Resist the temptation to pad your resume. Doing so could come back to bite you — hard. Here are a few reasons you shouldn’t lie on your resume.
There’s a myth among job searchers that everyone lies on their resumes or job applications. Whether it’s exaggerating accomplishments, tweaking employment dates or inventing college degrees, “resume padding” is a well-known and widely used practice around the employment circuit.
But just because people embellish their experience doesn’t mean you should follow their example and lie on your resume. Lying to a prospective employer is one of the worst decisions you can ever make, and it’s something that will eventually come back to bite you.
With that in mind, here are seven very good reasons to only tell the truth when it comes to compiling a resume, filling out a job application, or making a case for your own hiring at a job interview. (Click here to tweet this list.)
1. Employers are looking to hire someone they can trust
Every employer has a different mix of skills or qualities that they want to see in a serious candidate. While these make-or-break skills may vary drastically from industry to industry, there is one quality that just about every employer is looking for: trustworthiness.
If you lie on your application or resume and get caught, your chances of being hired are very likely null and void. You’ve just told your prospective employer, loudly and clearly, that you are not an honest or trustworthy person.
2. A background check will reveal any lies about your criminal record
If you have a criminal record, make peace with the fact that your employer is going to find out about it. Virtually every business runs background checks of its top candidates, and most do it with a goal of highlighting criminal offenses that might make a person unfit to perform a job.
So when you are asked on the job application whether or not you’ve ever been convicted of a crime, tell the truth. The crime on your record may or may not cost you the job, but lying about it surely will.
3. Reference checks and verifications will highlight fibs on your resume
Don’t think that lies beyond criminal history are any harder to uncover. Most hiring managers will make calls to your former employers to check job titles, responsibilities, and employment dates.
If you have exaggerated or padded this information, an employer needs only a quick reference check to learn the truth. And while most fibs in this category are small, they will still leave a hiring manager wondering what else you were untruthful about.
4. You may be asked to speak about skills you don’t really have
It’s common practice to tailor a resume for each employment opportunity to try to match the job description. But don’t ever list any skills that you don’t actually have. Those skills could come up in an interview, and you could be expected to speak extensively about something you don’t understand. Better yet, a hiring manager could ask you for a demonstration of those skills. Either scenario will be uncomfortable and embarrassing for you, and both scenarios would undoubtedly cost you a job opportunity.
Remember that many employers are willing to help you learn new skills if they think you would be an asset to their company in other areas. Even if you aren’t perfect for the job you applied for, a good impression on the hiring manager could put you at the top of the pile for another position. These opportunities are both worth going after, but they will both go up in smoke if you start lying about your qualifications.
5. You may lose your job if your lies are discovered
Even if your lies do get you hired, that doesn’t mean you can stop worrying. Keeping track of all the lies you’ve told is a difficult and complicated business, and many companies will run annual background checks on you. In other words, your chances of getting caught for dishonesty never go away. If and when you are found out, you can and probably will be fired — and then it’s back to square one.
But good luck explaining to future employers why you left your old job, and good luck getting through any subsequent reference checks without your past raising some serious questions about your character.
6. If you get the job, you may be in over your head
If you get a job based on dishonesty, the fear of being discovered isn’t even your only problem. If you lied about your education, skills, or experience, you could find yourself over your head in the new job.
Working a job you are not at all qualified for is like taking a high-level calculus exam without understanding a shred of the material: it’s stressful, emotionally draining, and frustrating. And the worst part is, you can’t ask your boss or your colleagues for help because doing so might reveal that you aren’t qualified.
7. You could face a forgery or fraud conviction
Most of the time, if you lie about your qualifications and your employer discovers the untruths, you will simply face dismissal. In some situations though, you could face criminal charges for fraud or forgery. Usually, this would only happen if you falsified documents, like a university degree, to better sell the dishonest story told by your resume or application. Still, even if criminal charges are unlikely, it’s best to follow the “better safe than sorry” mantra here and just tell the truth.
As you can see, lying about your educational or professional qualifications to a prospective employer is a bad idea. Whether your lies are discovered early and cost you a job opportunity or are discovered later and force you to face legal ramifications, there is very rarely a happy ending to this story.
Make your own happy ending and tell the truth on your resume or job application. Eventually, you will be rewarded for your honesty.
Have you ever thought about padding your resume? Were you able to make constructive, helpful changes instead?
Michael Klazema has been developing products for pre-employment screening and improving online customer experiences in the background screening industry since 2009. He is the lead author and editor for Backgroundchecks.com.