Five Ways Resume Lies Hurt You

You don’t need to be told that the job market is tough for new grads. You probably have friends looking for work or you may be looking yourself. The pressure to obtain full-time employment is powerful and can tempt those struggling to turn to less than savory means to distinguish themselves as job applicants. The phrase “resume padding” might sound harmless, but make no mistake in thinking it means anything other than “lying”. Calling a day of volunteering a semester’s worth of volunteer work? Changing your old job title from “representative” to “supervisor”? Those are lies.

You might think that a resume lie can only hurt you in the short term and that if you can just get your foot in the door and “fake it till you make it” you’ll be able to put the lie behind you. The integrity of your resume, however, has repercussions that extend far beyond any one job application or interview. Your resume is your first “introduction” to a potential employer and so it sets the tone for the impression you make. Ultimately, your resume is the foundation of your employability and as such you can’t afford to have any cracks in it.

Here are five ways resumes lies can hurt you:

1. Lies create more work for you
Lies typically require you to tell more lies to support them. If you fabricate a job title and put down “supervisor” what are you going to tell an employer when they ask about your supervising experience? More lies. With each additional fabrication your deceit becomes more difficult to maintain and it increases the chances you’ll get caught. Just look at the recent case of chemist Annie Dookhan: an initial resume lie about her education spiraled out of control as her web of deceit grew over the years in attempt to support the false identity she had created for herself.

2. There’s a good chance you’ll get caught
Employers can afford to be picky in today’s competitive environment – for every job opening there are hundreds of applicants waiting to fill it. If you make it to the final rounds of an interview you will face a high level of scrutiny. Your references will get called and an employer may even seek to independently verify your work and education history through a company like Virtrue. The Internet has made the world a much smaller place and it’s never been easier for employers to spot applicant lies with a little bit of online research.

3. A single lie can torpedo your career down the road
As the saying goes, trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair. A resume lie can instantly break that trust in the workplace, no matter when or where you told the lie. Former Yahoo! CEO Scott Thompson learned this lesson the hard way after the company fired him when they learned that he never received a computer science degree (as he had claimed for years at various companies). Decades of solid, proven job performance and promotions can be instantly undone by the discovery of a single lie in your resume, past or present.

4. Lies create unrealistic employer expectations
Employers hire applicants based on their skills and experiences with the expectation that they will perform at equivalent levels. Claiming skills or proficiencies on your resume that you don’t actually possess sets you up for failure in the workplace. If you’re hired, your overall performance will suffer as you try to learn these skills on the fly, not to mention it will be painfully clear to your new employer that you’re not cut out for the job.

5. Lies can cost you references
Personal references are often one of your biggest assets as a job applicant, especially if they can introduce you to a potential employer. Jeopardizing the trust your personal references have placed in you by lying on your resume is doubly foolish: it can not only cost you the job, but it can cost you your reference as well, making it even more difficult to land that next job.

We know it’s tough out there, but we urge you to steer clear of padding your resume. A lie on your resume can reverberate well beyond any single job application and set you up for professional failure in the long term. Instead of weakening the foundation of your employability with lies, try strengthening it with real experience. If you don’t have a needed skill for a job then take a class or online course or teach yourself. If you don’t have relevant experience then do an internship or volunteer work on the side. Showing initiative and a desire to improve yourself as a job candidate will set you apart as an applicant. Good luck!

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