During a job search more cutthroat than a professional footrace, like a battle more competitive than a boxing match between two juggernaut heavyweights, we can find ourselves grasping for any sort of upper hand. Any foothold that can inch us past our competition, even if just the toe of a foot within a company door. During a job search, you may be inclined to formulate a few resume lies, even if just a spritz of fabrication, to get you above the other applicants.
A 2022 study by StandOutCV found that 55% of Americans have lied on their resumes at least once. In a working world where a job post gets around 100 to 200 applicants on average, it makes sense. In a cutthroat market, little white resume lies may be worth their weight in gold.
As a staffing agency, we see a legion of resumes. A number so innumerable, I cannot begin to fathom the amount of rudimentary skills and job experiences I’ve encountered. Henceforth, we’ve seen our fair share of myths and legends. The worker with the perfect background. The skills section that spreads over 2 pages, giving a list of impossible feats. We know our resume lies.
Here’s the thing: regardless of the extent, lies are easily noticed. If they go unnoticed, by chance, it’s likely the employer will figure it out later. Therefore, you should never include resume lies. But, it’s still going to happen. We are not a beacon of morality here to tell you what not to do. What we can say, as a recruiting agency, is the lies you certainly should not tell.
So, here we go. Here are the 8 lies you should never tell on your resume (and application):
- Right Foot Forward
- Resume Lies You Should Always Avoid
- Gain Experience at All Costs
Right Foot Forward
As we’ve exhausted, job hunting can be tougher than tracking a unicorn through the forest. Finding that perfect gig is hard enough. Once you do, you have to garner the attention of the hiring manager. It’s a try-and-fail task that can quickly dwindle someone’s ego, especially if they are in dire need of reliable income. Therefore, we understand why people tend to lie on their applications.
We get it. We do. Job searching can be arduous. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that some people are willing to bolster their resumes with little lies here and there.
Here’s the thing: you never want to start off your relationship with a potential employer based on a lie. Even if you manage to get away with the fabrication, you are still building a working relationship off of a shaky foundation. And, if the employer does find out that you were lying about something, you will end up untrusted for the foreseeable future.
Lying on job applications can go one of three ways. One, the employer notices it before hiring you, eliminating you from the candidacy. Two, you get the job and nothing is ever discovered. Three, the employer notices once you’ve been hired, which may lead to firing or a lack of trust.
If there’s only a 33.33% chance of a positive outcome, is the risk truly worth the reward?
Trust is one of the main attributes hirers look for in candidates. Why start your working relationship based on the negation of trust? It’s likely to lead to a bad ending.
Do you believe yourself to be some sort of tactical genius by deciding to lie on your resume? Think that it won’t be outright noticeable?
Before we delve into specific fibs to avoid, here are a few more statistics that may sway your opinion on resume lies:
- 66% of employers agreed that candidates exaggerate skills and competencies on their resumes. – Monster
- 61.7% of job seekers get at least one interview by sending between 1-10 job applications. – Zippia
- The most common thing people had lied about was their previous work experience (55.4%), followed by their skills (43.1%), and information about their college degree (41%). – StandoutCV
- When asked if they would or wouldn’t lie to get a job they really wanted in the future, it was almost an even split between those who would lie (45.7%) and those who wouldn’t (42.5%), although 11.8% said they didn’t know if they would or not. – StandoutCV
What does this all say?
As employers, we know that candidates lie. Furthermore, we know what they often lie about. We are trained and ready to lookout for discrepancies in the most obvious of places.
On the other hand, application lying isn’t going anywhere. The majority of job seekers will continue to use small (and surprisingly large) fibs on their applications. It’s a battle that will rage on for the rest of capitalistic time.
Is It Worth the Risk?
It’s always important to look at the possible outcomes before making any decision, especially if it involves the life-altering aspect of a new career.
Ultimately, it’s important to ask yourself how the lie may affect your future work if you receive the position. If you are found out, how will it affect your career and current role? Will you be fired? Will it become a scarlet letter plastered across your entire future in the industry? If found out, will the company blackball you?
Let’s say you decide to lie about your former experience, something that can easily be found out by asking a former employer, employee, or friend. Are you willing to work the rest of your time at the new job in fear of being found out? Are the risk and paranoia worth the reward?
These are the questions to ask yourself before formulating your fabrication.
Resume Lies You Should Always Avoid
Alright. Let’s get to the meat and potatoes. Let’s get to the crucial information that lies ahead (get it?).
While you should never lie on your resume at all, there are specific lies that should be completely avoided. The following sections shouldn’t even be exaggerated. You might not outright lie, but you may find yourself embellishing information. If a resume is an elevator pitch to sell yourself in a short period of time, it’s understandable that you may build yourself up a bit through dramatization. Even movie trailers put the action as the highlight.
Regardless of your needs or ideas, these are topics than can easily be seen through. Even a slight dramatization may be quickly noticed, ruining your chances of getting the job or remaining at the company.
