Is It OK to Lie on Your Resume?
No, it’s never OK to lie on your resume. No matter how small of a lie you think it is, you’re likely to be found out. According to a 2017 survey, 75% of HR managers claim they’ve caught a lie on a resume. Lying simply isn’t a strategy that works.
These are the most common resume lies that job seekers try to pull off:
- Inflating job titles
- Claiming fluency in a language
- Exaggerating or even making up skills
- Changing dates of employment
- Adding fake certifications or academic degrees
- Concealing a criminal record
- Lying about their GPA on their resume
While some of these are worse than others, each of these things count as a lie to hiring managers.
Instead of exaggerating or straight-out lying, include additional experience like volunteer work and relevant coursework on your resume. You can also try switching to a resume format that better highlights your strengths, and use resume action verbs to make your true history more compelling.
The Consequences of Lying on Your Resume
You may have a friend who told you “I lied on my resume and got the job.” However, statistics show there’s a good chance you’ll get caught, and then face consequences such as:
- Losing the trust of your employer
- Getting fired
- Taking a hit to your reputation
- Being unable to receive a reference from your employer
- Getting sued
- Going to jail
The consequences are severe in part because lying on your resume can hurt a business and its customers. For instance, if you say you’re a CPR-certified lifeguard when you’re not and then can’t perform CPR during an emergency, the result will likely be legal repercussions for you.
It’s also easy to get caught in a lie. For example, if the information on your resume contradicts your LinkedIn profile, the hiring manager will notice. Or you may claim something on your resume that your previous employer says isn’t true.
And then there’s the even bigger question:
Is it Illegal to Lie on a Resume?
A resume is not a legal document, so lying on it isn’t a criminal offense. However, you can be sued for lying on your resume.
In many states, if you listed a fake degree, then your former employer can sue you for fraud if they prove that your lie hurt their business.
And if you lied on a federal resume, then lying on your resume in this case is definitely illegal, because lying to a federal agent is a criminal offense. Some states have similar laws about lying to state officials too. Bear this in mind when applying to state government jobs.
Such lawsuits can lead to thousands of dollars in fines. In the worst-case scenario, they can even end in jail time.
What to Do When You’ve Lied on Your Resume
If you’ve lied on your resume, here are several ways to protect yourself.
1. Turn that lie into the truth: Particularly with skills-based lies, if you can learn the skill you said you have, then you make yourself more employable by actually learning it. For example, if you said you know COBOL, learn it. Not only will it be useful for you in the future, but you’ll “undo” the lie on your resume.
2. Explain you noticed an error on your resume: Then, send in an updated version. If you inflated quantifiable data, fixing a few numbers may be all that’s necessary.
3. Own up to lying on your resume: This option makes it less likely you’ll be hired. But if sending in an updated resume isn’t an option, owning up to lying on it might at least save your reputation from being destroyed before you’re found out.
When you own up to lying on your resume, be courteous, professional, and speak to the company directly. Never send out a mass email to correct this kind of mistake. A good example would be:
Dear [hiring manager’s name],
Thank you for taking the time to review my application. I was attracted to [Company Name] because [why you applied for the job]. However, to my horror I just noticed a mistake in the resume I sent you and was hoping you’d instead review this amended version. I’ve attached it for your convenience. Thanks in advance, and I hope to hear from you soon!
4. Withdraw your application: When you withdraw your application, you don’t have to provide a reason. This allows you to avoid having to explain the lie on your resume. You can also apply for other positions at the same company in the future.
Now that you know why you shouldn’t lie on a resume but what to do if you’ve already done so, take the time to write a new (or updated) resume. Knowing how to write a resume that accurately reflects your abilities but manages to make your application stand out is a skill that will serve you well throughout your life.
Happy (truthful!) job hunting.