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Lying on Your Resume: What Are the Consequences?

Lying on Your Resume: What Are the Consequences?

It is important to write your resume with character and confidence. But there is a clear-cut line where stretching goes too far.

Kim Isaacs | Monster.com Resume Expert

November 02, 2007

When a woman we’ll call Mary was offered a high-level student-services position at a prestigious college, she was thrilled to accept. But two years later, Mary was fired despite strong performance reviews and a reputation as a rising star at the college. The reason? She lied on her resume – and got caught.

An HR initiative requiring employees to furnish college transcripts revealed Mary lied about having a master’s degree. It wasn’t lack of a degree that cost Mary her job; it was her dishonesty. Unemployed and with a blown reference to boot, Mary demonstrates what can happen when you lie on your resume.

Companies are growing increasingly savvy in ferreting out resume cheaters through more comprehensive background checks conducted both pre- and post-hire. Why the latter? Subpar job performance can prompt a follow-up investigation into an employee’s past. If dishonesty is discovered, it is often grounds for termination and possibly legal action.

Yet Mary is hardly alone in falsifying information on a resume. Steven D. Levitt, coauthor of Freakonomics and a renowned economics professor at the University of Chicago, cites research suggesting that more than 50 percent of people lie on their resumes.

Given such repercussions as Mary’s fate, you might wonder why anyone would attempt to get away with lying on a resume in the first place. Levitt refers to a W.C. Fields quote in his explanation: “Anything worth winning is worth cheating for.”

Power – and Misery – Foster Temptation

In a kind of twist on the Peter Principle, which suggests that within corporate hierarchies, employees tend to be promoted until they reach their ultimate levels of incompetence, Levitt postulates that “the higher up in the organization a person rises, the more likely it is that he or she will cheat.”

His observation is certainly borne out by news headlines about executives resigning in the face of resume dishonesty. Common resume lies include falsifying academic credentials, padding dates to mask employment gaps, exaggerating job titles, embellishing job responsibilities and achievements, claiming sole responsibility for team efforts and even making up fictitious employers.

Levitt also found a correlation between mood and the temptation to cheat. The desperation felt when weeks of unemployment stretch into months, or the low morale experienced by someone employed but truly miserable in a job, appear to increase the incentive to lie.


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    zandrakaplog

    about 4 years ago

    2 comments

    You should never lie to your resume.

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    Sigrid

    almost 5 years ago

    2 comments

    well, they say no one really pays attention to what is written in your resume. you may praise yourself as you please, but during the interview with the employer everything will come clear as on a sunny day. interested in this I made some research and downloaded by torrent search engine real masterpieces of this genre. still I guess that didn't help their authors much applying for a job

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    LuLu123

    over 5 years ago

    2 comments

    Currently I am a homemaker, temporary associate, praise dance team coordinator and women's group secretary. I've been out of the traditional workforce for the past 5 years and during that time a lot has happened especially with the companies I worked for. One has changed its name and no longer has any record of the 8 years I spend with them. The other has moved and has no record of the 5 years I worked for them. So, what do you do when what use to be verifiable employment is no longer available? My professional career has consisted of being a Data Entry Admin, Departmental Support, Customer Service Rep, Marketing Accounting Rep., Accounts Payable Clerk and Document Control Clerk. During my time away from the traditional workforce I have dedicated my time to helping start a church, doing volunteer work, assisting in my local church and various holiday projects. I enjoy working in a customer service environment providing assistance to my internal and external customers. I pride myself on the ability to take the skills learned in the corporate world and apply them to my volunteer work. My clerical skills have greatly helped in the recordkeeping process, organizational and administrative duties of the organizations I serve. Doing volunteer work has helped me to greatly sharpen my customer service and communications skills. So, what is a honest girl suppose to do when she has an interview and the past is unverifiable and the gap isn't what the interviewer wants to hear?

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    cheryl1

    almost 6 years ago

    2 comments

    Great article!!! I was just wandering about not graduating from high school, what to do on my resume. I am 57 years old and unemployed for the first time in my life. Do I really admit to not graduating? Would someone really check back that far?

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    Angeleka

    about 6 years ago

    6 comments

    You tell em!

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    hunt4anarnia

    about 6 years ago

    10 comments

    To all "do-gooders" comment on this story...Your sadly disilliusioned if you think for a second that in an interview or any portion of the process, an employer wants to hear the truth! They want to be confident that they are hiring employees who are close to perfect that makes their job easier....to continue lying to their employees!!! I've have yet to go on an interview and the have the employer tell me the truth when it comes to working for them. Personally, I have nothing to hide, but from experience I've witnessed how detrimental being completly honest on your resume get you - NOWHERE - FAST! Even if you had perfectly valid reasons, a few of mine where the following; 3 years caring for a mother diagnosed with early-onset alziehmer's & breast cancer at the same time. I had to leave college to become her full-time caregiver which also resulted in the adoption of my two youngest brothers. I also have Type I diabetes which requires me to maintain a full-time position with benefits to survive and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Currently, I'm pregnant on the job and my employers treat me like a leper, ever since I shared with them the details of my pregnancy they've been rude and indifferent twoards me. So now you tell me....I have more than enough challenges to go up against and I will do whatever it takes to in an interview to win a job. The truth is hard for some folks to swalllow.

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    rjmchugh

    over 6 years ago

    2 comments

    That does not sound encouraging, Erin. I had a baby in March 2007 and seven weeks after she was born, my husband was diagnosed with colon (pre)cancer. I had to spend the rest of the year, and part of this year, caring not just for a baby but also for him. I'm only now able to work again. I managed to pass my cerfication exam with flying colors back in August 2007 even with all of this personal chaos, and I hope to get my foot into the door somewhere.

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    ErinMitchell

    over 6 years ago

    2 comments

    Does anyone have advice on gaps in employment. I had a baby in May of 2007 and graduated from college in December of 2006. I did have a sales career before I decided to finish my degree. I have been looking since January and I feel like employers are not liking my gap in employment. I don't feel like I can tell them that I had a baby. It seems like employers are very turned off by that. I would like to tell a prospective employer the truth but a professional resume writer told me not to. Any advice??

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    jeepgirl89

    over 6 years ago

    114 comments

    I don't understand lying on a resume, if you want the job, then just go through the process of obtaining the necessary requirements and some extra bonuses that make you the great catch. Lying isn't the way to go when your professional career is on the line.

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