Lying in Your Job Search: Where’s the Line?

Take a page from our founding fathers with an honest approach to your job search.

Many know the story of George Washington cutting down the cherry tree (“I cannot tell a lie…”) and admire “Honest Abe” Lincoln for his integrity  as a lawyer, leader of the Union, and great emancipator of slavery, but how do these virtues fit into today’s workplace?

With a tight economy and many people out of work, it’s tempting to tell a few white lies to get ahead. In fact, a research study found that 53 percent of people lie on their resumes or job applications.

In this mobile-driven society, the truth is often just a few key strokes away. Whether you’re embellishing your skill set, fudging dates to avoid age discrimination, or filling in employment gaps, you’re setting yourself up for failure in the long run.  Consider Scott Thompson, for example, who was forced to resign as CEO of Yahoo! after it was discovered that he misstated his credentials, claiming he had a degree in computer science (he only has one in accounting).

Take a lesson from our great leaders and use these five tips to stick to the truth during your job search.

Fill your skill gaps

If you lack a skill that’s required for your dream job, find a course online or at a local school where you can learn it. Trust me, if the hard skill is vital to the job and you make it to the final interview rounds, the hiring manager will test your skills in a pre-employment exam and the truth will come out.

Pitch your qualifications

Your resume is an important piece of your personal marketing campaign. It should call attention to your relevant experience, accomplishments, education and skill sets. However, it can’t sell experience you don’t have. There’s a fine line between positioning your experience to support your target job and flat-out lying about a qualification you simply don’t possess.

Keep your story consistent

If you tell a lie, it doesn’t end with the job application – you now must keep the charade going online and during the interview process. A recent social recruiting survey by Jobvite found that 86% of U.S. employers and recruiters polled admitted to reviewing candidates’ social network profiles – whether or not the candidates gave them permission. Make sure your online brand and interview responses tell the same story as your resume, or you’re sure to raise red flags with the recruiter.

Know your dates

The simplest reference or background check will reveal discrepancies in your work history, so be truthful with your employment dates. You can leave off the dates from your degrees and certifications and limit the resume to the last 15 years of your career to avoid age discrimination, but you can’t lie. If you’re concerned about an employment gap, test different ways to represent the dates (i.e. Mar 2009 – Dec 2012 vs. 2009-2012) or consider a different resume format.

Be genuine

Much of the interview process is spent determining if you are a good cultural fit for the company. If the job requirements match your skills but the company doesn’t fit, don’t waste your time. Even if you convince the hiring manager that you love a fast-paced start-up environment and land the job, chances are, you won’t last very long in that role. Be honest with yourself about what working environment is best for you and target those opportunities instead.

The bottom line? Do yourself a favor and stick to the truth. Lying has the potential to do serious damage to your personal brand and hurt your chances of landing your dream job.