Statistics from the Canadian Society of Human Resource Managers suggested that 53% of people lie on their CV, and a whopping 70% of graduates would consider lying if there was a job they really really wanted. So despite recent high profile cases where individuals have come unstuck because of a resume lie, there are still more than enough people willing to chance lies on their resume.
See Also: Can you Lie on your CV
One reason for this is that HR and recruiting professionals don’t always check the details you think they would. With hard pressed teams working on multiple cases at once, reference checking is something that often falls between the cracks. Even when checks are done, businesses providing references might only give the bare minimum they are legally required to do, making it a choice that works out for some job seekers.
It is a course to follow with caution. You might find yourself living in fear that someone might turn up from your old workplace and call you out on your lies. It is not completely unheard of - and in our hyper connected world it is all the more likely.
I knew of a case where a Store Manager, who was on paid suspension from his employer due to a disciplinary issue, went off and landed himself a new job whilst stalling the disciplinary case to make sure he was paid by both employers. This worked fine until the Area Manager got wind of it and called him out in public when he turned up at the customer services desk of his new employer. Needless to say, it didn’t work out well for the Store Manager.
Lying on your resume can be enough to destroy the relationship of trust and confidence between you and your new employer. This would constitute gross misconduct and could cost you your dream job.
However, if you’re planning on lying on your resume, here is some food for thought.
1. Be Realistic and Do Your Research
Whatever your reason for massaging your resume - make sure that any half truths (or outright lies) you include are realistic, and you have done enough research to allow you to pull them off.
The area in which you are planning on lying matters here. If you choose to say you ran a marathon in your ’hobbies’ section and get caught out, you might well be able to laugh it off (’wishful thinking! ha ha!’). If you claim to be qualified in a crucial job skill and are not - walking away unscathed is less likely.
Don’t lay claim to anything completely outlandish. And remember, polishing your resume isn’t lying. In fact, it is good practice. Use the right language to describe what you have achieved and present the experience you do have in the right light. This is far better than simply making up a career history you will be hard pressed to live up to.
2. Understand And be Armed With The Most Common Lies
There are areas commonly lied about on resumes. Some, recruiting managers see right through these lies - meaning you have to expect questioning; some less so.
Salary: A common trick is to combine allowances, bonuses and other occasional payments to get a ’salary’ number and present it as your base salary when negotiating. This is often challenged, so you have to decide if you are going to continue with your bluff or explain your rationale honestly when the questions get more heated.
Massaging Qualifications: (or omitting details to give the impression of having more qualifications) This is common and increasingly easy to check. Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD) is an organisation set up to allow recruiters to verify the degree qualifications of potential candidates. They found that around one third of people embellish their academic credentials in the UK; but they can be caught!
Dates: Candidates often either fiddle dates, pretending to be still in work, or skipping over periods of unemployment earlier in their career to give the impression of a seamless career history. This can be discovered at the referencing stage, so make sure you know what sort of references your past employers give (i.e. basic information, or more detail) before you choose to gloss over too many dates.
Inflating numbers: Cranking up business metrics, test scores or abilities is commonplace. If you’re claiming to have single handedly turned around a failing business, or to be fluent in Mandarin, expect the claims to be tested, and have a few choice responses to hand.
Overstating skill levels: Might be harmless, Might be completely explainable, Or might just be a lie. So you once took an evening class in German. Fluent, right? Tried your hand at an online coding course? Competent in various coding languages. Assess the likelihood of these skills being tested or required in the roles you apply for!
3. Be Good at Your Job
If you look through the catalogue of famous CV liars, the ones who got away with it have one striking thing in common. They were good at their jobs.
From the CEOs who fibbed - like Ronald Zarrella of Bausch & Lomb, and James Peterson of Microsemi Corporation - to politicians like Joe Biden Jr, those who have survived did so on their merit. In fact, CV lies can even be turned into selling points. In the case of Richard Li, Chairman of Pacific Century Cyberworks, his failure to complete his university education has been proudly spun to demonstrate his eagerness to get started in the working world. And who will argue, with a man who is now worth $4.6 Billion according to the Forbes rich list.
If you are going to lie on your CV, making yourself quickly essential to the operation is probably the best way to ensure that you do not get shown the door immediately. In the cases above the individuals did suffer some penalty when their lies were exposed - but they didn’t get fired.
4. And Don't Even go There
For example, lying about criminal convictions or issues that impact the health, safety, or legal operations of a business are likely to be exposed and get you fired. It is also a bad idea to lie about possessing core competencies for your job as this will almost certainly be found out.
Lying on your resume is not something that comes highly recommended. Some people do it and prosper, some get caught out and are named and shamed. Not to mention being sacked. It is a high risk option to be undertaken with due consideration. Don’t forget that often employers and recruiters are looking for passion, enthusiasm and personality more than specific skills and experiences.
If you are simply looking to get your foot in the door, a better approach might be to be honest and show how your personal qualities fit the business rather than trying to fake it. Taking a little longer on your job search might be preferable in the long run, to becoming the latest in a string of miserable-but-hilarious stories of those who crashed out because of a resume lie.
Have you ever lied on a resume? Was it effective? Don’t worry you can be anonymous...