Why you shouldn’t lie on your resume

“If you don’t meet all the qualifications for a job you want, you should embellish your resume to fit” is common advice that often makes the rounds on social media. Recent research shows that more than 55% of people admit to lying on their resume. You may even know a few folks for whom this strategy worked out. However, as recruiters, we can’t stress enough that this is terrible advice, regardless of how well it “works” for some.  

Reason number one: It is not ethical. 

Quality companies want to hire honest, trustworthy people and expect honesty and integrity from applicants throughout the hiring process. If you get caught misrepresenting your qualifications, you will, at best, lose the job opportunity and damage your professional reputation. At worst, you could face legal issues to support the lie on the resume, depending on the lie and if you lied in a legal document. 

Reason number two: You will get busted. 

Most employers DO conduct thorough background checks and verification procedures, especially for more senior roles within the company. In the age of social media and Google, it’s laughably easy to discover where and when applicants graduated from college or if they held a specific role at another company. Suppose the hiring company finds any discrepancies between your resume and actual qualifications. In that case, it will likely lead to a rescinded offer and block you from applying to that company for any other roles.    

While we’re talking about integrity and trustworthiness – if you are caught in a lie that doesn’t damage your reputation or lose you the opportunity, think about what that would mean for the people who hired you and the company culture. Do you want to work for people who don’t value honesty?   

Reason number three: Lying is exhausting and distracting. 

 Even if you get the job you fudged the details for, you now must spend your entire time with that company remembering to keep up your lie. If you lied in multiple places, that is even more stress and mental work keeping your story straight. Starting a new role is challenging and mentally taxing enough without maintaining that you have a qualification you don’t.   

So, what do you do if you want to apply for a role you think you’d be good at but lack some of the listed qualifications for? Instead of embellishing your resume, highlight your genuine skills, experiences, and achievements relevant to that position. Address any missing education or experience proactively in a positive manner during interviews or on cover letters, which can show your willingness to learn and grow in the role. Working through a recruiter to figure out how to best showcase your talents also can’t hurt!    

The takeaway is that honesty and transparency are vital to a successful and ethical professional career. You may not get your foot in the door for an interview whenever you think you deserve one, but the interviews and roles you do land will go much smoother.