The most common lies on resumes and the pros and cons of fabricating information

A resume is a document that showcases an individual’s skills, education, and work experience. However, not all the information listed on a resume is accurate. In fact, more than half of job applicants feel compelled to lie on their resumes in order to appear more qualified or appealing to potential employers. But is lying on a resume a good idea? Let’s examine the most common lies on resumes and the pros and cons of fabricating information.

Common Lies on Resumes

  1. Inflated job titles and responsibilities
  2. Exaggerated academic degrees and grades
  3. Falsified employment dates and gaps in employment history
  4. Misrepresenting the reason for leaving a job
  5. Inventing skills and certifications

Pros of Lying on a Resume

  1. Increased chances of landing the job: By embellishing certain aspects of a resume, a job applicant may be able to make themselves look more appealing to potential employers and increase their chances of landing the job.
  2. Improved first impression: By presenting themselves in a more favorable light, a job applicant may be able to make a better first impression on potential employers.
  3. The only chance of getting a job: When a critical mass of other candidates are cheating and lying that raises the bar so that a lot of honest people just don’t have any other choice rather than to lie and cheat too (see economic phenomenon called the “Prisoner’s Dilemma”.)
  4. Morale and self-confidence boost: If you tell a lie many times it becomes a reality. People who lie or exaggerate on their resume can start believing the lies and act more confident for the role (they fake it until they make it).
  5. Getting past keyword matching and credentials gate-keeping: Most resumes won’t be even seen by a human unless they contain a certain matching score based on a computer algorithm that looks at and analyzes keywords and text. 

Cons of Lying on a Resume

  1. Risk of getting caught: With the widespread use of background checks and verification services, it is easier for potential employers to uncover the truth about a job applicant’s background and qualifications.
  2. Loss of credibility: If a job applicant is caught lying on their resume, they may permanently damage their reputation and lose credibility in the job market.
  3. Legal consequences: In some cases, lying on a resume may result in legal consequences, such as fines or even jail time.
  4. Imposter syndrome: In some people, lying on a resume combined with later poor performance in a job can lead to lower self confidence and increased self doubts leading to imposter syndrome that can be paralyzing and unproductive.

In conclusion, while lying on a resume about big things may increase the chances of landing a job in the short term, it is not a recommended long-term strategy. In the short-term it’s probably fine. In the long-term, the risks and consequences of being caught far outweigh the potential benefits. Thus, it is better to be truthful about items on a resume that can be easily verified like a degree and present oneself in the best possible light through highlighting their “genuine” achievements and qualifications.

On the other hand, omitting negative or irrelevant things, inflating titles, exaggerating a bit to paint yourself in a nicer way and highlighting relevant items is a wise thing to do. If you don’t then you will probably be left out (see Prisoner’s Dilemma). Skills and projects are much harder and time consuming to verify so the candidates have more freedom there.  It’s a fine line between lying and good story telling.