It’s a tough job market, and when the stakes are high – and attached to your livelihood – lying on a resume can seem worth the risk. Recent college graduates can be especially tempted to fib on their first resumes as they face the dreaded experience hurdle to qualify for jobs.
Neil Gaiman, blockbuster author from the UK, confessed that he lied on his resume to gain jobs as a freelance writer. Though he was never caught, he has since discouraged students from following suit, saying that the Internet has made it almost impossible to get away with lying.
Lying on resumes is actually extremely common, and statistics show that somewhere between 30 and 40 percent of all job hunters lie on their resumes. Surprised? You might also be surprised to discover that you may have lied on your resume without even knowing it.
Small embellishments, such as listing Excel or PowerPoint as a skill (when you last used the program 10 years ago) are considered lies. According to professional recruiters, embellishments that misrepresent applicants are grounds for immediate dismissal. While some professionals who have lied about their qualifications have bounced back after high profile dismissals – like U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who lied about his college record way back in 1988 – in most cases, professional lying can cost people their careers.
Professional lying – it sounds like a skill for espionage agents – but is most common among applicants who exaggerate past salaries. Though this might seem like a good (and easy) way to negotiate a better salary from potential employees, a better bet is to be honest about your previous salary and be prepared to argue your worth.
Why can’t I get away with it?
Why is it harder to get away with lies? Well, Neil Gaiman was right when he cited the Internet as the fact-checking instigator; and human resource companies are using the Internet to fact-check resumes and run background checks on candidates. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 40 percent of human resource professionals have amped up the fact-checking over the past few years, making it tougher for the liars to be hired.
However, professional liars are never truly safe. Once false information is listed on a resume, the bios can follow candidates around, making it especially easy for high-powered executives to come under scrutiny. Sometimes, the higher-up the professional, the wilder the lies can get. Like when Robert Irvine, star of U.S. television show Dinner Impossible, padded his resume with ties to the royal family, specifically Princess Diana’s wedding cake. It didn’t take the Food Network long to uncover the truth, and Irvine dropped off the network for two years.
What is the worst-case scenario?
Perhaps the most well-known professional liar is Scott Thompson, former CEO of Yahoo!, who lasted only four months on the job before he was canned for falsifying information about his credentials. Thompson got the boot for lying about his computer science degree, which didn’t exist.
Many esteemed and professional folks have lied on their resumes only to see their lies come back to bite them in the derriers. Some people even end up in jail on charges like plagiarism or falsifying information. In New Zealand, a chief executive of a television network was sentence to jail time after he admitted to extensively lying on his resume.
Only 12 percent of professional liars falsify credentials that are essential to the position, according to an infographic compiled by surgical-technologist. Other common transgressions are exaggerating job responsibilities, lying about nonessential skills, misrepresenting details and embellishing inconsequential details like job gaps.
Even if it’s tough to resist, lying on your resume is not worth breaking the trust of your employer. Even the most lenient employer will have difficulty trusting someone who has been caught in a lie, and it only takes one bad reference to muck up your career. Honesty is still the best policy, even if it means a few more years working on the bottom run of the ladder.