Simply put, don’t lie or exaggerate about the following things:
1. Industry Knowledge
If you are new to an industry or sector and are lying about the experience to get a more-than-entry-level job, you may find yourself in a world of pain and embarrassment. If you didn’t receive former education, training, or outside knowledge in the specific industry, you may easily find yourself pointed out like Pinocchio with a 4-foot nose.
For example, say one day you decide that you want to jump into the graphic design industry. Through various grapevines, you heard that it was a lucrative and fun place to find your working self. Despite not having any experience in the industry, you formulate a deceiving resume and basic portfolio.
During the interview process (or in the most extreme cases, the first day on the job), you are asked to explain the difference between Orphans and Widows. Not knowing the specific industry jargon, you start off on a rant about deceased spouses and abandoned children, noting Annie as your favorite musical.
This may seem like an extreme and humorous example, but it shows the point. Not knowing the ins and outs of the specific industry is the easiest lie to pick up on. It’s usually easy enough to note on the resume, but if you get to the interview process, you are sure to be found out.
Industry knowledge is the easiest lie to notice. Industry experts will catch you immediately.
It’s important to note that in the best resumes, industry keywords are naturally used to gain the attention of hiring managers and resume-sorting software. Therefore, if you don’t know a plethora of industry-specific words, you are likely to get dropped from the job race at the opening stages.
If you are knowledgeable in the industry, you should look to add job description words and industry keywords throughout your applications (not too many though).
For more information about this, we have a wide array of resume builder articles below.
2. Dates of Jobs
If a job asks for a specific amount of experience in the corresponding field (i.e. 3 years), you may find yourself tempted to stretch your employment dates beyond the actual facts.
Let’s say you only worked at a job for 1-and-a-half years, but the job description calls for 2 years of experience. You may not see the harm in placing an extra 6 months on your aforementioned job. At the end of the day, you still have the experience and skills necessary, and probably wouldn’t have learned anything ridiculously significant in those 6 months anyway.
In another example, you may be willing to stretch your work dates to show that there aren’t any significant gaps in your resume. If you haven’t worked in over a year, you may feel that extending your previous job up into the last year will help your chances of landing the new gig.
In a way, both of these cases are true. Having extra experience in the field will certainly bolster your resume, and having too long of a job gap is a detriment to your application. Unfortunately, both of these things are easy to figure out.
It’s entirely possible that the new employer contacts your former (especially if you state you left on good terms). Furthermore, if you refer anyone from these jobs you lied about, they may receive a call. In these frequent cases, the reference or former job is very unlikely to hold up your lie, revealing your date fabrications.
3. Computer or Software Knowledge
Much like the aforementioned industry-knowledge lie, lying about technical prowess or software knowledge is a quick way to get outed for lying. Or outing yourself, really.
What if you state that you are an expert in spreadsheets, but upon your first day, you barely know how to open one?
If you are looking for a tech job, lying about your technical or program-specific knowledge is an easy way to get discovered. We’re talking about Scooby Doo pulling the mask discovered.
Overall, don’t lie about knowledge that’s specific to the role or industry. Ever. You are lying to people that use it (or do it) for a living. That’s an easy way to get noticed for fabrication.
4. Leadership Skills
Leadership skills are crucial to being an effective and likable manager. Unfortunately, great leaders and supervisors are not born out of natural means. Sure, a person can have born intangibles that help them succeed in leadership roles, but the act of forming and pushing a team is not one that’s learned from nature.
A successful leader has a plethora of experience, plans, and learnable skills that help them be the foreman of others. Furthermore, depending on the industry, the leader may need a number of other soft skills that are directly correlated to experience in the field.
Leadership skills are so important to managerial roles that we created an entire list of them.
Our point is: lying about leadership skills for high-up roles may not be an immediate notice. You may still get past the interview and land the job. Unless you are a remarkably fast learner and fabricator, your lack of leadership experience will quickly shine through your job performance, regardless of your resume lies.
This isn’t a resume lie that’s obvious from the jump, but a supervisor or overall employer will quickly note your managerial lies when you begin the job.
Fortunately, you can apply to leadership roles without having leadership experience. Workers with significant experience in the field get bumped up to managerial roles all of the time. In fact, it’s the next logical step in the evolution of most careers. Therefore, you shouldn’t lie about managerial or leadership experience. Just make a fantastic resume that shows you have the field experience and are ready to learn and take the next step.
There’s really no reason to lie about leadership skills. You can learn them, and train to become a great supervisor.
5. Basic Information
If a job requires that you live in the state the company is based in, you may be tempted to lie about your current location. Sometimes it seems to be easier to land a job without including the moving and relocation process.
Though it may seem as if your job-landing chances are increased by not having to relocate, lying about it can quickly catch you up in a web. For example, say you are willing to relocate if you get the job, but you state you already live in the city. The next day, the company surprises you and asks you to come in for an in-person interview.
