Five Common Resume Lies and How & Why to Avoid Them

Aside from being unethical, lying on your resume is not worth the risk. It may seem tempting to embellish your work history, degrees, or dates of employment, but it’s never a good idea. Even if you escape unnoticed for a while, the resume lies will eventually catch up, potentially leading to unemployment and a bad reputation in your industry.

Most employers are checking their facts. Often, candidates who provide false or incomplete resume information are discovered before they get their offer, or soon after starting their new jobs. They are then faced with beginning their job search over again, but this time, with the added challenge of having to explain recently being fired.

Here are four areas where I often see resume lies, and how you can find alternative ways to be honest about the particulars you may be trying to hide:

1. Details about your degree.

A candidate will put a BS in Engineering along with the school and date. The problem? They didn’t complete their degree. This will disqualify a candidate when it comes up during a background check. A better way to handle it? If your degree is in progress, say “Pending” or “In Progress.” If you are close to finishing, but not in school now, you can say “Completed x amounts of credits.” Don’t be afraid to talk about the topic with the hiring manager. Be up front, provide some detail and move the conversation to why you are the best person for the job.

2. Dates of your jobs.

I had a candidate who was unemployed for a full year due to a medical injury and was doing rehab. I discovered that instead of making note of this on his resume, he extended the dates of his jobs to cover the gap. But it wasn’t necessary to lie. It can be ok to have a gap on your resume, if you have good reasoning to back it. Maternity leave, time off to travel, medical issues, back to school – these are all legitimate reasons to be away from the workplace for a while, so own it. If instead, you put in false dates or false jobs, you will likely get caught. Put the reason for your gap on your resume, much like you would for a specific job section.

If the gap in your resume is due to extended unemployment, hopefully you had some volunteer opportunities, training classes or other productive ways you filled time. If so, include those; it shows employers you are motivated, keeping busy and being productive during your job search.

3. Experience level with a particular technology.

Candidates will sometimes include a certain technology in the “skills” section of their resume, but as I dive further into their background, there is no practical use of this technology detailed in any of their jobs. If you haven’t actually used a technology in one of your positions, but have the initiative and are self-taught, be clear about the difference.

I also see candidates who fudge their years’ of experience with a technology or how much they used in their various jobs. For example, they may have used a piece of technology one time on a small project three years ago. If you aren’t an expert, that’s fine – just don’t portray that you are. You will be discovered eventually.

4. Job titles.

I have come across candidates who have changed their titles to come up in more online searches, to open up more job opportunities, or to present themselves as more senior to get a higher paying job. I’ve also seen managers lessen their experience level in fear of being passed up for someone more hands-on. None of these tactics are good. Be straightforward with your title as the truth will come out during a reference check. Use the resume description to explain your other responsibilities. Show that you are ready for the next job, even if you don’t yet have the title, or that even though you’ve been a manager, you’ve remained close to the technology.

5. Resume not matching with LinkedIn.

When your resume doesn’t match your LinkedIn profile, it’s one of the first red flags an employer will notice. Oftentimes the discrepancy was unintentional, but it will still reflect poorly and may come across as sneaky or just disorganized. Be sure to conduct an audit of your resume against your LinkedIn profile, paying attention to dates, titles and responsibilities – those pieces, in particular, need to be the same on LinkedIn and your resume.

The risk associated with modifying your resume is not worth the reward. When it comes to the job search, steer clear from resume lies – honesty is definitely the best policy.

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