Applying for a Job? Even a White Lie on Your Resume Could Cost You the Position

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Pandemic-era job hunting has been stressful. While the economy has been steadily gaining new jobs this year, there are still 8.4 million unemployed Americans, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and 37.4% of those have been out of work for at least six months.

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There’s a lot at stake for job seekers, and according to a new study by job search resource ResumeBuilder.com, 1 in 3 Americans admit to lying on their resumes. The most common lies are years of experience (46%), education credentials (44%), length of position held (43%) and skills or abilities (40%).

The majority of respondents (72%) who lied on a resume claimed to do so to increase their odds of landing the job. And while 80% of people who lied on their resumes were hired by the employer, there were career-altering consequences for many who were caught.

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Of those who were caught red-handed, 41% had the job offer rescinded, 18% were fired after starting and 12% were reprimanded by their new employer. A lucky 29% faced no consequences at all and were the most likely to lie about years of experience.

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“Many employers use internal or external services to verify education, job experience or other certifications,” says Stacie Haller, a career expert with over 30 years of experience in staffing and recruiting. “Behavioral interviewing can also detect falsehoods or exaggerations by asking candidates very specific, detailed questions to verify the information they provided. And then there is the backdoor reference, where someone may be asked about you through your own network, without you ever even knowing about it. Lies may be uncovered that way, as well.”

While those who admitted to lying on a resume came from all different backgrounds, the survey found that high-earners were more likely to stretch the truth. Seventy-two percent of people who earned $150K or more lied about their education credentials.

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Resume lies were also more common among those with the highest and lowest levels of education. Of those who never continued education beyond middle school, 41% claimed to have lied on a resume, as did 45% of respondents with postgraduate degrees. Men were also almost twice as likely to lie on their resumes compared to women, at rates of 42% and 22%, respectively.

Lying was also the most prevalent among IT workers, which Haller explained may be more common in IT fields because they are more competitive. The least likely to lie were healthcare workers and those working in education.

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“Lying on a resume or during an interview is never a good strategy. What you perceive as a weakness may not be to the hiring manager,” Haller explains. Considering the possible consequences when caught in a resume lie, telling the truth might be your best option.

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Last updated: September 24, 2021

About the Author

Josephine Nesbit is a freelance writer specializing in real estate and personal finance. She grew up in New England but is now based out of Ohio where she attended The Ohio State University and lives with her two toddlers and fiancé. Her work has appeared in print and online publications such as Fox Business and Scotsman Guide.

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