How quickly can you book a flight?
Ultimately, with the introduction and reign of mobile work, this situation is no longer as dire as it used to be. If you are willing to relocate and have a desirable resume, most companies are willing to work with you. They may even allow you to work remotely until you can get moved. Therefore, it’s important to avoid these resume lies.
Note at the top of your application or resume that your current address is not permanent. State your real address and then note that you are willing and able to relocate. If you can do so immediately, note it. You can also touch on this concept in your cover letter.
Having to relocate to a new job isn’t the death sentence many believe it is. Theoretically, it’s easier than ever.
Need an amazing reference in a field you never worked in? Planning on asking your friend to lie for you and act as a manager in the industry?
That’s a quick way to lose a gig and a frequent one. In fact, 2 in 5 (40.3%) told StandoutCV (in the aforementioned survey) they had lied specifically about the references on their resume. Most commonly, people use a friend or family member (47%), with over a third (34.3%) making someone up, and 16.9% said they used an online service to create a fake reference.
We’ve all heard it from someone. Jobs don’t actually check the references you provide. It’s a myth to scare you. Yadda yadda.
While it may seem like no one has ever reached out to your former employers or educators, the numbers are high. In fact, a 2019 survey by SHRM noted that 87% of potential employers do reference checks as part of the hiring process.
Simply put, that’s too high to ignore and/or lie about.
Jobs that require professional backgrounds or experience will more than likely check up on your former work. They want to make sure that you’re an exceptional candidate and honest about your past. Overall, it is their right to check that you are not wasting their time and resources. So, be prepared.
Do not lie about your former employers, list fake references, or give out non-existent information. Overall, the company is based within the local industry. If you aren’t looking at jobs in other states, it’s likely that the company knows most people in the industry. They have a network. They will be quick to pick out when the ‘CEO of Blank Company’ is your friend or relative.
As an employment agency, if we find you lied about your references, we are quick to toss your application out.
Much like overall experiences, certifications are quick to be picked out by industry experts. You may be tempted to lie about a certification or educational experience in your specific industry. You may have the correct job experience and skills, but think that the certification will be the bonus to push you over the top of other candidates. The issue is that certifications are efficiently identifiable.
It’s not out of the question for the employer to ask to see proof of certification, especially in industries where they are crucial (i.e. electrical work, the food industry, and the health field).
If a certification is a requirement in the job description, the employer is likely to check for its validity. Don’t lie about it. Never.
8. Spoken Languages
This has got to be the funniest entry on the list. Though ridiculous in theory, some have tried it. We feel as if we have to mention it.
If you don’t speak the foreign language the job description asks for, don’t say you do. Even if it says knowledge of the language is just a bonus, do not lie about it.
Let’s be frank: if you lie about knowing a second language, you will be caught immediately. There’s no way to fabricate or back up that knowledge. A high school class on the language does not count, either.
If you don’t know Spanish, you do not know Spanish.
Gain Experience at All Costs
As humans, we often search for the quickest way to success. While we aren’t psychologists, there’s something about the nature of our species that strives for, and is deeply attracted to, efficiency. Therefore, when lurching into a new career or industry, it’s only natural to search for the nearest shortcut. Oftentimes, the easiest shortcut is bald-faced lies on your resume.
As we’ve stated multiple times, you shouldn’t lie on your resume, especially if it has to do with experience. While you may get away with a few fabrications here and there, job experience will not fly. If you enter an industry without the correct experience for the role, you will quickly be found out. This is the easiest way to burn bridges to a crisp, lose your new job, and potentially create a horrid name for yourself in the local market.
If you are attempting to enter an industry where you don’t have much experience, you need to garner a reputation and experience from somewhere. You may need to start in the sector in a lower tier. For example, if you are attempting to be a journalist, you likely won’t be able to jump directly into the New York City market. You may have to start in a little town outside of Nebraska, building up your resume and experience before jumping into the big league.
We all have to start somewhere. If you aren’t getting job offers in the sector due to a lack of experience, take the experience wherever you can get it. Look for internships, part-time gigs, or other entry-level ways to get industry experience before moving on to higher positions. It takes more time, sure, but it’s worth it. Don’t get in over your head on falsities.
We understand the concept behind lying on your resume. In a working world that’s barred by various gatekeepers and class-based hurdles, it can be nearly impossible to find positions in certain industries without a few falsifications. We often hear the perplexing concept of needing the experience to gain experience. As stated, we get it. Job hunting is really, really tough.
Ultimately, we won’t attempt to tell you what to do and what not to lie about. We just feel, as a staffing company, that there are a few resume lies that should be completely avoided. The ones listed above are extremely easy to sniff out and may leave your career (or potential career) in ruins. Don’t scorn yourself within your local market. Don’t get caught in a web of lies.
At the end of the day, whatever you decide to do is entirely up to you. Just remember, your resume lies might not be as airtight as you thought they were. They’re easier to find than you’d imagine.