27 Lies Everyone Puts on a Résumé
Columbia College is not Columbia University!
According to a poll of more than 1,000 workers and 300 senior managers conducted by the staffing firm OfficeTeam, 38 percent of managers said that they have seen their company take a candidate out of the running due to catching them lying on a résumé. And yet, that same research showed that nearly 50 percent of workers are aware of someone in their lives having lied on their résumé, with that number rising to 55 percent for people between the ages of 18 and 34.
Even though everyone knows that lying is frowned upon, workers apparently just can’t help but try to paint their lives in the best light possible when it comes to the job application process—even if that means exaggerating the truth or just flat-out fibbing. Herein, we’ve gathered some of the most common résumé lies seen in interviews everywhere. So keep reading—if you can handle the truth, that is.
Taking a single summer course at a university isn’t exactly the same thing as getting an undergraduate degree there, but that doesn’t stop the majority of people from talking up their eduction experience. Scott Samuels, CEO of executive search firm Horizon Hospitality, revealed to Monster that he even once had an applicant “put down Cornell School of Hotel Management on their résumé, when they only took one class online.”
Everyone gets let go or fired from a job at some point in their lives, and any reasonable employer will understand that if you properly explain the situation to them. What isn’t as easily overlooked, though, is forging employment dates on a résumé to cover up a time gap—but despite this, the OfficeTeam poll found that 26 percent of workers have lied about their employment dates.
If you do have any gaps on your résumé—perhaps because your company closed down or because you took time off to spend with family—résumé expert Kim Isaacs explained to Monster that you should simply address those gaps in your cover letter instead of lying about them.
Many people claim that they’re proficient in apps like Microsoft Excel, but how many of those folks could actually use the program for conditional formatting or identifying trends? Unless you really know what you’re doing and can realistically demonstrate your knowledge of any of the skills listed on your résumé, it’s best just to leave smart-sounding technical proficiencies off of your C.V. altogether.
Perhaps worse than lying about your employment dates is making up a job out of thin air—and believe it or not, the OfficeTeam poll found that 76 percent of people know someone who has done this. Even if your dream job wants five or more years of experience and you only have three, you’ll have a better chance applying with an honest résumé and hoping for the best than you will applying with five years of fabricated experience.
Foreign Language Fluency
Taking a few French classes in high school by no means makes you “fluent” in the foreign language. And while putting this skill on your résumé might give you a perceived air of sophistication and worldliness, you’re going to be in the doghouse should your new employer ever call on you to translate something. Plus, according to a survey from Hloom, an online provider of office templates, hiring managers find that lying about foreign language fluency is one of the most unforgivable offenses.
Grade Point Average
Unless you’re a recent graduate or actually graduated with a 4.0, there’s really no need to put your grade point average on your résumé, let alone lie about it. A select few employers will ask for your GPA during the interview process—and at that point, you should be entirely honest about it—but for the most part, it’s just extraneous information.
If your current job is at a junior level, then you shouldn’t claim that you hold a senior-level role on your résumé. Not only is this deceptive, but it could also hinder your chances of getting a new job, seeing as people will assume you’re overqualified for anything you apply for.
As Elaine Varelas, a managing partner at career consulting firm Keystone Partners, explained to CNBC, you should never claim that you “grew sales by 100 percent” unless the figures are actually significant—you know: from $1 million to $2 million, not from $10 to $20. And in general, the best practice is to get as specific as possible, avoiding percentages and broad words like “doubled” that can easily deceive a hiring manager.
Whichever job you land is going to have to run a background check and confirm anyway, so there’s really no reason to lie about when you graduated.
If the staggering number of promotions on your résumé simply looks too good to be true, don’t be surprised if an interview starts asking some very specific questions just to make sure you’re not lying. And if that doesn’t expose you, then a potential employer might even go so far as to call your current or former employer just to confirm some suspicious details. Either way, the last thing you want is to be in a position where you have to worry about having lies exposed.
While finding a new job should be seen as a way to try to score a higher salary, you should never do so by lying about what you currently make or more recently made. And yet, one collection of research from Grad School Hub found that more people lie about their salary than anything else on their resume, with 40 percent of people admitting to doing so.
Not only is this morally wrong, but a potential employer could hypothetically reach out to your previous job and uncover your lie, which would most likely disqualify you from securing a position.
