Why You Shouldn’t Lie on Your Résumé: A Quick Guide

Lying on your résumé is a big no-no! Here's how you could get caught out and what kind of trouble you could find yourself in if you do.

Reviewed by Melina Theodorou

Resume of a man lying

When you’re in the midst of applying for different jobs, it’s tempting to embellish the truth and make your experience seem more than it is on a résumé. Is there any harm in bending the truth to get the job you really want? Well, lying on your résumé could have several repercussions for you and your career.

Below, we will examine these risks and take a closer look at what the consequences could be if get caught.

Do people lie on their résumé?

There must be some people who lie on their résumé, but the majority of people tell the truth, right? A recent study by Checkster (PDF) revealed the opposite; a staggering 84% of job applicants have some form of falsification on their résumé. This could range from out and out lies to adding more skills to changing dates so as to avoid gaps in their employment history.

A whopping 60% of those surveyed said that they lied about their proficiency with certain skills. Others made false claims relating to their education, with 39.5% claiming to have a degree from a prestigious university when they were a few credits short and 39.25% claiming the same and actually only taking one class online.

More serious lies came in the form of people pretending they didn’t have a criminal record (26.5%), offering false job references (43.75%), and boasting awards and accolades that they hadn’t received (26%).

Should you lie on your résumé?

You may think that the odd lie on your résumé, or misrepresentation of information won’t hurt. Afterall, the majority of us tend to embellish slightly when it comes to our past roles, duties and experience.

However, depending on the severity of the lie you are willing to tell, there are plenty of risks involved with being untruthful and numerous ways to get found out.

Beyond the practical elements of lying in your résumé, you must also consider the ethical implications of doing so. Employers are looking for candidates who are honest, have integrity and who can face their weak points and turn them into strengths, or, at the very least, targets to work towards. Instead of lying, make sure you have a standout résumé that demonstrates everything you have to offer.

Moreover, if you need to lie on your résumé in order to qualify for a job, perhaps this is not the right role for you. Afterall, even if you do manage to land the job, you could still lack the knowledge, training and skills to complete your duties adequately.

If you lack in any area, then focus on coming up with a plan that will allow you to sharpen your skills, develop as an individual and, overall, make yourself more employable as a candidate. Lying always catches up with you and could not only cost you your job but also result in legal action against you.

How you can get caught

You may think no one will bother to fact check everything you’ve included in your résumé. You may be right. But what if you’re wrong? There are plenty of ways that your lie might come back to bite you. In fact, you might even give yourself away.

Lies take a certain amount of effort. If the lie you’ve told on your résumé is brought up at the interview, you are going to have to elaborate further on this lie. If you can’t back up your claims, or your body language gives you away, you’ll be clocked quickly. Even if you don’t get caught initially, you may have to keep this lie up afterwards, if you get the job, and it’s possible you may let it slip to your co-workers or even your boss. The deeper a lie becomes, the bigger the consequences and the effort to uphold it, too.

Many employers conduct background checks, making it easy for them to expose any lies about dates, false job titles, pretend degrees and embellished GPAs. With so much information readily available these days, even a quick google search in some instances could expose you, so the risk of lying is quite high.

As we’ve seen above, a concerning majority of people lie about their skillset. This may seem harmless at first but what if you are called to use the skills that you’ve professed to be an expert at? Aptitude tests are quite common in interviews, so while you may lie about your technical abilities, the test demonstrate your lack of knowledge. Even if you get the job without having to take any tests, you could still be found out, when asked to use the skills you have lied about to complete a task. In he worst scenario, doing something you are not really trained to do could lead to damages or harm others.

Furthermore, most employers look at your references before they award you the job. An honest referee could expose you if you have embellished on your job titles or lied about your qualifications.

Résumé lying is becoming a real problem and employers are going to more and more lengths to make sure they hire honest applicants.

The consequences of lying on your résumé

When writing your résumé, the odd white lie might seem harmless. However, there are massive consequences that could come of you not being truthful to future employers. Lies can spin out of control and before you know it, your little mistruth could have a major impact on your career.

Loss of employment

The most likely outcome of lying on your résumé is that you will either not be offered the job you are applying for, or you will be fired from the job afterwards. In the latter case, this will be a massive blow because it could harm your career long term.

Don’t think this could happen to you? It happened to Yahoo’s former CEO after it transpired that he had lied on his résumé about a college degree. The lie cost him is job, and the publicity surrounding this case, as he was in quite a prominent position, marked him for future roles.

Damaged reputation

As in the case of Yahoo’s former CEO, losing your job for lying on your résumé may not just cost you your current job but dampen your chances of securing future employment. It can be much harder to gain employment if your career history includes a termination for cause.

Employers want to be able to trust their employees; they want someone that they can rely on and who represents the values of their company. Lying doesn’t align with this and will be a big red flag for recruiters.

If your lie is serious enough, you may find yourself blacklisted by recruiters and other companies in your industry.

Legal consequences

In the worst-case scenario, if your lie is serious and has severe impact on the company, there could be legal implications. Whilst it isn’t illegal to lie on your résumé, since it isn’t a legal document, lying about a degree or your training can be considered evidence backing up false claims which could be grounds for legal action. Similarly, if an employer asks if you have any criminal convictions, it is against the law not to declare them. Although rare, it is possible to be taken to court for fraud if your lie is serious or puts others at risk.

Lying can also lead to a legal case for damages if your actions cause a legal issue for your employer. For example, if you lied about a skill needed to do the job, and as a result, you made a big error, resulting in your company being sued by a client, you can be taken to court by your employer for damages.

In 2019, Veronica Hilda Theriault was charged with deception, dishonesty and abuse of public office for lying on her résumé about her education, faking photos and references in order to get a government position.

Final thoughts

Lying on a résumé is surprisingly common, with instances varying in severity from minor embellishments to flat out lies. However, as tempting as it may be to tamper with the truth, lying on a résumé can have serious consequences.

With most companies subjecting candidates to rigorous background checks, the most likely outcome is that you will get caught.

Instead of resorting to lying, if you feel you have a gap in your résumé in terms of skills or qualifications needed for a job, the best plan is to address it and focus on what it is you truly have to offer to a company. At the end of the day, it is better to be genuine and honest with ourselves and our potential employers.

So, the moral of this story is: don’t lie on your résumé!

Have you ever gotten caught lying on your résumé? Share your stories with us in the comments section below.