How Lying On Your Resume Will Get You In Trouble

The job market is highly competitive and the pressure for candidates to stand out is high. If you are unemployed you undoubtedly know how difficult it can be to compete for the top jobs. The pressure of competition and the need for work can push job seekers to embellish or exaggerate their experience to improve their chances of obtaining jobs. It’s tempting to fudge here or there but what are the consequences for the employee who has embellished his/her resume if they get caught?

Bending the truth vs lying…

A lie doesn’t have to be an outright false statement. Omissions can be just as dishonest as an outright lie. From my experience, the education section of the resume is where embellishments are most frequent. People claim that they have completed an educational program but during a background check, it is discovered they have not.  Without fail, those people who embellished are “one or two classes away from completion but life got in the way”. Embellished titles, exaggerated job duties, altered dates of employment, and even false addresses are common.  People have also provided fictitious information during the recruitment process, such as reasons for leaving previous positions. You would hope that these lies would be attempted by only a small segment of the population but studies show it’s more rampant than one might expect. According to CNBC, “75 percent of human resource managers spot inaccuracies on resumes.  A small lie may seem inconsequential but given the connected nature of our culture, digital records, and small pond employees swim in for their industry it’s much easier for companies to undercover small embellishments.

Lies to Cover Lies

Hopefully, everyone has learned by the time they leave junior high, lies can get out of hand quickly. One fabrication can push you to create more and more lies to cover the initial lie. It is stressful enough starting a new job but imagine the increased stress as you try to juggle the multiple lies you weaved in the interview process.  Those lies will make the creation of lasting relationships and a network for the future nearly impossible.

When the Rubber Meets the Road…

Lying 1

Keeping the lies you have told straight is difficult but when you need to execute your new job duties with no real experience, things get interesting quickly. Your counterparts, your subordinates, and eventually your boss will notice your lack of expected skills. As those suspicions grow your new employer will start to investigate more and dig deeper into your background.  As the pyramid of lies begins to fall apart many must make a choice to come clean or continue the lie. This vicious cycle continues to spiral out of control to an eventual collapse of your house of lies. 

Ugly Exit

Once an employee has been found to have lied on his or her resume, the employer has the right to terminate the employee immediately depending on the state. No matter the job, trust is the foundation that all work relationships develop. The discovery that someone was hired for a role based on fictitious information causes this trust to be breached. Little white lies or slight exaggerations may seem insignificant during the interview process but those little drops can erode trust quickly. From an employer’s point of view, however, any lie is seen as a serious character flaw. That lie or omission draws very other statement or mistake into question. 

Losing the Job While Losing your Reputation

You can pretty much kiss your network goodbye if you’re found to have provided false information. If you are lucky enough to keep your job for providing fraudulent information, you get to live with the day-to-day embarrassment of being known as a liar. It will get around the office and like Edgar Allen Poe’s Tell Tale Heart you will be driven crazy with the idea that every look and every whisper is about you.  That is just internal, the word will spread externally as well in the digital age as people share via social media. The word can travel pretty quickly, losing a job due to dishonesty, there’s a good chance the word will get out. It is common practice for recruiters to flag candidates who have been found to have fraudulent information on their resumes. Basically, a simple lie could have career-long consequences.

Possible Legal Action

Employees who lied on their resumes have no legal recourse against their former employers. The employee loses the ability to seek legal recourse for an employer’s actions which may have been legitimately illegal. When the employment relationship is based on fraudulent information, illegal acts that occurred during the employment relationship may not be actionable by law. Employees lose what limited rights they do have in employment relationships as a result of unethical decisions made during recruitment.

The Take Away

We all swim in very small ponds connected by technology and databases of information that continue to get easier to search. The research that was difficult to find and took weeks to get is now micro-seconds away.  In a similar fashion, our professional networks have evolved from small pods of local people into large global groups connected by technology. Tough economic times make some people resort to unethical practices. That behavior creates an unfair advantage over honest, legitimate applicants who aren’t lying. If you are considering providing false information to a potential employer, consider how much that decision could affect you in the short-term and career-long. Recruiters have heard it all, choose the truth to deal with gaps in employment, incomplete degrees, or even terminations, life is much simpler when you tell the truth cause you are not managing a Rolodex of lies.