Honesty in the Hiring Process: Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!

Is it OK to lie on your resume?

Such a simple question. And, if you believe the countless comments posted underneath the countless articles written on the topic, such a complicated answer.

Take this simple call out by British newspaper The Guardian asking for people’s thoughts on the subject. Here’s some of the best replies:

From: monkey2

Fake it until you make it. Surely everyone knows this, right.

Saying you have worked for companies you have not, etc, on the other hand, is obviously stepping over the line and just plain stupid

From: SnowyJohn

What’s a lie?

Obviously, outrageous making-up stuff is a big no-no. Presenting yourself to the best advantage is OK though.

Saying you worked somewhere you didn’t/have a qualification you don’t is a lie. But claiming that you were “instrumental” on a particular project when you made the tea and took minutes is kind of par for the course, provided you can bull**** your way through any questions about it.

From: winstonbethnalfarage 

They only go back and check the CVs, once they realise they’ve employed a deadbeat.

The CV is only there to be used against you should the need arise.

The consensus among respondents seems to be that “enhancements” are fine, but flat out misrepresentations are flagrant. Check out these stats from an OfficeTeam survey:

  • 47% of managers believe job seekers include dishonest info on their resumes somewhat or very often
  • More than 4 in 10 of employees surveyed report knowing someone who stretched the truth on hiring documents
  • Job duties and education are embellished most often

Hiring professionals, however, take a much firmer stance on the taboo subject. There is no gray area. If you exaggerate, embellish, falsify, lie or whatever other deceitful term you can think of during your job application process, you have zero credibility and therefore won’t be hired. Never mind that 95% of what you provided is true. That 5% of misleading information will detonate like a bomb and destroy your reputation and the reputation of the company that hired you.

The message still seems to be bungled, though, says this Wall Street Journal blog. They point out several recent examples of big time execs who have gotten their comeuppance after being busted for resume fibbing:

David Tovar – Wal-Mart communications bigwig who lied about graduating college

Scott Thompson – Yahoo CEO ousted after padding his resume with degree

Gregory Probert – President and COO of Herbalife, Ltd. never earned his MBA as he claimed in SEC filings

To make things crystal clear, we’re outlining 3 reasons why lying as a job candidate will come back to haunt you.

1.) You can EASILY be busted. As this awesome post written by a Google exec points out, “Everyone, up to and including CEOs, get fired for this.” There are so many ways you’re going to be found out, too. Someone poking around your social media stuff. Background checks from accredited agencies like us that go above and beyond the routine criminal record perusal. Co-workers chatting at the holiday party. Family and friends telling tales at a company picnic. A routine employment scan for a promotion. You’re going to get caught. It’s not a matter of if, but when. You simply cannot outsmart the juggernaut combination of technology and word-of-mouth.

2.) Talk about a skeleton. Once you’re busted and fired for lying, you’ll be carrying that skeleton around with you forever. There is no closet. The internet doesn’t allow for one anymore. Your digital footprint is everywhere. Every time you apply for another gig, a simple web search of your name (we’re not saying it’s right, but we know that most everyone does it) will turn up the cold, hard, ugly truth. So… good luck with that job search. Don’t call us, we’ll call you.

3.) The truth will set you free. Yes, we know using this cliche is cliche. Stick with us. For some people, lying or exaggerating becomes a crutch when they feel their real story isn’t compelling. We like this quote from career coach Kathy Caprino that was featured in this Fox Business story:

“There’s nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about [for example] taking five years off to raise your children. People feel that limits opportunities for them, but it’s all about confidence.”

The truth is that your truth is interesting. So, you took five years off to raise your kids? At first blush you might feel that you exited the workforce and missed an integral chunk of employable time but if you look closer you’ll see that you:

  • ramped up your deadline-driven efficiency and organizational skills
  • created and managed a strict family budget
  • learned new skills like Photoshop for class projects and Excel for PTA meetings
  • honed your leadership style by volunteering to coach your son’s Little League team

These are all compelling, interesting and useful pieces to your story that will benefit you in a job interview WAY MORE than a lie ever could. And, you won’t have to keep looking behind your back.

Have you ever lied before during the job application process and been caught? Willing to share your story with us to help others from making the same mistake? Put your comment below.

This entry was posted in Applicant-Entry Solutions, Background Screening, Criminal Records, General, Human Resources, References & Credentialing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , by Patricia Carlson. Bookmark the permalink.

Patricia Carlson is a content writer who specializes in B2C and B2B inbound marketing. She blogs regularly for clients about the background screening and finance industries, and generates newsletters, white papers and email campaigns for a variety of businesses. Patricia also produces a heavy rotation of editorial material for home design, law enforcement, and family magazines. She’s been writing professionally for more than a dozen years, and for Active Screening for more than two of those. Check out LinkedIn for a roster of Patricia's clients and links to published works. When she’s not interviewing sources or researching trends, she’s living a fast-paced Florida life questioning the antics of her two young children, partner and mischievous cat. Patricia loves to talk tennis and TV on Twitter - give her a shout @pattycfreelance.
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