How do you write a resume? With so many conflicting opinions out there, we’ve set out to find the ultimate answer to this question.
Have you ever wondered how far you would go to land a job?
In the competitive world of job hunting, the pressure to stand out in a candidate pool leads many people down a slippery slope – lying on their resumes. All’s fair in love, war, and recruitment, right? Wrong.
While stretching the truth may seem a harmless shortcut to securing that dream job, it actually cuts both ways. The consequences of lying on a resume can be severe, not just for your professional reputation but also for your career prospects. And all the half-truths, exaggerations, and “little” white lies may someday backfire on you.
In August 2023, we surveyed over 1,900 U.S.-based workers to examine job applicant behaviors. The study provided valuable insights into lying during recruitment, the scale of the phenomenon, and the reasons why applicants decide to do that despite the risk. Our findings are below!
Lying on a Resume
Let’s face the truth and see how common lying to land a job is.
7 in 10 workers confessed they had lied on their resumes. Additionally, 37% admitted they lied frequently.
When asked, “Have you ever lied on a resume?” respondents claimed:
- Yes, I lie frequently – 37%
- Yes, I have lied once or twice – 33%
- No, but I have considered lying – 15%
- No, and I have never considered lying – 15%
As you can see, only 15% chose honesty.
Interestingly, job applicants with Master’s or doctoral degrees reported the highest incidences of lying on resumes (58% frequently lie, 27% have lied once or twice = 85% total) compared to participants without a college degree (29% frequently lie, 42% have lied once or twice = 71% total) and those with bachelor’s or associate degrees lying the least (30% frequently lie, 33% have lied once or twice = 63% total).
There were no other disparities within different demographic groups.
Lies have no gender, age, political affiliation, religion, and work industry.
What Do Job Seekers Lie About?
In our survey, we also examined what exactly U.S.-based job seekers lie about. Respondents could choose all options that applied to their experiences.
Embellishing responsibilities (52%), job title (52%), and the number of people they managed (45%) were the most common lies.
The full breakdown of the data is presented below.
What did you lie about on your resume?
- Embellishing responsibilities in general – 52%
- My job title (to make it sound more impressive) – 52%
- Fabricating how many people I managed – 45%
- The length of time I was employed at a job – 37%
- The name of the company that employed me – 31%
- Made up the entire position – 24%
- Inflating metrics or accomplishments I achieved (e.g., sales numbers) – 17%
- My skills section – 15%
- Awards or accolades – 13%
- Volunteer work – 11%
- My education credentials – 11%
- Covered up a career gap – 9%
- Technology capabilities (knowing tools like Trello, Asana, etc.) – 5%
Lying on a resume seems to have deep roots in our insecurity, the need to impress others, and desperation to secure a job quickly. On the one hand, understandable. On the other, unethical.
Lying in Cover Letters & During Job Interviews
How about lying on cover letters and during job interviews? Are such behaviors common? Let’s find out.
- 76% of workers claimed they had lied in their cover letters, with 50% admitting to frequently lying.
- 8 in 10 confessed they had lied during a job interview, with 44% admitting to frequently bending the truth.
When asked, “Have you ever lied on a cover letter?” participants answered:
- Yes, I lie frequently – 50%
- Yes, I have lied once or twice – 26%
- No, and I have never considered lying – 15%
- No, but I have considered lying – 9%
The higher education level of survey takers goes hand in hand with reported higher incidents of lying on cover letters.
- Master’s or doctoral degrees – 73% frequently lie, 17% have lied once or twice in cover letters (90% total)
- people without a college degree – 49% frequently lie, 34% have lied once or twice (83% total)
- Bachelor’s or associate degrees – 40% frequently lie, 29% have lied once or twice (69% total).
Let’s move on to lying during job interviews.
When asked, “Have you ever lied in a job interview?” respondents claimed:
- Yes, I lie frequently 44%
- Yes, I have lied once or twice 36%
- No, I have not lied 20%
Once again, it turns out that a college diploma is not a truth serum.
- Master’s or doctoral degrees – 63% frequently lie, 25% have lied once or twice during job interviews (88% total)
- people without a college degree – 31% frequently lie, 53% have lied once or twice (84% total)
- Bachelor’s or associate degrees – 38% frequently lie, 38% have lied once or twice (76% total)
Are the risks worth the benefits? Doubtful.
You Don’t Need to Lie to Land a Dream Job
Truth be told. Lying on your resume isn’t worth the consequences. And it definitely doesn’t have to be your first line of action.
Here’s what you can do to boost your chances of getting a job.
- Craft strong application documents. They are your chance to make a positive first impression on potential employers. You can use professional online creators, read guides written by career experts, or watch videos with tips on how to do that. Choose whatever works best for you. The Internet is an invaluable source of materials that could help you.
- Ensure a hiring manager can easily find your work experience and education details. Optimize your resume for skimming and quick reading. Lay out things on the document clearly.
- Don’t forget about formatting. Font and spacing may turn out to be your best friends on your job-hunting journey.
- Tailor your resume to fit the job and the company. Focus on your education, past work experience, and skills that may be crucial for the position and valuable for the potential employer.
- Get to know the company’s culture and values. It will help you provide real-life examples illustrating that you are a good cultural fit for the company and how your values align with theirs.
- Anything that shows your ambition, willingness to grow, and learning abilities may turn out to be essential for your potential employer. Remember to mention your extracurricular activities or classes, scientific circles, volunteering, etc.
- Take pride in your achievements, and don’t be afraid to show it. Highlight your top skills, desirable personality traits, positive work habits, and accomplishments. Try to relate them to the position you’re applying for.
- Be enthusiastic and honest. Present yourself as a valuable employee, a dedicated colleague, and an interesting person. Authenticity is easier and worth way more than fabricating a resume.
Honesty is always the best policy when it comes to job applications and interviews. Even slightly stretching the truth can result in immediate or long-term consequences. Instead of lying about employment history, education, or something more, workers should try shifting the focus to the related experience and transferable skills they can offer.
Can lying on a resume can help you through the recruitment process? Probably yes.
The cost of deception might be very high, though. And to land a job you got from lying on a resume doesn’t necessarily mean surviving the job.