When you’re feeling desperate for a job, it might be tempting to lie your resume. Lying about your skills or experience probably seems innocent enough. It’s just an exaggeration…no harm, no foul, right?
Not quite! There are many ways that lying about your qualifications can backfire. Here’s why honesty truly is the best policy when writing your resume.
What Do Job Seekers Lie About on Their Resume?
This is comparable to what we see here in DuPage County. We conducted a quick survey* of local HR professionals, and the lies they reported seeing most often are:
- Responsibilities (63% of responses)
- Academic degree (50%)
- Skill set (50%)
- Dates of employment (38%)
- Salary (25%)
- Job Title (13%)
It’s understandable that job seekers lie about these sorts of things. Exaggerating your skills, education and/or job responsibilities will make you look more attractive to an employer. Why not go for it?
Here’s why not…
The Lie Will Probably Get Caught
According to that same CareerBuilder survey, 58% of hiring managers said they’ve caught a lie on a resume. Another 33% reported that they’ve seen an increase in resume “embellishments”.
In our survey of HR pros, all of the respondents reported that they had caught lies on resumes. When asked how often they see lies, 60% said sometimes, 25% said rarely, and 15% said often.
And, here are the two main ways these lies get caught:
- In the Interview: Lying about skills or experience on your resume might get you to the interview. However, it will quickly become apparent during the interview that you don’t really have those skills.
- Verification of Information: Things like education, dates of employment or salary are easy to verify with a simple phone call. And HR people do make such calls when evaluating job candidates.
So, if you lie on your resume, the chances are pretty good that you’re going to get caught.
What Happens if You Get Caught?
As you might imagine, getting caught in a lie is…not a good thing.
In the CareerBuilder survey mentioned above, about half of employers (51%) said that catching a lie on a resume would automatically disqualify the candidate. Another 40% said that it would depend on what the candidate lied about.
In our survey, even more of the HR pros – 60% – said that you’d be automatically disqualified by a lie. The others said it would depend on what the lie was about. For example, one HR pro said they would call the applicant/candidate for an explanation, then decide whether or not to disqualify them.
Similarly, another HR pro explained, “It depends on whether there is a reasonable explanation for the discrepancy on the application/resume, i.e. if it’s a matter of interpretation, or if it’s just blatantly false information that disqualifies them.”
Overall, there’s a very strong chance that if you get caught lying, you will be disqualified from the job.
But, What if You Don’t Get Caught?
If you lie, it is possible that you won’t get caught. Then, if you really sell yourself in the interview (and continue the lie), you could get the job. That’s not as great as it sounds, and here’ why:
- You’ll Have to Live and Work With that Lie – Mark Twain famously said, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” When you lie, you not only have to remember that lie, but all the additional lies you end up telling to support the original lie. It ends up being the proverbial “web of lies” that you have to maintain and carry with you. For example, in this confession from someone who lied on their resume, they talk about being “absolutely terrified that someone would find out.” They also felt “enormous stigma” and felt they had to “work twice as hard as everyone” to compensate for the lie. Are you ready to work under those conditions, possibly for years?
- You Can End Up in a Job That’s Way Over Your Head – Let’s say you lied on your resume, and you fooled the hiring manager in the interview. Congratulations! You’ve landed a job in which you’ll be expected to know and do things that you don’t know how to do. Are you ready for that?
- There’s a Good Chance the Lie Will Eventually be Discovered – Unlike the above-mentioned confessor who got away with lying, many other “resume liars” were uncovered. Just look here, here and here for the stories of high-profile executives whose lies were ultimately discovered, with disastrous consequences. You may notice that not every one of those people lost their job, probably because they were in such high-level positions. How confident are you that you’d escape “getting the ax” if you were caught in a lie?
- The Lie Will Follow You – Getting fired for lying on your resume will follow you around. Imagine an HR person calling your previous employer and learning that you were fired for lying – that will put the kibosh on your new job. No employer wants to hire someone with a track record of dishonesty.
Honesty Is the Best Policy
I’ll close with another quote from Mark Twain – “One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives.”
A lie can have many lives and, like a cat, it can bite you when you least expect it. The safest and surest course of action is to be honest about your qualifications. Then, tailor your resume to each job, showing why your true skills, experience and education make you such a good fit.
An honest resume, targeted to the job, will move your career forward in a positive and meaningful way!