Why You Should Keep Your Resume Honest

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If you’ve been job searching for a long time, and not getting many offers, you might be tempted to lie on your resume. This is always a bad idea.

Not only is stretching the truth on your CV the wrong thing to do, but it’s likely to come back to bite you. In the worst-case scenario, you’ll get caught, immediately during a background check or years down the road, and lose the offer or the job. It’s not unlikely: history is full of cases of successful people whose careers were undone because of a falsified education credential or an invented job title on their resume.

But even if you never get caught, lying on your resume can destroy your career by inches. For one thing, you’d have to spend the rest of your time at that job hoping that no one ever finds out. Plus, you’ll have secured the job under false pretenses – which means that you might not be qualified to do the work and succeed.

Get the Facts Straight

Even if you take a leap and decide it's worth fudging the truth and taking a chance on whether you'll get caught, be sure you know what you put on your resume. I've interviewed candidates who either had a really bad memory when it came to their employment history or who had fudged more than a few details. Unfortunately for them, it only took a quick reference check to confirm that their resume wasn't accurate.

It's also important to get the facts straight. When you list results – goals you've met, sales numbers you've made, anything quantifiable, be sure what you tell the interviewer matches what's on your resume.

Again, if you're not honest, it's going to be an issue for potential employers.

Even if you are honest, it’s important to be clear and accurate about your work history and achievements, and to remember what you’ve put down on your application materials. It’s possible to be totally forthright and factually correct, and still make a mistake about your dates of employment or a job title from 10 years ago.

If you’re not certain about the details of your employment history, do some digging before you send out your resume and cover letter. Verify dates with the Social Security Administration, Internal Revenue Service, and old employers, so that you can be 100 percent sure that you’re presenting the correct information. Many employers conduct some sort of employment history verification; you don’t want to look like you’re lying when you’re telling the truth.

For the same reason, it’s equally important to go over the details of your history and achievements with former colleagues and bosses who write references and/or recommendations. Don’t trust that their memories are the same as yours.

How to be Honest on Your Resume and Get the Job

The good news is that you don’t have to lie to make a good impression. With a little honest finessing, your experience and skills can help you get the job, as is. David Adams, Vice President of Learning and Development of Adecco Group North America, offers these tips:

Be honest. When it comes to resumes, potential employers are on the lookout for exaggerated skills or results. Grossly overstating your accomplishments can send up a red flag that may come back to haunt you during an interview – or eliminate your chances of securing an interview in the first place.

So, be honest; even if your embellishments make it past a recruiter or potential employer, you're setting yourself up for failure by misrepresenting yourself and your abilities.

Quantify your results. Wherever possible, include dollar amounts. If you managed a sizeable budget or inked a big deal, be sure to mention this – employers want to see what you've done and numbers are a great way to show them.

Know the numbers. Likewise, if the amount of people you managed or programs you've developed was significant, focus on that information. Showing that you've made good use of your time at another job helps employers visualize what you can do for them.

Don't bury the "lead." With hundreds of resumes to go through, hiring managers spend a limited amount of time skimming each one. You need to get your message across right away and convince them your skills and experience are what they're seeking.

Make sure that key information is either listed first or presented in a manner that makes it stand out.

Mention "off-the-job" experience. Be sure to highlight any skills, education, community/volunteer work, and additional schooling that pertains to your particular job area or that a potential employer might view as an asset. Include any notable professional awards, recognitions or accomplishments you have earned.

Professionalism is key. Including photographs, hobbies unrelated to the job, or personal information is unnecessary.

Suggested Reading: How to Create a Professional Resume