Three in four HR managers tell CareerBuilder they’ve caught lies on resumes.
It’s crazy how many people are lying on the job.
A whopping 75% of HR managers have caught applicants putting fabrications on their resumes, according to a new CareerBuilder survey. And that’s an almost 20% increase since their 2015 report, when 58% spotted outright exaggerations, particularly financial services employers (73%), leisure and hospitality employers (71%) and those in information technology and health care (tied at 63%).
This backs a recent survey from the employee background check service HireRight, which found 85% of employers noticed embellishments on resumes.
And we’re not talking little white lies here, like saying you spent a year at a company when it was really more like nine months. Employers in the CareerBuilder report shared some truly outrageous claims, including:
- One applicant took credit for writing computer code that the hiring manager conducting the job interview had actually written.
- Another candidate claimed to have worked for Microsoft – but had no idea who Bill Gates was.
- An applicant reported being an anti-terrorist spy for the CIA – during the same time period that they would have been in elementary school. (Do the math, people. Also, isn’t the first rule of the CIA not to talk about the CIA?)
- So much for this educated guess: Another liar reported studying under Friedrich Nietzsche. Too bad the German philosopher actually died 117 years ago.
“The most common lies center around exaggerated dates of employment, falsifying degrees or credentials, inflating salary and concealing a criminal record,” Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder, told Moneyish. “Then of course there are the more obscure embellishments, like the ones in our list.”
The CareerBuilder report theorizes that applicants are so desperate to get an HR rep’s attention – nearly 1 in 5 of these gatekeepers admitted they spend less than 30 seconds skimming each resume – that they inflate their credentials or tell tall tales to separate themselves from the pack.
Kevin Spina, an actor and comedian in Manhattan who has helmed countless service industry jobs over the past 17 years, told Moneyish that wannabe waitstaff and bartenders are also notorious for fudging their credentials – because they think they can get by on their good looks.
“You can sneak your way in by being a young, attractive person – because that’s what sells – but you won’t last long if you have no idea what you’re doing,” said Spina, 36, who remembers one “seasoned” waitress who wasn’t sure whether the chardonnay was “the red wine or the white one,” and the “experienced” bartender who didn’t know what a Guinness was. “These people generally don’t make it past the training shifts,” he said.
But what’s perhaps even worse than lying about your experience in the service industry is lying about your availability. “So many people say, ‘I’m completely available,’ and then when you call them in or schedule them, they say, ‘I can’t. I have an audition,’” said Spina. “Don’t agree to ‘open availability’ then!”
Aerielle Ludwig, who runs a professional resume writing service, ironically enough, told Moneyish about the time she and a supervisor were reviewing potential educational counselors.
“A candidate we both personally knew, who held a position with a sister organization, lied on his resume by saying that he planned a large-scale event that our office actually planned,” Ludwig said. “He said he ‘single-handedly’ organized it on his resume.” And he also single-handedly sabotaged his shot at getting hired.
While many of these case studies are humorous, consultant Dawn D. Boyer, Ph.D., told Moneyish that lying about your qualifications doesn’t just waste time – it can also waste money, especially if your position demands certification. While she was a general HR manager two decades ago for a government company she wants to keep anonymous, she helped audit employee resumes – and found 50 people who lied about their educational degrees.
“My company had to let them all go – including the vice president!” she said. They lost millions of dollars in contract revenue.
Career experts warned that it’s never OK to lie on your resume, because the truth comes out. And no one wants to hire a liar.
“You reveal that you are not honest, and I don’t know companies who are looking for employees that are dishonest,” said career coach Heather Monahan.
While it’s tempting to close a gap in your employment history by stretching the truth, Monahan said there are creative ways to spin that situation to your advantage using the truth. “If you have taken time off to be a stay-at-home mom, entitle that window ‘CEO of my family,’ and list your responsibilities and how you overcame challenging times,” she said.
Job coach Wendi Weiner says it is “unforgivable” to lie about your certification or degree. “If you haven’t earned a bachelor’s degree or an MBA, don’t list it on your resume,” she told Moneyish. “Instead, put it as, ‘Completed coursework of 80 credits towards 120-credit undergraduate program,’ for example. Be specific that you haven’t earned the degree, but include a note that you did complete coursework towards earning the degree.”
If you are caught in a lie, Haefner at CareerBuilder suggests coming clean immediately, even though the damage is likely already done. Only 12% of HR managers are likely to consider calling a candidate that does something unusual or outrageous, like fabricate their credentials.
If you’ve already sent in your phony resume, you can update it with the truth and try submitting it again. “Tell the interviewer you noticed some errors on your original resume and have a revised copy,” said Haefner. Otherwise, “unfortunately, there’s no completely safe alternative other than withdrawing, because there’s a chance they won’t consider you for the job once they find out you lied. Bottom line: don’t lie.”
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