lying on resume

The Top 4 Resume Lies

Studies consistently find that lying in resumes is rampant, although it’s hard to know how much because every survey seems to report a different number.

But, if you wonder, “Should I lie in my resume?” you’re certainly not alone.

Lying in Resumes

Researchers find that job candidates’ lies group neatly into 4 categories:

  1. Work histories and job responsibilities
  2. Skills
  3. Level of involvement
  4. Interests
Lying in LinkedIn Profiles

When researchers have looked at what people lie about in their LinkedIn profiles, they have found the same 4 topics.

However, people lie more in their profiles about information that’s hard to verify in interviews and background checks — like interests.

They lie less about information that’s easy to verify — like responsibilities.

Lying in Resumes vs. LinkedIn Profiles

Overall, researchers find people lie more in resumes than LinkedIn profiles.

What the People Who Read Resumes Think

Interestingly, a study published in 2021 found HR managers believe resumes more than LinkedIn profiles. Oops.

A poll I ran on LinkedIn agreed with the study’s findings:

trust, linkedin vs. resume

How Credibility is Harmed or Destroyed

In my experience, lies seep into resumes and LinkedIn profiles via adjectives and adverbs. Those modifiers seem to tempt people to stretch the truth.

Look at the following examples of how a job seeker might represent their ability and involvement with C-level executives:

Less believable:

Quickly and successfully built C-level relationships across functional areas.

The words “quickly” and “successfully” reflect opinion. They might be right. They might be fibs. Who knows?

When HR managers and hiring managers see adjectives and adverbs in a resume, many wonder, “Is this person lying?”

More believable:

Served on IT Steering Committee with COO, CIO, and CFO.

That’s pure fact. Facts generate more credibility than opinions.

Cut Adjectives & Adverbs

Read through your resume.

Highlight the adjectives and adverbs (there’s an app for that now), then rewrite to eliminate them.

Other people get to describe you with adjectives and adverbs. You’ll benefit from sticking to facts.

More Job Search Lies

While the study didn’t mention employment dates and job titles, they’re also subject to lies.

Here’s a little advice:

Lying about dates of employment

Rather than lying, avoid using months. Simplify all dates to years (more here).

If someone wants to know more exact dates, they will ask you about them.

Lying about job titles

Again, the study didn’t mention it, but it happens.

What can you do if your job titles don’t mean much or match keywords on a job posting?

I’m OK with reframing job titles as long as you give an accurate description of what you did. I also add parenthetical job titles.

Ask yourself if you would be OK talking about a revised job title during the interview process. Would your referees validate it? If your answers are yes, then you’re good to go.

Summary

In summary, tell the truth in your job search materials, including your resume, LinkedIn profile, cover letters, and job applications. It will serve you well.

If you need inspiration, look at the executive resumes here.

Updated February 2021

© 2018 – 2021, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.

Comments 8

  1. So true that your Linkedin profile should reflect your CV, honesty is always the best policy.

  2. A resume is a preface to your career, experience, skills, and potential. Your resume speaks to the interviewer before you are being asked. Go through the things that you have mentioned in your resume before appearing in an interview because anything can be asked directly or indirectly to you and you have to justify those points on the basis of your work experiences because the people who will be sitting in front of you would be highly professional and can easily judge you. So always be prepared whenever go for an interview.

  3. David,

    Good point! Always be able to talk (credibly) about the information you share on your resume.

    Thank you,

    Donna

  4. I agree on David Ginchansky comment. ! Your profile should genuinely speak about yourself. Its not about getting a job, it about getting a right job with right responsibilities.

  5. It’s easier to just be yourself in your resume. From my experience, it is better to tell the truth and be able to prove all the things you mentioned in your resume at an interview rather than making a resume to match perfectly a job description and find yourself in an embarrassing situation at the interview.

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