Why Lying On Your Resume Is Never Worth It

John Krautzel
Posted by

After spending years honing your skills, gaining valuable work experience and making connections, the last thing you need is to be labeled as dishonest. Candidates who embellish on their resume and application materials put themselves at a critical disadvantage. It may be tempting to stretch the truth when you don't have the required qualifications for an open position, but in the long-term, lies are always uncovered. Lying on your resume can damage your professional image, limit your career opportunities and hurt your ability to find the job of your dreams.

Facts Are Just That — Facts

Although you may think it is harmless to add a certification to your resume or embellish your job duties, the bottom line is that these facts can be checked. Many hiring managers request documentation to prove degrees and certifications earned. Hiring managers are also likely to inquire with your references and past employers to confirm your experience. A simple search online can also show that you have stretched the truth. These inconsistencies can immediately eliminate you from the hiring pool and taint your professional image.

Many employers also perform background checks and interview your references. Imagine the embarrassment that may follow when a reference does not vouch for your lies. The reality is that if you choose to lie on your resume, you are almost certain to get caught. Stick to the facts to maintain an honest and professional image in the industry.

Your Actions Determine Your Character

Hiring managers seek honest employees who mesh well with a company's culture and adhere to its mission and goals. If it is revealed that you have lied or embellished on your resume, your character becomes questionable. Potential employers may assume that you will be dishonest on the job or seek out shortcuts when completing your work duties. 

The Truth May Haunt You

Even if you get away with lying on your resume, the truth is inevitably going to eventually catch up with you on the job. For example, if you note that you are proficient in a software or hardware program, yet you are unable to navigate the program or complete tasks on the job, your employer is sure to discover the truth. Lies waste the company's time and, ultimately, could lead to your dismissal. Instead, be honest about your skills and abilities, yet indicate that you are willing to learn quickly to satisfy all of the job requirements.

Faking It Leads to Stress

You should always be true to yourself in your personal life, and this practice also applies to your professional life. Just as it is difficult to fake a smile or laugh at a bad joke, it is also difficult to pretend to have skills you do not actually possess. Faking job skills leads to stress that can impact your overall mood and willingness to work as a team, thus hurting your work performance. Employers are likely to take notice, which can lead to poor performance reviews and termination if you are unable to follow through with what you promised during the job interview.

Employers Expect Trustworthy Employees

Employees have a right to expect honesty and integrity from their employers, and employers expect the same from all applicants. To build an open and honest relationship with hiring managers, a serious candidate needs to be trustworthy when explaining skills and critical resume information. When you stretch the truth and can't deliver results, you send the message that you are willing to lie and cheat to gain opportunities. This practice is unacceptable in the professional world, taints your sense of professionalism and brands you as an undesirable employee. Employers seek individuals with diverse talents, so even if you don't have the skills desired, you can emphasize the skills you possess to increase your chances. 

Interviews Can Reveal the Truth

Even if you are able to outsmart a hiring manager or recruiter and nab an interview by including false information on a resume, the truth is likely to surface at some point during the interview. Candidates who claim to have skills or knowledge of the industry are often asked to elaborate during job interviews. You may be asked to speak about skills that you either do not have or lack sufficient knowledge of during the hiring process. If you are unfamiliar with the jargon, it is going to be crystal clear to the interviewer. Avoid an uncomfortable and embarrassing encounter by only listing accurate skills and work experience.

Trying to outsmart potential employers is bound to backfire if you decide to lie on your resume. Rely on your actual skills and experience to gain opportunities instead of trying to be someone you are not. By doing so, your eagerness to learn and honest nature may land you opportunities that are a much better match for your future.

Photo Courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Become a member to take advantage of more features, like commenting and voting.

  • Jane H.
    Jane H.

    No job is forever. My personal practice is to keep track of my progress and accomplishments so I don't have to guess about it later, especially since some of the companies or divisions I worked for no longer exist. As the saying goes, "Documentation beats conversation." If you leave a job under adverse conditions but you have proof of what you achieved there, the hiring manager won't think you're lying if your former employer attempts to undermine your candidacy for a new job. I've seen that happen to people.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the comments. @Leigh that is exactly what I do. I am in the process of earning a second degree but have not completed all of my coursework yet. @Jay that is so true. Sadly I saw it first hand when working on a year long project in the UK. It never ever pays to lie. Those lies always have a way of biting us back. And you know, it's harder to remember the lie than it is to remember the truth.

  • Leigh Morgan
    Leigh Morgan

    That's a good point, Shannon. There must be a way to list college attendance on your resume without misleading anyone into thinking you have a degree you did not complete. Nancy, what would you recommend? I was thinking of listing my college and writing something like, "Degree in progress." Does that make sense?

  • Jay Bowyer
    Jay Bowyer

    In other countries, like the UK, lying on your resume (it's called a curriculum vitae over there) is actually a criminal offense. It might not be illegal here in the US, but it's very misleading to lie, and I get the impression that nobody reaches their full potential by fibbing...

