A resume is nothing more than a marketing document. It’s a highlight reel of the skills you bring to the table for an open position. A lot of applicants mistake it for an autobiographical log of their day to day work life, and that’s where this fear of padding comes in. Let’s say your job as a junior reality TV executive is primarily to write treatments for reality projects in development, but you’re looking to transition to the role of story producer. If you’ve ever given notes on a sizzle or other footage -- even if it wasn’t your primary job -- you can and should include that on your resume! The idea is to sell that you can do the job -- and if you know you can do it because you’ve had some experience, it’s fine to say so.
You get into dangerous territory when you actually lie or warp facts in such a way that you can’t back them up. One way people tend to teeter into padding territory is through their quantifiable achievements. Sure, it’s nice to include numbers on your resume, but you have to be able to explain them in an interview, so they better be meaningful. For instance, if you doubled the social media following of the boutique production company you interned for, but there were only a handful of people following when you started, that’s not really that impressive, nor can you speak to it eloquently if asked in an interview.
Another way padding becomes obvious is if your lie about your position. Hollywood is a small town, and if you’re applying through contacts (as you should be), it’s likely your potential future boss knows about your current company. Don’t say you’re a coordinator if there’s an actual coordinator who may have a relationship that can get you in trouble, and certainly don’t bump yourself from intern to assistant! Unless your boss will back you up on the position -- and some bosses will give you permission to boost your title on your resume -- stick to the truth.
Ultimately, anything you can confidently explain when asked about it and that your references will corroborate is fair game for your resume, even if it’s not one of your primary responsibilities. If you know you’re stretching the truth, a recruiter will figure it out, too.