Weekly Wrap: Sweet Little Lies? Not When They’re in Your Resume

Resume snobs focus too much on form rather than the experience the author brings to the table. (Photo illustration by Dreamstime)

Raise your hand if you have never, ever fibbed on a resume.

Slightly fudging your previous experience, education, and job credentials has always been a time-honored tradition, and in the past, recruiters and hiring managers simply accepted that people would do that here and there.

Somehow, the world of work survived.

But then, background checks came along and as they got more and more extensive, all that time-honored resume fudging turned into a big problem as people got caught up in the fibs they were telling — as this latest survey from CareerBuilder makes very clear.

Nearly 60% of applicants lie on a resume

According to their new poll, 58 percent of hiring managers (yes, nearly two out of there) said they’ve caught a lie on a resume — and  one-third (33 percent) of these employers have seen an increase in resume embellishments post-recession.

CareerBuilder’s nationwide survey, conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder from May 13 to June 6, 2014, “included a representative sample of 2,188 hiring managers and human resource professionals across industries and company sizes.”

And what were the most common lies that hiring managers kept finding on applicant resumes? According to the employers surveyed, there are certain fabrications job seekers try to slip past employers more frequently than others.

They include:

  • Embellished skill set – 57 percent;
  • Embellished responsibilities – 55 percent;
  • Dates of employment – 42 percent;
  • Job title – 34 percent (this is an oldie but a time-honored goody);
  • Academic degree – 33 percent;
  • Companies worked for – 26 percent;
  • Accolades/awards – 18 percent.

It’s bad to breach trust from the outset

“Trust is very important in professional relationships, and by lying on your resume, you breach that trust from the very outset,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, in a press release about the survey.

She added (and this is really great job advice for ANY job seeker):  “If you want to enhance your resume, it’s better to focus on playing up tangible examples from your actual experience. Your resume doesn’t necessarily have to be the perfect fit for an organization, but it needs to be relevant and accurate.”

There are also certain industries that seem to report a higher rate of resume fudging, and the CareerBuilder survey found that “the following industries catch resume lies more frequently than average.”

Article Continues Below
  • Financial Services – 73 percent;
  • Leisure and Hospitality – 71 percent;
  • Information Technology – 63 percent;
  • Health Care (More than 50 employees) – 63 percent;
  • Retail – 59 percent.

Some great resume whoppers

One of the great things about these CareerBuilder surveys is they always go on to highlight the unusual things that pop up in the research, and for this one, they focused on the most unusual lies employers ever caught on a job applicant’s resume, including:

  • Applicant included job experience that was actually his father’s. Both father and son had the same name (one was Sr., one was Jr.).
  • Applicant claimed to be the assistant to the prime minister of a foreign country that doesn’t have a prime minister.
  • Applicant claimed to have been a high school basketball free throw champion. He admitted it was a lie in the interview.
  • Applicant claimed to have been an Olympic medal winner
  • Applicant claimed to have been a construction supervisor. The interviewer learned the bulk of his experience was in the completion of a doghouse some years prior.
  • Applicant claimed to have 25 of years experience at age 32.
  • Applicant claimed to have worked for 20 years as the babysitter of known celebrities such as Tom Cruise, Madonna, etc.
  • Applicant listed three jobs over the past several years. Upon contacting the employers, the interviewer learned that the applicant had worked at one for two days, another for one day, and not at all for the third.
  • Applicant applied to a position with a company who had just terminated him. He listed the company under previous employment and indicated on his resume that he had quit.
  • Applicant applied twice for the same position and provided different work history on each application.

More employers checking resumes more closely

Here’s one sobering thought for applicants who, even in the face of reading all of this, still feel they might be able to get away with some fibs on their resume: the CareerBuilder survey found that “employers may be taking more time looking over individual resumes” than ever before.

They found that “42 percent of employers said they spend more than two minutes reviewing each resume, up from 33 percent in December. Additionally, most employers (86 percent) typically have more than one employee review candidates’ resumes, with 65 percent saying two or three people go over each resume. Some 21 percent say resumes are reviewed by four or more employees before a decision is made.”

So yes, while fudging your resume may have been time-honored tradition, it’s one that we should be happy that it is going away, because my long experience as a senator executive and hiring manager is that there is always a lot more downside to fibbing than there is upside.

Remember, it’s ALWAYS better to get hired for what you’ve really done, not what you wish you might have done and decide to fib about.

Looking for the leaker at Martha Stewart

Of course, there’s a lot more going on this week than how job applicants are fusing their resumes. Here are some HR and workplace-related items you may have missed. This is TLNT’s weekly round-up of news, trends, and insights from the world of talent management. I do it so you don’t have to.

  • Suing to block Seattle’s new $15 minimum wage. You knew it was bound to happen. According to the Seattle Times, “The International Franchise Association has asked a federal judge to immediately block portions of Seattle’s $15 minimum-wage law, which treats local franchises as large businesses. … the group says franchisees will be irreparably harmed and face a competitive disadvantage because the law treats them as large employers solely because they are associated with a national corporation. “Who in their right mind wants to become a franchisee in Seattle now? They are immediately placed at a competitive disadvantage to local small businesses,” said Matt Haller, a spokesman for the International Franchise Association.”
  • Martha Stewart’s employee “witch hunt.” In case you thought that prison might have mellowed Martha Stewart, think again. According to the New York Daily News, “Martha Stewart’s minions are on a “witch hunt” to find out who’s been leaking information about the death of her 59-year-old sister, who suffered an aneurism on Tuesday. A Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia insider tells us “the whole office is going insane and on a witch hunt scanning all employees emails to figure out who leaked info on her sister’s death because one of the papers reported info from an email that was sent.”
  • Why managers and HR don’t get along. It’s age old problem — managers don’t like it when they see HR coming their way. The HBR blog digs into the :why” behind this long-time phenomenon and gives some advice for how to get past it: “If you’re an HR manager, make a point of spending more time with business people and less with your HR counterparts. Don’t talk to them about HR, but about what they are doing in their jobs, their concerns, and their aspirations. If you’re a line manager, make sure that your colleagues in HR are engaged in your business reviews and encouraged to contribute, not just about human capital issues, but also about business decisions. If you keep asking, you might actually get some fresh perspectives.”
  • Remembering the great management thinker Warren Bennis. He may have been the best thing for management next to Peter Drucker. Warren Bennis, the great professor and management thinker, passed away this week at age 89, and as The Washington Post put it, “For Bennis, leadership was a personal journey, something individual and introspective that must be learned through life’s experiences. He was a staunch believer that leaders are made not born, formed out of “crucible” moments and struggles that prepare them to lead. As he wrote in On Becoming a Leader — essential reading for anyone — leadership is about self-discovery and self-expression. “Before people can learn to lead, they must learn something about this strange new world.”

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

Topics