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:
- Work histories and job responsibilities
- Level of involvement
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:
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:
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?”
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.
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.
Donna Svei, an executive resume writer and former C-level executive, retained search consultant, and CPA, authors all of AvidCareerist’s posts. She has written for and been quoted by 100+ business and general media outlets, including Forbes, Mashable, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur, the New York Times, USA Today, Time, CBS, the BBC, Lifehacker, Social Media Today, IT World, SmartBrief, and Business News Daily.
Let her expertise inform your job search strategy and decision making.
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