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Lying On A Resume: Here's What It Can Cost You

Lying On A Resume: Here's What It Can Cost You

If you are a fan of the hit series Friends, you probably remember the episode in which one of the most colorful characters, that of Joey, was on a dance audition.

In his actor resume, he included things like:

  • 3 years of modern dancing with Twyla Tharp
  • 5 years with the American ballet theatre

None of the above were true.

And things got even more complicated when at the audition the dance captain didn’t show up and Joey had to step up (as the guy with the most experience) and explain the dancing steps to the rest of the group.

What happened?

Joey not only failed but also didn’t get the job.

Lying on a resume about everything from degree and other credentials to previous employment history could cost you an offer of employment.

See why resumes are screened closely and what you can do to prevent an embarrassment.

What happens if you lie on your resume

We never recommend it, but if it happens for some reason, lying on a resume can lead to unwanted consequences such as: losing the job.

During the initial background check, calls to past employers, and multiple interviews through the hiring process, lies are very likely to get detected.

As a job seeker you are probably asking yourself:

  • Do background checks show work history?
  • Do employers actually call past employers?

Background checks show not only your work experience but much more. It’s a process by which companies are finding their best candidate by checking education and employment history, civil records, references, and even criminal records.

It confirms whether applicants are who they claim to be and if the information on the resume is reliable.

Moreover, most of the companies will verify the position you last held as it is listed in your summary by contacting your past employers.

In the end, the answer to both questions above depends on the industry and job. Larger organizations will have more resources to research your history than some small retail shop.

In the following paragraphs, you will find common problems that may occur with your resume containing lies.

Your university cannot confirm your graduation

Lying about your education is probably the worst idea. Claiming to be a graduate from a prestigious University, while you have a degree from a no-name state alma mater not only shows you in a bad light, but it’s easy to catch.

While some of the employers might take you at your word, most of them will check your educational background by direct call or using a National Student Clearinghouse.

We know that lying on your resume to get your desired job might be tempting, but avoid doing it. In the end, there is nothing worse than starting your career with such a bad experience.

You fail at the skills assessment test

It’s easy to say you are proficient in something. On the other hand, proving it might be difficult.

Employers know how simple it is for job seekers to exaggerate their skills, so adding a test is not something uncommon.

When you are in an interview, hiring managers can ask you a variety of questions to check your language or skills level and to reassure themselves that you can provide the quality needed for the job.

Failing such a basic test is a sure sign that you’ve either overestimated or stretched out the truth about your abilities and that can cost you the potential job.

Your employment or education dates do not add up

No matter how tempted you are to fill the gaps in your work or education history by fudging the dates, don’t do it!

A single call to your latest employer or your University is all that it takes for someone to check and find out the real period of your employment and education.

The result?

You will end up losing the desired position and any dignity.

There is a proven way to make your resume stand out even if you lack work experience.

In our detailed guide, we show you how to create a resume without work experience with more than 6 sections where you can demonstrate impact.

You've got over-the-top job titles

Do you know that the majority of the hiring managers agreed that it’s acceptable to modify your job title on a resume and lying about it is justifiable if it doesn’t reflect an applicant’s responsibilities?

Shocking right?

We still don’t recommend it.

Most of the recruiters will still call your ex-employer and confirm the position you held, so be trustworthy.

The lie is a lie and it can hurt your chances of landing a job interview.

At the interview, you're not specific about your skills or experience

If you are using vague phrases like “involved in” or “familiar with” to describe your skills or experience level, you might be in trouble.

Hiring managers know that using such terms is a signal that you lack direct experience in the field.

The skill section can be considered as one of the main weapons to reinforce your resume if you don’t have enough employment history, so don’t lie about it.

Instead, highlight both soft and hard skills that you possess and present yourself in the best possible way. Learn how to create a proper Skills section here!

The recruiter has googled the real you

We are living in a time when the number of employers using social media to screen candidates is at an all-time high.

With Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social media, hiring managers can easily look up your social media profiles and see if your education and working history check out.

No matter if you decide to lie about your ex-employer, year of graduation, job title, or skills, your lie can sometimes be easily exposed by a simple Google search.

Consequences of lying on a job application

If you’re caught lying in the hiring process, you can forget about a job offer.

If the organization discovers you lied after you’ve been put on the payroll, your lies can be

considered as grounds for termination and you can be fired.

