We’ve all been there: you’re two months into a job search and have yet to get so much as an interview,let alone an employment offer. You are worried, tired, and frustrated, and you are willing to do just about anything to land a job. You’re convinced that your resume isn’t strong enough to catch the eyes of hiring managers, so you decide to do something about it: you decide to add a few, shall we say, embellishments to make yourself look like a stronger candidate.
According to Monster, nearly 50% of job applicants lie on their resume in some fashion. Some job searchers like to call these lies “embellishments.” Others consider them “white lies.” The practice is also labeled as resume “padding” or “fudging.” Regardless of what applicants call these acts of dishonesty, they have a more serious designation among employers: resume fraud.
Why You Need to Know about Resume Fraud
Whether you are a job seeker or a hiring manager, you need to know about resume fraud. You need to know more than the statistics about how many candidates have admitted to resume padding or how many employers have caught applicants lying on their resumes.
If you are a job seeker, you need to know what you risk from a legal perspective the moment you “embellish” a detail or two on your CV. As an employer, you need to know what resume fraud has the potential to cost your business—and what you can do to mitigate those risks. Read on to learn more about resume fraud from both sides of the table.
Job Applicants and the Risk of Resume Fraud
A statistic like the one cited above from Monster—that roughly half of all job applicants lie on their resumes—shows just how commonplace resume fraud has become. Unfortunately, for some people, statistics like this one seem to function as some sort of “free pass.” There is a toxic mentality within job-seekers saying, “Well, everyone else is doing this, so I can do it as well” when it comes to resume padding.
Unfortunately, the “everyone else is doing it” argument won’t help you if you get caught. According to a 2014 CareerBuilder survey, 51% of employers would automatically disqualify an applicant if they discovered a lie on his or her resume. Another 40% said they would make their decisions on a case-by-case basis, depending on the severity of the lie.
In other words, if you get caught lying on a resume before you get hired, it will likely significantly hurt your chances of getting hired. Some lies (like fabricating a college degree or lying about a professional license) would hurt more than others, but even the smallest fabrications can hurt you if a hiring manager finds out.
Let’s imagine you lie on a resume and get the job. Congratulations, you got away with it…except you really didn’t. There is always the chance that your fib could be discovered a month, year, or decade down the road, and when it comes out, it could ruin your career. In most cases, employers will have valid and legal grounds to fire you if they discover you have been dishonest—no matter how long ago you initially told the lie.
Depending on where you live, you could face criminal charges for lying on your resume. A good number of employers consider resume padding to be a form of fraud, and resume fraud is an enforceable legal infraction in several states. In Texas, claiming a college degree you don’t possess to get a job is considered a Class B misdemeanor, with a maximum prison sentence of six months. In Kentucky, the offense is a Class A misdemeanor, which could earn you a year in prison. In New Jersey, you won’t go to jail, but you could face up to $1,000 in fines for each offense.
Employers and the Battle against Resume Padding
As you can see, lying on a resume is a sizable risk for job searchers—one that could cost you your money, job, reputation, and freedom. The reason for these hefty consequences is that resume fraud is not a victimless crime. The victim in each case is the employer. The commonplace nature of resume padding has put employers in a difficult position in which they need to take every resume, reference, and interview response with a grain of salt. Sure, there are still plenty of honest people out there, but there are also many people who are misrepresenting their professional qualifications and trying to hoodwink their way into employment.
When an employer falls for resume fraud, the resulting consequences vary in severity. Perhaps you hire someone who doesn’t have the technical skills to perform the job at hand, and consequently your services must grind to a halt temporarily. Maybe you hire someone who is not legally permitted to perform the job because he or she doesn’t hold the necessary degrees or licenses, and you rapidly lose a worker you had relied on to meet important deadlines. Maybe you hire someone with a bad habit for dishonesty who goes on to lie to you about numerous work-related issues in the future.
These types of bad hires can cost your company money and productivity (due to additional hiring, training, and onboarding costs) and can even pose legal and reputational risks if you end up in the headlines.
The way to defend against resume fraud is through due diligence.
You need to run background checks—including verifications of education, professional licensing, and past employment. You need to do reference checks to get second and third opinions. You need to look for “smaller” fibs—GPA rounding, padded employment dates, etc.—as possible indicators of larger lies elsewhere on the resume. You might even consider using skills testing to make sure that your candidate is competent enough to do the job. These steps will help you spot resume lies and disqualify dishonest applicants before they can damage your organization.
Sadly, resume fraud is prevalent in job market. However, it’s important to realize that there are ways to rise above this unique challenge. If you are a job searcher, you must recognize the risks inherent in resume padding and choose to rise above the practice—even if it seems like “everyone else is doing it.” If you are an employer, you must have procedures in place designed to reliably catch liars. Take a “trust, but verify” approach with every position you fill. Doing so will help you avoid the potentially dire consequences that resume fraud can bring.