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Why it’s not a good idea to lie on your resume

You may read the title of this post and think, “Of course it’s a terrible idea to lie on your resume. Who would do that?” If you do think that, and–in your heart of hearts–you really can say that you’ve never embellished a skill, a hard-to-verify achievement, or slightly fudged a job title? Bravo. You are a unique snowflake. Because nearly everyone I’ve met has done one of the above to even a small degree at least once. 

Unfortunately, lying on your resume–a real, out and out lie–can have very serious consequences. Ask former Yahoo! CEO Scott Thompson, who lost his job over falsely stating that he had a dual degree in Comp Sci. Or former Bausch and Lomb CEO Ronald Zarella, who was forced to pay back a $1.1M bonus after it was discovered he did not attain an MBA from Stern. 

Here’s a few other reasons not to lie:

  • It can make you look stupid. If you are applying for a software dev position that requires you to know Ruby on Rails–and you state “fluent in Ruby on Rails” on your resume, the recruiter is likely to take notice. Most initial screens are not for technical skills; a tech screen is likely to take place with the hiring manager or a member of the hiring team. And you should bet that if they really need someone with Ruby? You will be asked technical questions designed to probe your depth of experience in Ruby. When you can’t answer even simple questions, that will make you look dumb. Oh, and…
  • You can make the recruiter look like a fool for submitting you to the hiring manager. And recruiters have long memories. Even if the recruiter leaves the org? Chances are you will now be flagged in their candidate management database with a comment that you lied on your resume and didn’t have a certain skill. That’s enough to get a candidate disqualified unilaterally within a recruiting team. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice…
  • If you falsify information about your qualifications on LinkedIn or post your resume anywhere on the internet, it’s nearly impossible to undo. Plain and simple. What’s posted on the internet is written in digital ink–not pencil. There will be an archive of it somewhere. And a good sourcer/recruiter can find it. 
  • It’s not likely you’ll end up losing your job–but why risk it? Most states–and companies–are ’employment at will’, which means you can be terminated at any time without specific reason. It’s highly unusual for someone to be let go for cause without reason, however. But if you are having a challenging time at work (cultural shift, new manager/team, etc) and things are not going well, why give them a potential reason to take action?

My advice: Be rigorous in ensuring the details you put out to the world on your LinkedIn profile, online resume, Facebook, etc are accurate as possible. It doesn’t cost you anything–and the alternative could cost you a lot. 

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