What Happens if You Lie on Your Resume?
If you’re a job seeker, then you may be tempted to lie on your resume from time to time. We’re not saying that you’d want to fabricate your entire resume. But maybe you’d get the urge to turn your BA degree into a Masters, add a few special skills, or enhance your sales numbers.
We get it. The job market is highly competitive. Maybe bending the truth a bit will give you an edge. Besides, everyone lies on their resume, right? As it turns out, not exactly everyone.
A recent study from HRDive shows that 36% of American job seekers include at least one lie on their resume. The majority of respondents who admitted to lying said it was because they lacked the experience needed for this position or there was a large gap in their employment history.
However, 65% of those who were caught lying on their resumes were either not hired or fired from their position.
Still not convinced honesty is the best policy? Let’s look at what people lie about, why they lie, and what could happen if your employer realizes that there are false statements on your resume.
What Do People Lie About on Resumes?
People lie about all kinds of things on their resume including:
- Training and professional certifications
- Salary history
- Length of employment at previous jobs
- Past job performance
- Management experience
- Ability to speak foreign languages
- Proficiency in specific software or operating systems
- Special skills (e.g., coding, SEO, presentation design, etc.)
Lies on resumes will usually fall into one of two broad categories
1. Lies of omission are also known as white lies. Basically, you’re not telling the entire truth about something.
For example, maybe you have an associate degree in marketing, but you state that you have a bachelor’s degree. Or maybe you adjust the dates of your employment history to cover up a long unemployment gap.
2. Lies of commission are just plain untruths. For example, maybe you state that you led a team of 10 employees at your last job, but in reality, you never managed anyone. Or perhaps you indicate that you’re fluent in French when you actually can’t speak a word.
What Happens if You are Caught Lying on a Resume as an Applicant?
Recruiters, hiring managers, and HR departments at most companies will verify claims you make on your resume. It’s easy enough for them to contact previous employers, colleges, and professional organizations. They aren’t trying to catch you in a lie, but rather, they just want to confirm what you are saying is true.
If an employer discovers that you weren’t being truthful on your resume, they most likely won’t tell you that they caught the lie. The best-case scenario is that they’ll simply give you the standard line “we decided to go in another direction” and move onto the next candidate.
As worst, they may flag you in their system as someone to “never hire,” which ruins your chances of employment at that company for good.
What Happens if You are Caught Lying on a Resume as an Employee?
Let’s look at another scenario. Maybe the lies on your resume impressed the hiring manager and you got the job. That’s cause for celebration, right? Not so fast.
What if you’re unable to do what you were hired to do? Maybe you have no idea how to work with the software that the company depends on. Perhaps a co-worker, client, or customer speaks to you in the language you claimed to be fluent in and you can’t answer. What then?
A poor job performance may prompt your employer to take a closer look at your educational background and job history. That may reveal the truth you were trying to hide.
The consequences of being caught in a lie can be serious and may include:
- Losing your job. Even if you’re caught in a little white lie, your employer may see that as an overall character flaw and decide you can’t be trusted with company information.
- Damage to your reputation. Not only will you not be able to work for that employer again, but other employers in the same industry may be warned to not hire you. News travels quickly in today’s digital age.
- Possible legal action. Your former employer may sue you if your lies cause them to face legal action. For example, if you presented yourself as a certified safety inspector (but really weren’t) and the company is sued by a customer who was injured during your time of employment, the company may have a case against you.
What if You’ve Submitted a Resume with a Lie?
If you’ve submitted a resume with lies on it, then there’s no need to panic. You can take steps to remedy the situation:
1. Make the lie become the truth
If you claimed to have a specific certification, then get it. Learn the software you stated you were an expert in. Finish your degree if you can.
2. Update your resume
Make any changes to your resume so that it is completely truthful. Then, let any employer or recruiter know that you noticed an error on your resume and you want to submit a revised version.
3. Admit that you lied
If you tell your employer or hiring manager that your resume contains a lie, it may cost you the job, but at least you won’t have to worry about being caught in a lie later on. Who knows? They may appreciate your honesty and keep you on board.
4. Withdraw your resume
If you haven’t been hired yet, then you can simply withdraw your resume. You won’t have to explain why you’re pulling your resume so you can save some face. Just make sure you update your resume to ensure it’s 100% truthful before applying for the next job.
The One Lie You Might Get Away With
We’ve spent so much time telling you not to lie, we think it’s only fair to tell you that there’s one lie that you might be able to get away with: salary requirements.
Technically, that’s not something you put on a resume, but employers may ask you to include your salary requirements in a job application or a cover letter.
In many (but not all) states, prospective employers are banned from obtaining information about your salary history. In some states the ban includes all employers. In other states, such as Utah, only state government employers are prevented from verifying salary history. In a few states, such as New York, the laws about salary verification change depending on which municipality you work in.
Check out this list to see if your state has laws against employers seeking salary history information from candidates.
Are we telling you to lie at any point during your interview process? Of course not.
But, if your state bans employers from inquiring about salary history, then you might be able to embellish a bit in the hopes of getting a higher salary.
There’s No Need to Lie on Your Resume
Here’s the plain truth. There’s no need to lie on your resume. There’s always a way to present less-than-impressive information in a professional way.
Here are a few tips to help you smooth over gaps in education, employment, and other resume rough spots:
- You didn’t graduate from college
If you’ve taken classes at a college, but haven’t graduated, then you can state “Coursework taken towards Marketing degree.” Or “One year of Economics coursework completed.” That at least shows you have some higher education under your belt.
If you started working right after high school and have lots of on-the-job experience, but no higher education, you could say, “Extensive work experience in lieu of bachelor’s degree.”
- You don’t have the exact experience/skills needed
Remember, a job description is an employer’s wish list. They may not be expecting any single candidate to walk in and meet all the requirements listed. So, there’s no reason to lie about your experience or skill set to get a job.
If an employer is looking for someone with project management skills, but you lack that specific experience, you can highlight your experience in helping manage a specific part of a larger project. Or you can emphasize your time management and communication skills, which are skills that every good project manager needs.
This keeps your resume honest while also signaling to the hiring manager that you do have valuable skills they are looking for.
- You have a long gap between jobs
Nobody likes the way a large gap between jobs looks on their resume. However, trying to make it look like you worked longer at a job than you really did is a lie and easily verifiable.
Be up front with any prospective employer about those gaps. And, add in other relevant experiences you may have had between jobs. This may include volunteer work, taking on freelance or contract work, interning, or completing coursework toward a degree. Even extensive international travel could be relevant to certain employers.
These are all ways to be truthful about employment gaps, but also show a prospective employer that you continued learn and develop your skills even when not in a traditional employment situation.
Honesty is Always the Best Policy
Your m om was right. Honesty is always the best policy. This is especially true when it comes to your resume. There are simply no advantages to being untruthful.
You just need to create the best possible resume with the skills, education, and work experience you have. Be confident and honest. Rest assured, the right employer will recognize everything that you have to offer.
Empire Resume Will Help You Get Hired
We have greater than a 97% success rate landing our clients’ interviews!
Maria Gold is a Content Manager/Writer for Empire Resume. She is dedicated to helping educate and motivate people with the latest career articles and job search advice. Her interests range from writing to programming and design. She is also passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.