Lying or Fudging on Resumes–Rotten Idea

The subject of lying or exaggerating on resumes just keeps coming up! It amazes me how many people–at least some of whom seem otherwise intelligent–make the lousy decision to falsify information in their resumes (falsify is a euphemism for lying, but sounding weaker doesn’t make it better).

With all the publicity there is from time to time about perpetrators getting caught, I would think people would hesitate to take the risk, even if ethical considerations didn’t weigh with them. The consequences of lying on your resume (or in some cases just fudging the truth a bit) can range from getting fired and escorted out to the door to something as serious as prison sentences.

Resume Lying: Why Not?

Setting aside the ethical issues (I’m a firm believer in not claiming things that aren’t true), why is lying on your resume a really rotten idea? After all, some people seem to get away with it.

To start with, you have to remember what lies you told to whom, about what, when, ad nauseum. It’s too easy to get tripped up somewhere down the road, and that puts a constant strain on you. There’s always the risk that someone will catch on to the fact that some of your info doesn’t add up, seems too good to be true or otherwise raises a red flag.

You are never safe from exposure. Never. Sometimes people get away with lying on their resume for years, well into their career, before it comes back to bite them. Among other things, that means they have more to lose than they might have earlier in their career. Also they face the daunting prospect of starting over from scratch at a later stage in their lives–seldom an easy task.

Perhaps most important: Once you are exposed as a liar, your word becomes basically meaningless. You have destroyed the trust that others have placed in you, and betrayal of trust is extremely difficult (sometimes impossible) to regain.

So Why Lie or Fudge on Your Resume?

Sometimes people do it because they become desperate. They’ve been searching for a new job for a long time without success, and they feel as if they need to do something to improve their odds. As we know today, protracted job searches are no longer a rarity, and well-qualified job seekers are being ignored or rejected by the employers they submit their resumes to.

Sometimes you might think that a little fudging isn’t a big deal. Maybe you write a great paragraph in your resume about a project you worked on and make it sound as if it was a long, demanding activity–when it actually lasted only a week or two. Sure, you did the work, and maybe you made a useful contribution in that short time, but is that really what the employer is looking for if the posting specifies someone with five years of experience in that kind of activity?

“Lots of people are doing it” (some people say, “Everyone is doing it”): My stock response to that statement is, “If lots of people rob banks, does that make it right?” Quantity alone doesn’t justify engaging in an action.

Think about this: If you had to take a lie detector test on the contents of your resume, how comfortable would that be?

Here are a couple of recent articles about lying on resumes. They make for some interesting reading:

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