You can’t get a square peg into a round hole any more than you can turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse. Mother wisdom – ya gotta love it. But wait a moment … Just because these are hackneyed old clichés that you have heard a zillion times before doesn’t mean that they are not true.

I find it fascinating when I encounter the (fortunately rare) client who walks into my office and says, “Rowan – pimp my CV!”

What are these people thinking? I mean, really? If you are a square peg, why oh why would you want to portray yourself as being round so as to supposedly fit into some job? What do you think is going to happen? They told you the job was round. You told them that you were round. I’ll tell you what’s going to happen – they are going to repeatedly smash you over the head with a mallet until you more or less fit in the round hole. Who do you think is going to feel the pain? The mallet? The hole?

Why would you invite this level of discomfort into your life?

I remember a young man I met many years ago. He desperately wanted to work as an airline steward. He had attended interview after interview and open day after open day and had not been shortlisted once. After each rejection, he had gone off and done a course – he was qualified and certified up the wazoo in every aspect of the travel business, customer service and communication skills.

Five seconds into the consultation, I knew what this young man’s problem was. He was simply too highly strung for the job under discussion. I’m a pretty laid-back consultant, and my office is a very low-key, relaxing environment. This wasn’t even a real interview, it was just a practice run to help this young man – but I had to claw him off the ceiling with a rake! So I had to give him the bad news:

“The reason why you aren’t getting hired – or even interviewed – for a steward job is very simple. Airlines hire people with a certain ‘way’ about them. This is as much about ensuring that people get off the plane alive in an emergency situation as it is about providing good customer service under normal circumstances. Now, I’ve been on hundreds of flights and let me tell you – I simply would not feel comfortable placing my life in your hands. You’re just too jittery to work in this capacity.”

Harsh? A little perhaps. But I needed to get through to this guy. He ended up going for a ground staff job, which still gave him the travel and other perks he was looking for from the airline.

So don’t pimp your CV or try and put go-faster stripes on your interview technique. Reverse engineer the process. Deconstruct the job you are applying for. List off all the experience, qualifications and personal qualities that will be essential for a person to really shine in the job. Then give yourself marks out of ten under every one of those headings. If you’re not a strong, obvious match for the core elements needed to succeed, why are you applying?

Bumper sticker: If work was so great, the rich would hold onto it all for themselves.

Why make it any harder than it has to be? Be what you are and do what you can do and in the process, “to thine own self be true.”