When it comes to jobseekers lying on resumes, employers have some amazing stories to tell.
"I had an applicant who claimed that he was a graduate of an Ivy League School on his resume and LinkedIn profile," says Andrew McLeod, C3O of Certn. "We sought to verify this candidate's education, and the institution came back that this applicant did not have a degree, nor did he ever attend the school. We immediately thought there must be an issue with the institution, so we brought the candidate back in and asked him a few questions about his time in Ithaca, the town where this specific institution is based."
When the applicant asked, "Where's Ithaca?" McLeod smelled a rat and the job interview was over quickly.
Rich Franklin, founder and president of KBC Staffing, says he's hired hundreds of employees over the years and caught quite a few lies, but this one was perhaps the most egregious:
"The position was for an administrative assistant that would have to frequently work with a German parent company. As such, the person would need to be a fluent German speaker," he says.
Prior to the interview, Franklin reviewed the candidate's resume where he had listed a minor in German in his education section. Franklin began the job interview in English but transitioned to German during the course of the discussion. It was then that the truth was revealed.
"The guy stared at me wide-eyed and muttered a reply," Franklin says. "I asked him to speak up and could quickly tell that he was essentially speaking gibberish. I asked him if he actually knew German and he said he did not. I pretty much burst out laughing and asked him how he thought he was going to get away with this. He replied that he hadn't really thought the plan through, got up from his chair, and left my office."
A fib on a resume may seem like an easy way to boost candidacy. But whether a little white lie or a whale of a tale, dishonesty simply isn't a good idea. If landing a new job is one of your goals for the upcoming year, resolve to write a resume that lets your true self shine.
What is considered lying on a resume?
The cases described above clearly involve outright attempts to deceive by providing inaccurate information. Forget even trying to justify the behavior.
"Don't ever do this," warns California employment lawyer Heather Bussing. "Even if a company doesn't do background checks, giving false information in the hiring process is always grounds for termination or rescinding a job offer whether the employment is at will or requires good cause for termination."
A second type of lie jobseekers often rely on is lying by omission. An example of this would be leaving a job off of your resume because you were fired. For some employers, this could be considered dishonest; for others, it's just murky territory. Jobseekers who intentionally leave details off of their resume must use good judgement about what to omit and whether it could be deemed dishonest.
As Bussing notes, "Since a resume is by nature a condensed summary of skills and jobs, all resumes leave things out. Usually a lot. So, it's important to understand what matters and what would be viewed as an untruth instead of an innocent omission."
A stint as a waiter during college doesn't need to appear on the resume of a seasoned computer programmer trying to land a top position in an IT department. Likewise, few would take issue with a mother who chooses to omit her years spent raising children entirely.
Bussing cites her own resume as another example. "It only goes back about 10 years even though my career is longer. I leave off the early information to avoid age discrimination and because what I have done for the past 10 years is much more relevant to what I'm interested in doing next than earlier experience."
How employers uncover lies on resumes
Research reveals that a whopping 85 percent of employers have caught applicants lying on their resumes or other application material. In an age of readily available information, candidates really need to ensure their resumes remain honest.
Even if you can get away with a lie during the interview process, employers frequently perform background checks after a conditional offer has been made. Depending on the nature of the job the candidate seeks, this search can involve looking into credit history, driving record, and past criminal activity. Verifying past positions held and dates of employment is common, as is checking with educational institutions to make sure a degree was granted.
Untruths also get revealed inadvertently. For example, a hiring manager contacting one of your references may figure out that you performed duties quite different from the managerial role your resume lists.
Similarly, maintaining a lie yourself isn't as easy as it looks. A LinkedIn profile that doesn't perfectly match a resume, or a social media post showing you at the holiday party of a company different from the one you claimed to work for, can lead to employers scrutinizing and asking probing questions. Before you know it, these inconsistencies and slipups land you in a hole too deep to climb out of.
A second type of lie jobseekers often rely on is lying by omission. An example of this would be leaving a job off of your resume because you were fired. For some employers, this could be considered dishonest; for others, it's just murky territory.
You can get the job and still not get away with it
Even if someone manages to get hired without the lie being revealed, they shouldn't think they're out of the woods. The fib could come back to haunt them down the line to the tune of termination and career embarrassment.
Dawn D. Boyer, Ph.D., and CEO of D. Boyer Consulting, recalls a situation when she was a general HR manager for a government contractor.
"In government contracting, when resumes are submitted during a Request for Bid (RFB) or a Request for Quote (RFQ), or a contract proposal, the government assumes the information on those proposal resumes are 100% correct, and are within the requirements of experience, education, and skill sets noted on the resume for the contract employees working for the federal (or state) government," she says.
If the workers have fibbed on their resume and don't actually meet minimum requirements, the contract — some of which total millions of dollars of annual revenue — could be nullified. To prevent this, Boyer says, the company did an audit of employee resumes.
"Of those 2,500 audited, about 50 resulted in documented 'lying,' and my company had to let them all go — including the VP," she says.
The bottom line: Do yourself, your conscience, your colleagues, and your employer a favor and stick with the truth!
Learn to write a fib-free resume
The best way to avoid the urge to lie on your resume is to learn how to write a resume that shows off your real skills and achievements. Need some help figuring out how to write a resume that showcases your skills in the best light? LiveCareer's professional resume builder makes crafting an outstanding, yet honest, document easy. Reiterate your strengths with a well-constructed cover letter that leaves no doubt that you're the person to hire!