On a recent episode of the brilliant show that is Below Deck: Mediterranean new deckhand Head Stew Hannah Ferrier realizes that her new Third Stew (deckhand) Kasey Cohen is not only very seasick (and now drugged up) but also lied about her work experience on her resume as she is not good at table service, do laundry or make a cup of coffee. She claims to have worked on yachts before, but upon research this yacht appears to be more of a booze cruise.
But if you think it is only common for young, third-tier, reality yacht show stars with intense boat vertigo to pad their resumes, you would be wrong. Earlier this month Samsonite CEO Ramesh Tainwala resigned after a report was released questioning his credentials. Blue Orca stated that he had falsely claimed on his resume that he earned a doctorate degree in business administration from Union Institute and University in Cincinnati.
It seems like it would be a no-brainer to not lie on your resume. If you are caught, it usually doesn’t end well and yet people seem to keep doing it. According to HireRight’s 2017 employment screening benchmark report, 85% of employers caught applicants fibbing on their resumes or applications.
Ladders talked with Amanda Augustine, career advice expert for TopResume, to try to understand the motivation behind embellishing on your resume and how you can tell when someone is.
The clear-cut signals someone is lying on a resume
If the career progression of titles looks wonky (for example, making big jumps from junior sales associate to director of sales with little explanation), that’s usually a red flag. In addition, if the work history on a person’s LinkedIn profile is wildly different than what appears on their resume (job titles, company names, and/or dates of employment don’t match up), then I immediately begin to question the authenticity of that person’s story. If I can’t find one of the employers online, I will definitely want to dig into that during the interview. It’s unusual not to find any mention of a company online.
Otherwise, the lies usually reveal themselves during the interview process. If I start probing a candidate during an interview about something on their resume that just didn’t add up, I usually uncover the truth.
Most common resume lies
I’ve seen numerous job candidates state that they’re currently employed on their after resume they’ve been terminated from or left a job. I’ve also seen people extend the end date of a job to match the amount of severance they received (e.g. if the person was fired in February and received severance for three months, they’d list their end date for that job as May instead) to decrease the perceived employment gap.
I also caught a former staff member flat-out lying on LinkedIn — and, I assume, his resume — about the position he held when we both worked at one of my former employers. He worked in customer service and stated that he was a brand manager at the company and was “intimately involved in the explosive growth” of the company, which was simply untrue. Incidentally, I noticed he has since changed his job title to accurately reflect his role.
How to avoid telling a lie
Work with what you have: While some resume rules are standard, there are many guidelines that can be bent based on your work history, experiences, and job goals. Remember, a resume is a marketing document — the goal of it is to position you in the best light for your target position by highlighting your best selling points. If your current format isn’t working for you, test small changes to see what will.
How to explain an employment gap or odd job title
Employment gap: There are a few ways you can work around an employment gap.
If you participated in any professional-development activities, worked as a freelancer, or offered your services to help a friend’s business, or pursued a skill-based volunteer opportunity that allowed you to leverage your marketable skills, you can incorporate this information into your resume to minimize the employment gap.
Also, consider how you format the dates of your employment to draw attention away from periods of unemployment. In some instances, it’s better to stick with just the years to mask over an employment gap (i.e., “2015 – 2017” and “2017 – Present” vs. “Jan 2015 – Jan 2017” and “Nov 2017 – Present”); whereas other times you want to use the full dates to downplay the length of your unemployment (i.e. “Jan 2013 – May 2018” vs. “2013 – 2018”).
Weird title: If no one outside your organization will understand what your job title means, translate it. List a translation for your title in parentheses next to the actual job title. For example, if you might put “Director of Community (Director of Customer Service)” to clarify your role in customer-service management to anyone who quickly glances at your resume.
Why we tell lies on our resumes
Most people convince themselves that “it’s just a little white lie” and they won’t get caught — or if they do, it will be minor enough not to affect their employment or candidacy. Others may rationalize that they’re doing what they need to in order to be fairly evaluated for a job, as unemployed candidates and those without certain degrees or educational achievements are at a disadvantage in the job market.
However, recent news stories prove this isn’t true. While you might be able to get by for a while without getting caught, lying on your resume or other personal marketing materials will catch up with you at some point. At the end of the day, it’s simply not worth it.