  • Jacqueline Parks
    Jacqueline Parks

    I agree that lying in an attempt to outsmart the system is completely wrong. I think it is important to choose your words carefully when crafting resumes and cover letters, and when answering interview questions. Staying honest while still showing your best qualities is the safest way to go and the most likely to land you a position.

  • Shannon Philpott
    Shannon Philpott

    I completely agree that lying on a resume or application materials never turns out well and speaks volumes about your character. However, listing your education gets tricky. While I don't agree with listing a degree you don't have, it can be effective to list that you have attended a college without listing the amount of credit hours you have.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    The bottom line is that you should NEVER lie. Regardless of the position or circumstances, lies are never a good thing. They aren't mistakes @Jacob if they are out and out lies. Remember, if you tell a lie that you have to remember that lie for the duration. So you told a fib about a skill that you didn't have figuring that you could come up to speed before you got the position. What happens when you get offered the job that day and are asked to come in the next day to start your paperwork and get acclimated? You don't have time to update that skill and now you are caught. Some things you just can't "fake" your way way through.

  • Mike Van de Water
    Mike Van de Water

    Jacob, the thing about English is that it's very flexible, to the point where you can use normal words to "embellish" your skill set. For example, if an job candidate says they "have experience in Excel," that could mean a wide range of things. As the person making the hiring decisions, I expect that employees will toe that line without crossing it. In the above example, if an candidate listed "proficient with complicated calculations in Excel," I would consider him to be outright lying if he couldn't immediately pull up a spreadsheet and create a usable multi-step formula. When you turn in a resume, make sure that you can back up everything on it. Fluff words are acceptable, but never claim you can do something you can't.

  • Duncan  Maranga
    Duncan Maranga

    It is always good to be honest because it gives you a lot of peace during the interview and later as you go along your duties in the new organization. I believe employers don't actually expect anyone to have rigorous expertise in all areas listed on the job advertisement. If you are good in a number of them, you don't have to fake the others as long as you indicate the eagerness to learn and perfect them.

  • Jacob T.
    Jacob T.

    Lying on a resume or during the interview process seems like one of those things with shades of grey, no matter how black and white we want it to be be ('Of course I love cold-calling prospective clients, I love when people rudely hang up phone!). Is there a point at which errors cease to be mistakes and become lies? How many small mistakes in years or level of proficiency from an overestimation of your skills is allowable as ego or ignorance before it turns to an outright lie?

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks @Abbey and @William. So very true - you can't hide from the truth. @Abbey I certainly would not want to be in someone's shoes who lied on their application and then were found out after hired. With our world so global and so connected by social media, if you are found out on a lie and fired for cause, it's going to be VERY hard to find another position. So totally not worth lying in the first place.

  • Abbey Boyd
    Abbey Boyd

    Even if hired, lying on a resume or application is a terminable offense. Why would someone take the chance? It's very tempting to pad your qualifications, but it really isn't worth the risk. If the hiring manager doesn't find the truth, what is going to happen after you're hired? What if you're new job requires you to use some of those fake qualifications? You are going to turn out looking incompetent if you can't figure it out very quickly, and in most cases, it takes time to learn new skills. Some people don't think of this when falsifying their qualifications.

  • William Browning
    William Browning

    What's the adage? "You can run, but you can't hide." Lies on resumes are like running without hiding. Eventually, you run out of energy to keep running and your employer discovers any untruths. Lies can be about previous employment, your skill set, your education or just about anything. Somehow, and at some point in the future, any lies you put on a resume come back to bite you.

  • Amelia Freeman
    Amelia Freeman

    Though tempting, of course these are all great reasons not to lie on a resume. That doesn't even get into the idea that lying about yourself for personal gain is just immoral and wrong - even if you don't get caught. However, I'd love to see a companion piece to this talking about recognizing Imposter Syndrome and refusing to talk about your skills out of a fear of lying. For example, describing minor skills you have such as familiarity with different software, programming languages, and social media can be hard to accurately do if your skill set lies anywhere between "total beginner" and "absolute expert."

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the comments. @Lydia if you find out that someone lied on their application, I agree with @Sean - let them fall - let them go. If they lied about that, what else have they lied about. And, even if you could get past the lie, could you trust them again? Probably not. Case in point was probably about 10 years ago now when a higher up at a great University lied about her education - stating that she had a master's degree. She was hired but, for some reason, her story was checked out later and found out that she did not, in fact, have a master's degree. She was fired that very same day and no other university/college would touch her.

  • Sean Bass
    Sean Bass

    Let them fall!

  • Lydia K.
    Lydia K.

    I agree that it's not worth it to lie on a resume. But fact remains that some people make it through the hiring rounds after stretching the truth on resumes. In some cases, managers overlook the discrepancies because they like the person. And sometimes managers simply never find out that their hire lied about credentials. On the other hand coworkers figure out the truth when the person seems to always try and get others to do their work for them. What is your advice for someone who finds out that a co-worker lied on their resume?

Jobs to Watch