It can be tempting to exaggerate your qualifications or stretch the truth when writing your resume, especially if you are having trouble scoring interviews. However, it’s always a good idea to stick to the truth and focus on presenting the facts in the most flattering light possible rather than outright lying.
This article will cover what counts as lying on your resume, what can happen if you do lie on your resume, and what to do if you’ve already submitted a resume that isn’t strictly truthful.
What Counts as Lying On Your Resume?
There are different types of lies: lies of commission and lies of omission. Lies of commission are completely false statements, such as writing that you were a regional sales manager when in fact you were a sales associate, or saying you attended UCLA when you didn’t go there at all. Lies of omission, on the other hand, involve leaving out certain details or telling partial truths, like saying that you are college-educated at UCLA when you only went there for a few semesters and didn’t actually complete your degree.
Some sources estimate as much as 40% of job seekers lie to some extent on their resumes and 75% of employers have caught at least one resume lie. The most commonly lied-about items on resumes are as follows:
- Previous employment dates
- Previous salaries
- Previous job titles
- Claiming language fluency
- Using false addresses
- Inflating numbers in regards to previous accomplishments
While employers often check for and catch lies on resumes, they usually won’t tell the candidate – they’ll just not hire the person and probably flag their name as unhirable. Hiring managers will regularly verify your dates of employment and whether you were fired, laid off, or if you left the company voluntarily on good terms. They might also attempt to verify your job title and responsibilities. However, much of the other details that you provide on a resume are often too difficult or time-consuming to verify for each candidate – although this shouldn’t be taken as free rein to embellish or lie.
Potential Results of Lying On Your Resume
If you do lie on your resume and get hired for the position, there are several things that can happen:
Getting Caught In The Lie
There are almost infinite ways that you can get caught in a lie after the fact. Maybe you said on your resume that you went to Harvard when you really went to community college – anyone in the office could make a reference to Harvard and if you don’t remember your lie you might give yourself away, and then that person might notice the discrepancy and mention it to your boss.
Additionally, never underestimate the power of social networks and social media. If someone who works with you at your current job knows someone who went to school with you at the community college or someone who worked with you in your last position where you inflated your job title, the grapevine can easily reveal your lie. Also, if your school and work information is different on your public social media pages than it is on your resume, an employer can easily notice.
Finally, your employer might do some digging even after you’ve been hired, especially if it becomes apparent that you don’t actually speak fluent Italian, didn’t attend Harvard, don’t have management experience, or otherwise can’t perform as well as you claimed.
If your employer finds out about the lie in any of those ways, you could face serious repercussions, such as:
At the very least, if you lied to get a job and the employer eventually finds out, your reputation could be seriously damaged. You likely won’t be able to use that employer as a reference in the future, and it might be hard to get other jobs in the industry, especially if your boss is well-connected and warns their colleagues about your lies.
You Could Be Fired
Of course, you could also be fired from your job as soon as your employer discovers that you lied. Lying on your resume does not set a good precedent for trust, and employers will likely not want a proven liar on their team. Being fired from a position can also make it difficult to get future positions.
Legal Action Could Be Taken Against You
It’s technically not illegal to lie on a resume since it’s not a legal document, but you can run into legal trouble if you falsely claim to have certain certifications or licenses that are necessary to perform a job – like if you say you have a medical degree when you don’t.
You won’t have any legal recourse if the employer does fire you for lying on your resume, since the basis of your employment was fraudulent.
What To Do If You’ve Submitted a Resume That Contains Lies
If you’ve already submitted a resume that has a lie on it and you are regretting it, you have a few options for handling the situation:
Withdraw Your Application
This is the safest option, but it obviously only works if you have not yet been hired. You can also decline an interview or refuse the job offer if you are further along in the hiring process.
You don’t have to provide a reason for withdrawing a resume or declining an interview or job offer. While it might mean missing out on a great opportunity, it’s better for your long-term career prospects to get your positions honestly.
Tell the Employer the Truth
You can also tell the employer the truth, regardless of where you are in the hiring process or if you’ve already been hired. This is a gamble, since they might fire you anyways or decline to hire you in the first place.
Update Your Resume
In some cases, you can simply send in an updated resume with the lies corrected. However, this only works if you’ve lied on something that could feasibly be an accident, like your previous salary, dates of employment, etc. It won’t hold up if you’ve said you attended Harvard when you actually didn’t, or any other egregious lies.
Make The Lie True
Finally, you can attempt to make the lie true, if it was something minor. For instance, if you said you are familiar with the Microsoft Office Suite and you’ve never even opened Word, take a crash course in how to use the programs.
While it is unfortunately common for people to lie on their resumes whether through lies of commission or omission, it’s never a good idea to falsify details or massage the truth. Employers can easily catch most lies, and you can face serious consequences if they ever find out, including damage to your reputation, the loss of your job, difficulty finding future positions, and even legal action. If you’ve already submitted a resume that contains a lie, you can withdraw it altogether, correct small lies, tell the employer the truth, or attempt to make the lie true.
Need help crafting a resume that scores you interviews without relying on falsehoods? Checkout Jobseeker’s resume builder tool – you can enter your details and then easily test out different formats, color schemes, fonts, and so forth. Then download your polished resume instantly and get started applying for jobs right away!