And there is more…

Lying on your resume can lead to the loss of the professional license. This applies to lawyers, nurses, doctors, and other professions where there is a board that oversees the administration of licenses.

Moreover, not telling the truth in your resume can cost you the right to sue the employer if there are any legal claims against it, such as termination based on racial discrimination.

In the end, your name can be blacklisted and that will significantly decrease your chances of finding a new job.

Is it Illegal to Lie on a Resume?

Yes, in certain circumstances lying on a resume can lead to criminal responsibility.

In what circumstances, you wonder.

For example, lying about military service can be prosecuted under the Stolen Valor Act. Moreover, if you are applying for federal or government work, lying to the federal or state government agencies can be considered a crime.

Last but not least, you can be charged with a criminal fraud offense. Although many lies may not seem prosecutable if your lie led to substantial damage to a person or business then you can find yourself in big trouble.

Are there any acceptable lies?

No, but you can implement a tactic in which you “lie” on your resume by setting yourself goals to achieve and slowly turn those “lies” into reality. Needless to say, that’s not a resume you should apply with.

Check how to create an eye-catching goals section in your resume here!

There are 3 more questions that probably pop up in your mind regarding lying on a resume, and we will give an answer to each of them!

Can I lie about being laid off?

First of all, let’s clarify the difference between getting fired and being laid off.

You can be fired by the employer for various reasons like inability to perform, misconduct, etc.

On the other hand, a layoff is the result of the downsizing of a company due to financial trouble or company restructuring.

So, being laid off is not something you should be ashamed of since the reason is not related to your work performance.

Again we do not recommend lying about the way you separated from your previous employer.

Instead, be honest in the interview, use a positive tone, and explain the situation. The recruiter will appreciate your honesty!

Can you lie about volunteering?

In theory yes, but why do it?

Volunteering is a noble act in which you serve and help others without expecting anything in return.

By lying about it, you can end in a humiliating situation.

If you need volunteer work to list on a resume application, there are endless options you could do, and it won’t take that long.

Can I omit employment history?

Yes, you can and there is nothing dishonest about doing so.

How many people lie on their resumes?

According to a study from the reference checking company Checkster, 78% of candidates who applied for or received a job offer in the last half-year admit they would consider misrepresenting themselves or lying.

That’s massive!

Below, you can see the most common lies told during the hiring process and the percentage of candidates who have or would consider telling them:

  • Saying they achieved goals they didn’t: 33%
  • Earning a degree from a prestigious university: 39%
  • Holding a director title when the actual role was a manager or another equivalent: 41%
  • Working at a company longer than they did in order to omit another employer: 50%
  • Having a mastery of skills, they barely use: 60%

Basically, everything that we have covered in this article…

What to do when you've lied on your resume

If you lied about your skills or level of language proficiency the best you can do is make the lie true. Study that foreign language you said you were fluent in. Learn more about the software you stated you are familiar with. Finish your degree if you have already claimed to.

Do what you must to meet the new employer’s expectations.

If you were insincere about the exact dates of employment, job title, or total compensation, you can tell your hiring manager you’ve noticed some mistakes and want to update your resume.

Another option is to withdraw your resume. By doing it you don‘t have to explain why you’re withdrawing.

Should I come clean about lying on my resume?

Although that might cause you not to get hired or lose your current job, this is the best and most reasonable option.

In the end, integrity and honesty are the pillars of a good, successful, and long career.


Looking back at the example of Joey from Friends, if you don’t know what “rond de jambe” is, don’t include it in your resume!

Let’s summarize:

  • There are many ways to get caught lying during the hiring process.
  • Lying on your job application can lead to a variety of consequences, even criminal responsibility.
  • There are no acceptable lies, but you can implement a tactic in which you “lie” on your resume by setting goals for yourself and slowly turning those “lies” into reality.
  • 78% of candidates who applied for or received a job offer in the last half-year considered misrepresenting themselves or lied.
  • Integrity and honesty are pillars of a good, successful, and long career.
  • There are white hat methods to fill the gap in your education and employment.


What did you think of this article? Have you ever lied on your resume? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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Kal Dimitrov
Kal is a resume expert @ Enhancv. He frequently publishes blog posts around resume writing, cover letters & job applications. Kal also runs a Career Accelerator Bootcamp for young graduates.
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