Of those polled in the OfficeTeam study, a staggering 55 percent responded that either they have or know someone who has lied about job duties on their résumé. And while this fabrication may seem harmless, it becomes a problem when a new employer calls on you to perform a task that you claimed to have done at your previous job, but actually have no idea how to do.
Having volunteer work on your résumé shows a potential employer that you’re selfless and have passions outside of the office, but lying about doing volunteer work gives the exact opposite impression. If you want to add a volunteering section to your résumé, then actually make the effort to help out at a dog shelter or a local soup kitchen.
It’s extremely common to start applying to jobs in a new city before you move there, and employers tend to be understanding of this fact so long as you explain to them your plans to relocate. But when you lie about already being in the city where you’re applying for jobs, it makes thing a bit more complicated—seeing as, when you’re asked to come in for an interview, it’s assumed that you can be there, in person, within a reasonable amount of time.
Nobody checks what type of degree you graduated with and whether you actually graduated, right? Wrong. According to a poll of nearly 2,200 hiring managers conducted by CareerBuilder, 33 percent of employers have caught interviewees lying about their academic degrees. If you left college just one class short of graduating, it’s better to be honest about this with an explanation as to why—some of the most successful people in the world never graduated college (see: Bill Gates), and that’s nothing to be ashamed of! And with or without a college degree, you should use the education section of your résumé to highlight relevant coursework and assignments.
As you’re scrolling through jobs on Indeed, you suddenly happen upon the job of your dreams. The only problem? It requires a degree in accounting or business, and you majored in communications in college. It might feel like your only option here is to lie about your major, but most companies would sooner overlook the college major of a qualified candidate than they would a blatant untruth.
Lying about your college minor might not feel like a big deal, but according to the results of the Hloom poll, hiring managers put this fib at a 3.16, with 1 being a “harmless white lie” and 5 being a “serious falsehood.”
Employers really do check the references you give them, and so listing a friend or family member as a work reference is not going to end well. Odds are that whomever you falsely listed has no idea what your responsibilities were at your last job, and a hiring manager is naturally going to expect a colleague or boss to have this sort of basic information.
Lying about having a license or certification in something is not only wrong, but it’s also dangerous. For instance, if you apply for a job as a lifeguard and lie about having your CPR certification, you could end up being responsible for the loss of a life.
Reasons for Leaving
Don’t tell a hiring manager that your position was eliminated when in reality you were fired from your job. When your interviewer fact checks your résumé, your firing is going to come out, and it’s only going to make it worse that you lied about it.
Understandably, people on the job hunt worry about revealing their criminal record and tend to cover up their past. However, a simple criminal background check will unveil anything on record, putting both you and the hiring manager in an uncomfortable position that could have been avoided with honesty.
With perhaps one of the most well-known stories of professional license fabrication out there, Frank Abagnale Jr. (that’s the guy from 2002’s Catch Me If You Can is about) is infamous for having lied about having a medical degree, a law degree, and a pilot’s license, amongst other things. And anyone who is considering lying about having a license to practice medicine—or anything else—should learn from Abagnale’s mistakes, seeing as he ended up serving several years in prison.
Having awards tied to your work definitely gives you a leg-up in the interview process, but only if those awards and recognitions actually exist. Records of accolades can be found with minimal research, and it looks better on you to be honest about having no awards at all than to lie about having them.
Believe it or not, there are people out there who either exaggerate their military record or forge it entirely. In fact, according to one poll conducted by Marquet International, a security consulting firm, this is one of the top ten falsehoods found on a résumé, just behind false references and fake credentials.
Attending Columbia College in Missouri and graduating from Columbia University, the Ivy League, are certainly not the same thing. And yes, just writing “Columbia” in the education section of your résumé still counts as lying.
Interests and Hobbies
If you spend most of your spare time playing video games, then don’t write on your résumé that you enjoy birdwatching and cooking just to sound more sophisticated. You have no idea what your interviewer’s interests are, and it’s very possible that they are an avid birdwatcher with many a question about your shared hobby.
If an interviewer asks you about how many people report to you, it’s better to be honest about not having a team than to lie about leading dozens. If your new role ends up being a management role and you have zero experience in that area, your novice status is going to speak for itself—and may even get you fired. And for more sage workplace advice, don’t miss The 50 Top Secrets of a Perfect Work-Life Balance.
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