A growing number of workers say they know someone who fabricated information on a résumé
Lying on a résumé may be a cliché — but it happens frequently, and it’s costly to both the employee and the employer.
Nearly half (46%) of workers claimed to know someone who used false information on a résumé, according to the results of a survey conducted by staffing firm OfficeTeam. That represents a 25-point increase from a 2011 survey the company conducted. For the survey, OfficeTeam polled more than 1,000 U.S. workers and over 300 senior managers at U.S. companies with 20 or more employees. Managers are even more suspicious of applicants’ honesty — more than half (53%) said they suspect candidates often lie on the documents.
“Don’t do it ever under any circumstances,” said Deb Wheatman, a certified résumé writer and career coach and president of résumé service Careers Done Write. “This is a reflection of your brand and your professional stature.” And if you lie about something on your résumé, where will it stop? Will you have to create more lies to cover up the original one? Some 76% of workers said the lies they noticed related to job experience, followed by job duties (55%), education (33%) and employment dates (26%).
Desperation is the root of job-seekers’ dishonesty on résumés, Wheatman suggested. People often tweak their job title, said Dana Leavy-Detrick, founder of the Brooklyn Resume Studio. If someone’s job title is complicated, they may feel inclined to use simpler terms on a résumé to optimize it for search purposes. But if someone were to do this, they should be upfront about it when discussing the job with a hiring manager. In many situations, of course, a word added here or a missing word there could make them appear more senior.
Some 38% of managers reported that an applicant had been taken out of consideration for a job because of lying, according to the latest OfficeTeam study. Studies have found that employers spend on average 20% of a worker’s salary in employee-turnover costs associated with recruiting and training a new employee for workers earnings less than $50,000 annually, which is roughly three-quarters of the workforce, according to the Center for American Progress, a liberal public policy research group headquartered in Washington, D.C.
“Explore possible red flags,” said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at job search site CareerBuilder. “Never heard of the candidate’s alma mater or past employer? Check to make sure the place exists. Does a list of past responsibilities seem unlikely for a given job title? Ask the job seeker to walk you through the daily tasks of her last position.”
After that, most HR experts suggest using the interview as a way to determine whether an applicant was truthful. In particular, OfficeTeam division director Daryl Pigat recommends hiring managers always explicitly verify employment dates during an interview. “Ask probing questions and make sure you’re getting a direct response,” he said. “It’s easier to be untruthful when creating or writing a document. It’s much harder when you’re sitting in front of someone.”
Perhaps the most foolproof way of determining the accuracy of a résumé is a background check. However, most employers will run these toward the tail end of the hiring process, and that could slow matters down if a lie is spotted. And to some extent, just saying that a background check will be performed could be enough to weed out the liars, said Haefner. “Regardless of how much verifying you actually intend to do, putting the idea out there may have an applicant scrambling to tell a new, more accurate story,” she said.