The Risks (and Rewards) of Lying During Your Job Hunt

Jul 08, 2013 -

Yahoo’s CEO Scott Thompson lost his job in 2012 because he falsified his resume. He lied about getting a computer science degree and was forced to resign when the truth came to light.

“How could he do such a thing?” the American public cried out. “What kind of criminal lies on his resume?”

But as it turns out, just about everyone does. According to a recent AOL survey, 78 percent of respondents admitted to using a misleading resume when applying for a job. So before you cast stones, ask yourself this: Do you want to be part of the cheaters or the goody-goodies?

If the dark side is tempting you, here are the most popular ways to fool employers during a job search. But beware: each trick comes with its own traps.

1. Exaggerating your abilities and accomplishments on your resume

You’re updating your resume and want to make your abilities pop off the page. So you simply change your knowledge of a computer program into a proficiency. A moment later, you’ve magically learned HTML—and co-founded your first company while accepting the Nobel Peace Prize.

The reward: You look more accomplished on paper.

The risk: You lose the job offer when your true abilities are exposed in an interview.

The consensus: Exaggerating your abilities on your resume can lead to a downward spiral of crippling lies. Don’t do it. Instead, emphasize your best skill that applies to the job.

2. Lying about how much you “loved” your last job in an interview

It makes sense to glorify your work history. After all, interviewers will toss you aside if you sound like a complainer who clashes with management.

But you shouldn’t come across as a pushover, either. You want to actually enjoy your next job, so be honest about your expectations.

The reward: You come across as a good fit and a fun candidate.

The risk: You end up in a similar job situation and are similarly unhappy because you weren’t upfront about your expectations.

The consensus: A little sugarcoating is fine, but be honest about what you want to accomplish in the target position.

3. Lying about why you left your last job

Here’s a question you’re guaranteed to face during your job search: “Why are you looking for work?”

The question you’ll then ask yourself is, “Should I say I left my job because it didn’t line up with my career goals, or should I admit I was let go?”

The reward: Avoid the negative connotation associated with being fired.

The risk: The hiring manager contacts your references and finds out the truth.

The consensus: You’ll be caught quickly. You can paint your breakup in a positive light, but don’t lie about what transpired.

4. Inflating your job performance

Employers love measuring job performance with statistics and rankings. As you draft your resume and interview with hiring managers, it’s tempting to boast that you’re in the top three at your company even if it’s not exactly true.

The reward: Thanks to the stats, you look like a candidate who can impact the bottom line.

The risk: Your references reveal the truth about your “top three” ranking.

The consensus: You can get the job offer without fabricating your past performance. Plus, this type of lie generally comes back to bite you when the truth is exposed.

5. Making lies of omission

When drafting a resume, you have to omit pieces of your past. Hiring managers only want information that applies to the job, so choose your most impressive work examples and skills.

But there’s a thin line between omitting and disguising. If you’re using a functional resume to conceal a two-year work gap, hiring managers will wonder why you’re being so sneaky. What were you doing in those two years?

The reward: Your resume covers up major weaknesses.

The risk: Omitting obvious chunks of your past raises a huge red flag for employers.

The consensus: It’s okay to leave out small details that are irrelevant to the target job, but limit it to that: small, unrelated specifics.

6. Lying about your salary history

Sometimes it seems like the only way to reach your salary expectations is to cheat the system. But while hiring managers might expect a little number-tampering nowadays, there are better ways to increase your starting pay.

The reward: $$$

The risk: Hiring managers generally confirm your job title and employment details—like salary—when contacting previous employers.

The consensus: If an employer wants you, they’ll pay you. Negotiate for a higher paycheck rather than lying about your salary history.

Rocco Brown-Morris is the content team manager for, America’s # 1 resume builder. Check them out at or on Google+ for advice and tips on all things career- and resume-related.