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Lying On Your Resume: A Risk Not Worth the Reward

Aside from being unethical, lying on your resume is simply not worth the risk. 

Four common areas where people exaggerate on their resumes are:

  •  Having a degree
  •  Dates of jobs to cover gaps
  •  Experience level with a particular type of technology
  •  Job Title

Though it may seem tempting to embellish your work history, degrees, or dates of employment, it’s not a good idea.  Even if you escape unnoticed for a while, the lies will eventually catch up to you, potentially leading to unemployment and a bad reputation in your industry.

The proliferation of background checks suggests that a vast majority of employers are checking their facts. Often, candidates who provide false or incomplete information on their resumes are caught soon after starting their new job.  They are then faced with beginning their job search over again, but this time with the added challenge of having to explain recently being fired.   Candidates with resumes that have missing information or altered dates to cover for gaps between jobs should correct this before it becomes irreversible.

Recently, this topic has gotten a lot of attention.   Former Yahoo CEO, Scott Thompson, resigned when an inaccurate listing of his college education was discovered.  Ironically, Thompson didn’t lie about having a degree; he falsely added that he had obtained a CS degree in addition to his Accounting degree.  

There have been other notable cases over the last several years; George O’Leary, the former Notre Dame Football coach ended up resigning based on the false claims that he had a Master’s degree and was a star college football player.  Former MIT Dean of Admissions, Marilee Jones, was also forced to resign after it was disclosed that her academic credentials were inaccurate.  Then there’s the story of Adam Wheeler who fooled Harvard into not only admitting him with a completely made up background, but giving him scholarships and grants, as well.   Way back, the CEO of Lotus was also caught with an exaggerated resume.  These are all examples of high level executives caught lying about their credentials, although in some cases, not immediately (Marilee Jones lasted 28 years!).   Maybe the CEO of Yahoo got away with it for a while, but most of us don’t have that cache and most potential employers will look carefully into our background.

The risk associated with embellishing your resume to get your foot in the door is not worth the reward.  A better course of action is to be honest on your resume and offset any perceived negatives with a cover letter or a brief statement.  Additionally, networking your way into a potential job where you have someone vouching for you can help overcome any shortfalls or concerns.

The bottom line is: When it comes to resumes, honesty is definitely the best policy.

Photo Credit: Glassdoor