How To Avoid A Lie On Your Resume (With Reasons Not To)

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 24 February 2023

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

While employers expect job seekers to provide accurate details of their skills, qualifications and work experience in their resume, some candidates may embellish these to enhance their capabilities. Depending on how they present the information, they may face serious consequences later. By understanding the repercussions of lying on your resume, you can make an effort to avoid misrepresenting facts in your job application. In this article, we discover what a lie on your resume is, what are the consequences of lying on your resume and how to write a truthful resume that can impress recruiters.

What Is A Lie On Your Resume?

A lie on your resume can come within the category of lying by commission, lying by omission or both. Lying by commission can include deliberate false statements about how qualified you are, your proficiency level in specific work areas, your work experience or the college you attended. Lying by omission involves not telling the complete truth by excluding essential details, such as stating you know a foreign language but not mentioning your lack of fluency. The most common lies that employers may discover in resumes include the following:

  • Claiming mastery over barely used skills

  • Inflating technical abilities

  • Exaggerating work achievements

  • Giving a fake address

  • Lying about their job title in their previous role

  • Providing falsified references

  • Adding fraudulent degrees

  • Making inflated salary history claims

  • Showing wrong employment dates

Related: 10 Best Skills To Include On A Resume (With Examples)

What Are The Consequences Of Lying On Your Resume?

The exact consequences of lying on your resume may vary. It depends on what you lied about, if you get caught and how much it matters to the employer. Here are a few things that can happen:

You get disqualified from the hiring process

During the hiring process, if the employer discovers that there is a lie on your resume, they may or may not inform you that they are aware of your falsehoods. But, they may probably flag you as do not hire and discard your application. You may not get another chance to interview with that company.

Related: Recruitment Process: A Step-by-Step Guide

You get hired based on your lies

Some employers may not bother to verify the information in your resume. They may hire you based on the impression you make during the interview. They may not even discover that you have lied unless any issues arise with your work performance at a later date.

You are forced to keep lying

The main problem you are likely to face after being hired is the issue of sustaining your lies on an everyday basis. You are required to remember the details of everything you lied about and keep perpetuating those lies to avoid anyone finding them out. That could cause you a lot of stress, prevent you from building healthy work relationships and affect the quality of your work.

You can get caught at any time

You might find yourself in embarrassing situations like the following:

  • The employer summons you to speak to a foreign guest in the foreign language in which you falsely claimed to be fluent.

  • The employer assigns you a technical project based on your claims of technical proficiency and you are unable to do it.

  • The employer runs into your previous coworker, gets into a discussion about you and learns that instead of being a supervisor overseeing several employees, you held a minor position with no authority over anyone.

  • The employer runs a reference and background check on you and discovers the false claims in your resume.

You can get fired from your job

When the employer discovers you have not been truthful and have misrepresented your abilities, qualifications and experiences, they may see it as a serious breach of trust. They may decide that your lack of ethics could prove problematic for their company in the long term. Based on that, they may fire you from your position immediately.

You cannot challenge their decision or even have any recourse against them for any illegal actions on their part. Since you got the job on a fraudulent basis, you may not be able to hold them legally accountable for their acts.

Related: What Does Laid Off Mean? (And How To Deal With It)

You might face legal action

If the lies on your resume adversely impacted the company or other people connected to the company, the consequences could be more serious than getting fired from your position. The employer might initiate legal proceedings against you. Depending on the severity of your lies, you could find yourself paying compensation, facing time in prison or both.

You could lose your reputation

Whatever industry you work in and in the digital age especially, it is generally easy for bad news to spread around. People may find out about how you lied and the consequences you had to face on account of it. That is likely to harm your professional reputation and reduce the number of career opportunities coming your way.

Related: How To Develop A Code Of Professional Ethics (With Examples)

You might face difficulties in finding employment

Other employers may not be willing to risk hiring you if you have a history of falsifying information. Or they may ask you to work for them for low wages and unfavourable work terms. If things get too bad, you might find it necessary to change your career.

How To Write A Truthful And Impressive Resume?

While finding a job can be challenging, you can get interviews without embellishing your resume with false claims. Even if you lack skills or experience, employers may be willing to consider you for your integrity. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Read the job description carefully

Before customising your resume for each new job application, read the job description carefully and understand the employer's exact requirements. Prepare your application only if you have the educational qualifications, work experience and skills that the employers require in candidates. If you are not an exact match, check if you have other strengths that can compensate and prove beneficial for the position.

Related: Importance Of A Job Description (With Tips To Review It)

2. Provide accurate credentials

Give your exact educational qualifications and check your certificates to make sure that you have correctly written the names of the educational institutions, the course names and the dates of your attendance. Review your previous work positions and provide correct work titles, salaries, job duties and dates of employment. If you have gaps in your employment history, be prepared to give a reasonable and honest explanation.

3. Highlight relevant skills

Assess your skills and highlight those that match or are close to the employer's expectations. You can describe how the relevant skills helped you make significant contributions in your previous positions. It can also help to mention that you are a quick learner and willing to pick up new skills to advance in your career.

Related: What Is Relevant Experience? (With Examples and Tips)

4. Mention your proficiency levels

When you include your skills in your resume, it is essential to mention how proficient you are at them. It is honest to do so, prevents misunderstandings and gives the employer a correct estimate of your capabilities. List the skills you are most proficient in at the top of the skills section. You can list the skills with which you have less expertise below these or exclude them altogether.

5. Specify your achievements

Employers want to know about your work-related achievements since these can give them an idea about what you might accomplish at their company if they hire you. It is advisable to provide verifiable examples of what you achieved in your previous roles. You can further give details about how your achievements helped your previous employers to accomplish their business goals and stay competitive in the market.

Using numbers to quantify your achievements could impress potential employers and convince them to consider your application. For example, you could mention the number of products you sold or the percentage by which you increased sales. If you had a supervisory role, talk about the number of people you had working under you and what you did to ensure smooth work coordination and completion.

6. Recheck all the information

It is easy to make mistakes or overlook details, so it is advisable to recheck all the information in your resume at least two or three times. Reading each word aloud can help you focus on what you have written and ensure accuracy and readability. Check that you have used a simple language since the recruiters reading your resume may not be specialists in your field and might not be familiar with the technical jargon.

It is also advisable to use action verbs like managed, accomplished, developed or created where necessary, as these can make the written matter seem more persuasive. After you have rechecked your resume, you can ask a family member, friend or colleague to go through it and give you their honest feedback. If they make suggestions for improving it, you can consider incorporating those.

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