanks for the article!

  10. Hi Connor,

    I’ve never found letters of recommendation very credible. My gold standard reference is talking with the referee, because of the reasons noted above.

    Donna

  11. I’m curious as to why you don’t find letters of recommendation very credible? If they come from a person of authority, in my case, a higher-up govermental employee… You still wouldn’t hold any merit in that?

    I have to agree though, the only way to truly understand your candidate is by doing your due diligence and talking directly with them.

    Connor

  12. The letters often have a bland, obligatory, rehearsed feel to them. I suggest if you want to use a letter, that it should offer the reader an invitation to follow up with a phone call, and provide a phone number.

  13. This was a really interesting read! I actually received a compliment from my boss on my skill set and I did not know how to capitalize on it; glad I now know what NOT to do.

  14. Hello Donna, I have to LinkedIn Recommendations on my personal email an have received several positive comments. Based on your article, why bother EVER getting a LinkedIn recommendation or letter from your employer?

  15. I would get the LinkedIn recommendation because they give someone reading your profile an immediate sense of who you are. I wouldn’t bother with a letter of recommendation. They’re a mid last century technique.

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