Lying on your resume? Do it at your own risk
A lie, they say, is enough to question all truths. More so if it’s on your resume!
The worrisome part is that the number of lies on resumes is going up. The 2017 employment screening benchmark report by HireRight, a provider of on-demand employee background screening, reveals that 85% of employers caught applicants fibbing on their résumés, a huge increase from 66% five years ago. “Candidates, even at the highest seniority levels, are regularly embellishing their resumes,” the report says.
Even Scott Thompson did it. The former CEO of Yahoo! was considered and chosen to be the right person to turn around the beleaguered internet company, but the disclosure that he had “embellished his academic credentials” forced him from office.
Like most countries in the world, organizations in the UAE are now getting serious about checking CVs. Employment background checks are becoming common, especially for mid to senior positions, and people who fake resumes are likely to face repercussions.
Lying on your resume – it may be about a qualification or a project – may not seem like such a big deal, but the consequences could hang heavy over your career. There are just too many opportunities for your life to come out – from the initial background check to the multiple meetings during the interview process or the reference checks. Just one question can catch you out on a lie, create an embarrassing situation, damage your reputation and put an end to the possibility of you being hired. Being fired for lying on your resume can have long-lasting effects on your professional standing.
The top 10 lies on resumes
Experts are univocal on the most common things people spin a yarn or two about on their CVs: education, employment dates, job titles and technical skills.
A 2012 study by Accu-Screen, ADP and the Society of Human Resource Managers revealed the top 10 untruths employees put on their resumes.
• Stretching dates of employment
• Inflating past accomplishments and skills
• Enhancing titles and responsibilities
• Exaggerating education and fabricating degrees
• Unexplained gaps and periods of “self-employment”
• Omitting past employment
• Faking credentials
• Falsifying reasons for leaving prior employment
• Providing fraudulent references
• Misrepresenting a military record
How do hiring managers catch a lie?
Over the years, most hiring managers and prospective employers train themselves to spot discrepancies that may be covering up lies. The things they look for include:
Date discrepancies: When a job seeker lists start and end dates year-to-year and omits the month and year, s/he could be trying to hide job gaps or attempting to make previous employment seem longer.
Lack of degree description: Many people often fudge or embellish educational qualifications, and hiring managers see a red flag if the job seeker doesn’t put the type of degree. A person who says master’s degree is more likely to be fudging than someone who says master’s in communication.
Sudden jumps in titles: It’s possible for a prospective candidate to go from being an assistant to a manager, but it’s likely to take some time. If s/he does it in a seemingly short span or when between jobs, the hiring manager is sure to probe.
Unusual job descriptions: Vague and strange job descriptions that seem at variations with the job title or peculiar skill sets that don’t seem consistent with the work at hand may draw the recruiter’s attention.
Focus on I: A resume that says too much “I” instead of “we” raises a red flag. For taking too much credit – and for almost every project – showcases that the person isn’t a team player at all and is trying to score points for the accomplishment.
How can you set the wrong right?
All lies are not equal and the type of lie you have put on your resume will influence the way you handle the situation. The lie is a problem for sure, but it need not be a career-ending one.
Don’t get defensive: If you’ve been caught, getting defensive, making excuses or putting the blame on others is not going to help. Take back control by being truthful, transparent and confident – a much better path than offering pitiful excuses.
Resend your resume: If you feel you've been caught out, there's no harm in updating your resume - tweaking the wording, remedying the dates and so on - and sending an apology stating that you noticed some errors and are sending a revised resume.
Tell the truth: This may not seem like the best option, but coming clean may push you up in your interviewer's eyes, especially if you have a reason for why you added that innocuous lie. Acknowledge, explain and move on.
Ensure you never do it again: So you were caught in the interviewer’s headlights and handled the glare? But it’s important never to repeat this kind of mistake – it’s not one that any interviewer wants to come up against.
Update your CV: It is extremely important to replace the fraudulent resume with one that showcases your real skill sets and achievements. Take the help of a professional resume writing service to create a resume that’s the best pitch for you. Use your cover letter to address the “weak points” in your resume.
Withdraw your job application: If the situation seems too bad to salvage, simply withdraw your job application without saying why. Thank the employer for the invitation and his time, and say you're not interested in the position at this time.
Always keep in mind that your resume is a tool that markets you. It gets you a foot in the door for sure, but if the hiring manager were to discover that you’ve been lying to get the job, you’ll be out of the door before you know it.