Resume Padding: What’s the Problem?

Up-front clarification: I write resumes for clients as a professional, and I’ve decided I’m uncomfortable including information that is untrue, misleading, etc. I also discourage clients from doing it if I know they’re considering such a problematic course. However, unless I have a reason to know or at least suspect that a client is being dishonest, I have to take his/her word for the truthfulness of the resume contents. All I can do is refrain from including information I know is false. That said, I have some fairly strong opinions about the subject of resume padding, which has been prominent in the news so frequently over the years–very recently, in fact.

One Problem with Resume Padding

First, let’s define resume padding. As I see it, that refers to lies or exaggerations (a fancy word for lies that just “stretch the truth” somewhat) the job seeker knows aren’t factually accurate but chooses to include in the resume anyway. It does not refer to things like typographic errors (typos) that don’t get caught and corrected by careful proofreading. For instance, you could inadvertently type “increased sales by 25%” when you actually increased them only 15%, because the “1” and the “2” are right next to each other on the keyboard. However, you should be proofreading carefully enough to catch that.

On the other hand, when someone claims to have a certain university degree and knows he or she doesn’t–in some cases, didn’t even attend that university–that puts the truthfulness of the entire resume in question. What’s worse, it raises uncertainty and suspicion about resumes in general, many of which could actually be truthful. That puts an unfair burden on job seekers like you, who are trying their best to present themselves strongly to potential employers without crossing the line between truth and lies. That’s one problem with resume padding. There are others.

Other Resume Padding Problems

Here are just 3 more problems involved in resume padding:

  • Companies spend valuable time and money hiring employees who have put lies into their resumes, and the companies might have been depending on the falsified qualifications to produce value for them. Discovering the lie after the fact (after hiring) causes multiple difficulties. That’s one reason so many employers are doing background checks these days. As noted in a “resume padding” article by Emanuella Grinberg for CNN), “In a 2010 survey of 1,818 organizations, 69% reported catching a job candidate lying on his or her resume, according to employment screening service HireRight.”
  • The issue of violated trust raises its ugly head. People throughout an organization have put their trust in someone who has lied to them, directly or indirectly. As HireRight’s Employment Screening Benchmarking Report (mentioned in the article) states: “Even where lies may not represent a huge loss to the employer, companies report that catching a candidate in an untruth undermines confidence and credibility.”
  • The judgment and ethics of the individual who has perpetrated the lie are called into serious question (at least in my mind), spurring concerns about the reliability and trustworthiness of that individual in other areas of his/her work and life. If an individual can justify lying about something on the resume to get a job, who’s to say he or she wouldn’t decide that other lies are equally justified down the road somewhere? Where does the line get drawn?

The Best Alternative to Resume Padding

Don’t let yourself get sucked into doing it! Instead of fabrication (another fancy word for lying), focus on creating and communicating genuine value–something employers can, in a sense, take to the bank. That can produce great results and won’t keep you on edge wondering when or how you’ll get caught.

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