Why You Should Keep Your Resume Honest

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If you’ve been job searching for a long time and not getting many offers, you might be tempted to lie on your resume. This is always a bad idea. There’s never a good reason not to be honest when you’re writing your resume.

Maybe you won’t get caught, but what if you are? Not only is stretching the truth on your resume the wrong thing to do, but it’s likely to come back to bite you. In the worst-case scenario, you’ll get caught, either immediately, during a background check, or years down the road, and you'll lose the offer or the job. It’s not unlikely: history is full of cases of successful people whose careers were undone because of a falsified education credential or an invented job title on their resume.

There’s a lot to lose and nothing to gain by embellishing your resume to get chosen for an interview.

But even if you never get caught, lying on your resume can destroy your career by inches. For one thing, you’d have to spend the rest of your time at that job hoping that no one ever finds out. Plus, you’ll have secured the job under false pretenses, which means that you might not be qualified to do the work and succeed.

Get the Facts Straight

Even if you take a leap and decide it's worth fudging the truth and taking a chance on getting caught, be sure you know what you put on your resume. I've interviewed candidates who either had a really bad memory when it came to their employment history or who had fudged more than a few details. Unfortunately for them, it only took a quick reference check to confirm that their resume wasn't accurate.

It's also important to get the facts straight. When you list results—goals you've met, sales numbers you've made, anything quantifiable—be sure that what you tell the interviewer matches what's on your resume. Again, if you're not honest, it's going to be an issue for potential employers.

Even if you are honest, it’s important to be clear and accurate about your work history and achievements and to remember what you’ve put down on your application materials. It’s possible to be totally forthright and factually correct and still make a mistake about your dates of employment or a job title from ten years ago.

If you’re not certain about the details of your employment history, do some digging before you send out your resume and cover letter. Verify dates with the Social Security Administration, Internal Revenue Service, and old employers so that you can be 100 percent sure that you’re presenting the correct information. Many employers conduct some sort of employment history verification; you don’t want to look as though you’re lying when you’re telling the truth.

For the same reason, it’s equally important to go over the details of your history and achievements with former colleagues and bosses who write references and/or recommendations. Don’t trust that their memories are the same as yours.

How to be Honest on Your Resume and Get the Job

The good news is that you don’t have to lie to make a good impression. With a little honest finessing, your actual experience and skills can help you get the job. David Adams, Vice President of Learning and Development of Adecco Group North America, offers these tips:

Be honest. When it comes to resumes, potential employers are on the lookout for exaggerated skills or results. Grossly overstating your accomplishments can send up a red flag that may come back to haunt you during an interview—or eliminate your chances of securing an interview in the first place.

So, be honest; even if your embellishments make it past a recruiter or potential employer, you're setting yourself up for failure by misrepresenting yourself and your abilities.

Quantify your results. Wherever possible, include dollar amounts. If you managed a sizable budget or inked a big deal, be sure to mention this. Employers want to see what you've done, and numbers are a great way to show them.

Know the numbers. Likewise, if the number of people you managed or the number of programs you developed was significant, focus on that information. Showing that you've made good use of your time at another job helps employers visualize what you can do for them.

Don't bury the lead. With hundreds of resumes to go through, hiring managers can only spend a limited amount of time skimming each one. You need to get your message across right away and convince them that your skills and experience are what they're seeking. Make sure that key information is either listed first or presented in a manner that makes it stand out.

Mention "off-the-job" experience. Be sure to highlight any skills, education, community/volunteer work, and additional schooling that pertain to your particular job area or that a potential employer might view as an asset. Include any accomplishments and notable professional awards or recognition you have earned.

Professionalism is key. Including photographs, hobbies unrelated to the job, or personal information is unnecessary.