Your resume is often the first and only impression employers get of you prior to the initial interview. It is, often more than any other, the deciding factor in whether or not you receive an interview for the position.
This is one reason many find it tempting to embellish certain aspects of their experience, hoping to get a better chance at landing the interview.
However, this can cause serious repercussions that may have a lasting effect on your career. Not just with that employer, but with others; word can spread about applicants who aren’t being honest, and many people fired after being caught in resume lies have had their reputations ruined.
In some cases, this embellishment is innocent. You may not remember exactly which month you started at a job you had a decade ago, or the exact amount by which you increased sales. If you are unsure about something, it doesn’t belong on your resume.
Here are 10 common resume lies to avoid.
1. Listing inaccurate educational background
Competing with a well-educated workforce can be difficult, especially if you have no higher education. It’s for this reason that some job seekers opt to add untrue statements to the education section of their resume.
This can include anything from listing extra credits or semesters completed to universities the applicant didn’t actually attend. Some even change their major on their resume to better fit the position to which they are applying.
The reality is that checking up on someone’s education is remarkably easy now, and par for the course for most human resources departments. If someone is caught fibbing on their resume, the result can include termination and even being automatically denied a chance at another position.
If you feel like you must exaggerate your level of education to be considered for a job, chances are that you are targeting the wrong job.
2. Listing technical skills you don’t have
Having relevant technical skills makes you a desirable candidate for a job, but once you come to work the first day, it’s up to you to back up anything you boast in your resume.
In many cases, the interview will test your level of knowledge in a specific technical field. A developer might be asked to write or fix a block of code, a writer may be given a small writing assignment, etc.
Coming in to an interview based on having a certain set of skills, and not being able to perform them during the interview, can prevent you from landing or keeping the job.
In many cases, technical know-how can be taught on the job, and employers are flexible with this as long as the applicant is honest about their level of experience going in to it.
You can teach technical skills, but you can’t teach honesty.
3. Inaccurate employment dates
It can be difficult to remember exactly when you started or left a place of employment, especially years after the fact. That said, it’s better to be vague than inaccurate.
Detailed employment dates are important to include on your resume, but if you can’t recall the exact month you started job, you may be better off listing just the year.
Alternatively, you may have the option to call your previous employer to confirm your precise employment dates. This is exactly what a responsible employer would do prior to hiring someone.
4. Overblown salary history
It’s best to leave information about your previous salaries off your resume. However, some employers do ask for it. Like your employment dates, this information can be confirmed with a phone call, and inaccuracies here are taken as signs of dishonesty.
This is especially true if you overstate the salary, as it would be seen as a trick to receive a higher offer.
If you claim to have worked with a famous name or big brand in a previous position, you should be ready to have that claim tested. You never know who your potential employer might know.
Should your claim be tested and found inaccurate, you may lose your reputation with more than just the company you’re applying to.
6. Language skills
Having a grasp of multiple languages looks great on a resume. For an employer, it equates to a useful tool in the event that someone is needed who speaks that language.
However, this can blow up in your face if you boast fluency in another language you aren’t actually fluent in. You never know when or under what circumstances you might be called on to open dialogue with someone in their native language.
It’s customary to list some of your key responsibilities at previous jobs in your resume (though of course it’s best to create a resume full of accomplishments). This can help the reader learn more about your experience and gain an understanding of whether you are capable of handling the role they are looking to fill.
However, your responsibilities at previous places of employment can be confirmed. If you say you led a team when you didn’t, or that you were in charge of social media management when you weren’t, those lines in your resume can come back to haunt you.
8. Job titles
Applying for a job as a sales manager, but the last position you had was as a sales associate? You may have filled in for the sales manager at your last job, but if you weren’t actually a sales manager, don’t list it as your title.
One of the main questions employers ask during the background check, or when talking to your job references, is the position you held at the company. Either they will state what you listed in your resume, or they will ask for the position. In either case, being caught in a lie here means no job for you.
9. Volunteer activities
Volunteer work is a great addition to a resume. It offers insight into your character, and can allow you to show off additional skills or fill in where employment gaps might leave your resume a little light.
However, volunteer work is confirmable. Someone at the office might volunteer for that organization themselves, and many (if not most) volunteer organizations keep records for their own legal reasons. Don’t exaggerate your contributions to any organization or effort—paid or not.
10. Certifications and other titles
For a little money, you can become an ordained minister online! From some of these same organizations, you can get a doctorate or be declared a saint.
While you might be able to perform a wedding ceremony, most such titles do not carry any legal weight. Because of this, you actually run the risk of getting your future employer sued for liability if they present you as having a specific certification or title when, in fact, you don’t have anything legitimate to back it up.
Accrediting agencies keep detailed records of people who receive legally recognized titles from accredited sources. If your name isn’t on these lists, then you will run into some problems during a background check.
When it comes to resumes, honesty is the best policy. It’s better to leave out details than to give false or embellished statements. Even if your lies land you a job, false statements can put your career at risk.
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