Lying on your resume can be tempting. Perhaps you know, without any doubt, that you have the skills and abilities an employer is looking for. You just do not have the degree. So, you are considering exaggerating the semester of coursework you took 15 years ago, into a degree. Is lying too strong of a word? Perhaps you are more comfortable saying that you embellished your resume, stretched the truth, or slightly overstated your qualifications. Are those phrases more comfortable for you? After all, does not everyone do a little "polishing" or "padding" of their qualifications to make them look better on a resume?
Unfortunately, if you believe the above, your perception is partly true. Surveys indicate that lying on resumes does appear to be on the rise. According to a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), more than 60% of all HR professionals report finding inaccuracies on the resumes that come across their desks. An inaccuracy may not necessarily be a lie. But, an inaccuracy is enough to call your character into question and be the cause of you losing a job offer that you were in the running for, or to be dismissed from a job that you are already in.
That's right. Call it what you may – a lie, an inaccuracy, or an embellishment – exaggerating or inflating your qualifications on your resume can bring an otherwise successful career to a halt. If you have any doubt of this, all you have to do is look to the news where there have been several high-profile cases over the last couple of years, of individuals losing their jobs after a lie on their resume was detected.
The sad part is, as most professional resume writers and career coaches will tell you, that the lies and embellishments are simply not necessary. If well crafted, your resume will highlight your true accomplishments, qualifications, and talents and will downplay any potential weaknesses. Your resume will remain absolutely truthful while still portraying you as a competitive candidate for the jobs you are targeting.
Do you have problem areas or potential weaknesses that you are concerned about how to handle on your resume? The first steps are to recognize those weaknesses and problems for what they are and then to set them as for a moment, while you take a larger-picture look at your professional background. Your resume is a marketing document, and as in all marketing and advertising, your goal is to emphasize and promote your skills, talents, strengths, and potential value add in relation to your job target.
Many times, the solution to dealing with a potential weakness is all in how you structure and format your resume. Think of your resume as being structured similar to a pyramid. The most important and relevant information that you want to emphasize should be presented at the peak of the pyramid – at the beginning of the resume. The information that you want to de-emphasize and downplay should be at the bottom of the pyramid – at the end of the resume.
You should also consider the design of your resume. By thinking creatively and strategically about the way you format your resume and apply various design elements (such as underlining, bolding, or white space), you can draw the readers' eyes to the data and elements that you want to emphasize, while the negatives Fade almost unnoticed into the background. You must be honest on your resume, but there is no reason that you must or should emphasize the problem areas!
Maybe you do not have the exact experience that an employee is seeking, but you do have experience that shows how you have used these skills in another context. Reframing experience to bring transferable skills to the forefront of your resume in a way that will be understood to a future employer is a smart move. Likewise, being selective about what you include in your resume is also smart, as well as being ethical. Always think in terms of relevance and impact. Do not confuse your reader with unlawful experience, qualifications that are not a match for your focus, out-of-date experience, or accomplishments that do not support your value proposition. Your resume is a marketing piece – an advertisement – it is not an autobiography. You do not need to and should not try to include everything.
Most importantly, you should take a close look at the experience you do have and the very real contributions that you made for your past employers. It is very important to place the emphasis of your resume on achievements, quantifying results whenever possible. Document the ways in which your work have benefited your employers, ideally presenting the challenges, the actions, and the results of each situation. Through past achievements and results, you demonstrate your future potential and value. Always remember, you will not get hired for what you KNOW how to do, you will get hired for what you DO with what you KNOW how to do. At the root, every single job is designed to solve a problem, save money, make money, or improve efficiency. Use past examples to clearly demonstrate that you have the proven ability to accomplish these goals for your future employers, and you will be called for an interview regardless of any possible weaknesses.
The consequences of lying on your resume just are not worth it! Companies are growing increasingly savvy to this problem and even if your lies are not immediately detected, you will be found out through through background checks. But with an honest assessment of what you bring to the table, lying on your resume is simply not necessary. You can let the truth shine through! By following the steps outlined in this article, and thinking creatively about ethical strategies you can use to promote your strengths while downplaying your weaknesses, you will find that it is possible to be absolutely truthful will still present as a top candidate. And, if you need help, do not hesitate to call on a professional resume writer. Your career may depend on it!