The “Failearn” Resume & why I despise fixing my actual one

The Resume Secret Formula

From the many resume-building advice I’ve seen in career centers and online, there is actually a simple formula for your resume that attracts employers’ eyes:

1) A strong action word that gives a good first impression
2) Number/s (the more, the many-er indeed)
3) A purpose or a why


“Lead team of 10 in creation of student-run non-profit that promotes diversity and inclusion in entrepreneurship with a base of 500+ followers”
“Allocated over $650,000 to over 300 student groups per semester to maintain high-quality extracurriculars as a member of the Student Budget Committee”

Couple that with pretty fonts, namedropping of famous companies, a high GPA, and a kickass reference/contact within the company, then you’re packing your business attire to fly to that interview.

It all feels fake — why failures should be shown

I used to enjoy it, truth be told. My narcissistic side enjoyed listing out the seeming “achievements” I had that “proved myself.” But now that I’ve moved away from grades and laundry lists of accomplishments quantifying my worth, resume re-writing feels like a chore I’d rather not do. It all feels fake. I look at others’ resumes and wonder how they’re able to quantify how they “improved social media engagements by 120%.” Or what it actually means when they fancily suggest they “succeeded in developing a strong expansion plan with 3 strategic partnerships in the pipeline.”

I look at my resume and am in awe at how I was able to come up with all these words and numbers. When I create new entries, I realize I’m only purging out lines that sound the most interesting for employers: high numbers, famous companies. But there are so many hidden stories: the conversations with my bosses, the panicky moments with co-workers, the coffee, the laughs. The things that actually shape who I am. It also doesn’t capture my growth in things beyond being in a company setting. Of course, they do need to see my credentials as a potential employee. But how do fake numbers and famous company names showcase my growth and learning? Instead, I’d rather write examples like the following:

“I almost killed the MedGrocer website one day because there was a bug in a code I put in but I was proud at how calm I was in trying to fix the problem. I called customer service, was transparent about the problem with my co-workers (and even my boss!) and eventually got to get it back running an hour after. I learned that, with enough hustle, there is always a way.”

I suppose experiences like these are covered in the “behavioral questions” segment of the interview, if one ever gets through to that part. But these interviews are in such high-pressure settings, that sometimes the stories are not communicated properly.

I prefer this more holistic, story-like way of seeing how a person improved in a job setting. From a failure or a mishap, there is so much one can learn, and those things are often ignored when applying to jobs. Employers care about “success” quantified in high numbers and fancy words. But success only comes out of many past failures. Why not bring those out a bit more?

The “Failearn” (Fail + Learn) Resume

This reflection pushed me to develop my own “Failearn Resume.” Many other entrepreneurs and successful peple have recommended creating such a document (but I like to think I coined that term!) Basically I highlight moments I feel I “failed.” I make sure they are failures in my eyes, and not necessarily conventional notions of failure. For example, I saw not quitting the college student council earlier as a failure more than actually quitting the position. I didn’t recognize that it was a toxic position and instead forced myself to keep to it. Under a second column, I write what I learned from each experience. Quitting taught me to take better care of myself. This process helps me do the following:

1) Invoke that failure isn’t a bad thing and therefore increase my propensity for risk. I think it’s important, as a budding entrepreneur, to have this mindset engrained.

2) Reflect on past experiences and draw learnings from them that I can use in future jobs and in life! Take the MedGrocer example. Two ways to interpret my learnings: 1) With enough hustle, there is always a way in solving problems and; 2) With enough hustle, there is always a way to my dreams. (Yas.)

3) Give a better understanding of my growth. We learn more through experience and mistakes (say numerous self-help articles and quotes.) Being able to jot these “failures” down and seeing how I got from Point A to B helps me understand how much I actually did grow.

We’ll all make mistakes and have our own versions of failure in whatever thing we’re involved in. Employers might still judge us by metrics of days past, until we can find easier and more seamless ways to improve the application process. But, at least internally, I think it’s important to accept that we’re imperfect humans and to embrace the mistakes that form who we are.