Studies find lying in resumes is rampant. That said, it’s hard to know how much because every survey reports a different number.
Lying in Resumes
Researchers have found these 4 categories of lies:
- Work histories and job responsibilities
- Level of involvement
Lying in LinkedIn Profiles
Researchers found the same 4 categories of lies on LinkedIn profiles.
But people lie more in their profiles about information that’s hard to verify. Interests would be an example.
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 in LinkedIn profiles.
What the People Who Read Resumes Think
Interestingly, a 2021 study found HR managers believe resumes more than LinkedIn profiles.
A LinkedIn poll I ran in 2020 agreed with the study’s findings:
How to Harm or Destroy Credibility
I see lies seep into resumes and LinkedIn profiles via adjectives and adverbs. Those modifiers seem to tempt people to stretch the truth.
Look at these examples to see how a job seeker might show experience with C-level executives:
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.
Know that adjectives and adverbs make many readers wonder, “Is this person lying?”
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 (here’s an app for that). Then, rewrite to cut them.
Other people get to describe you with adjectives and adverbs. You’ll benefit from sticking to facts.
Employment History Lies
The study didn’t mention job titles and dates, but people lie about them.
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 the keywords on a job posting?
I’m OK with reframing job titles as long as you accurately describe 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.
In summary, tell the truth in your job search materials. That includes your resume, LinkedIn profile, cover letters, and job applications. It will serve you well.
If you need inspiration, look at the executive resumes here.
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Featured by: 3Plus International
Updated January 2023
© 2018 – 2023, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.
Donna Svei, an executive resume writer and former C-level executive, retained search consultant, and CPA, authors all of AvidCareerist’s posts.
She is a Fast Company Contributor and has written for and been quoted by 100+ business and general media outlets, including Forbes, Inc., Entrepreneur, CNBC, the New York Times, USA Today, Time, US News & World Report, CBS, the BBC, Lifehacker, Social Media Today, IT World, and Business News Daily.
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