Does your resume tell the real truth about you and your work?

As someone who works with resumes and job seekers every day, I know for a fact that there are countless resumes out there that contain lies and falsehoods. These can be:

  • Omissions: Maybe you leave out an entire job or part of the description of your work because it does not represent your best efforts.
  • Exaggerations: You could have been a member of a team, but you state that you were the team leader.
  • Minimizing Qualifications: You think you may be over-qualified for a job, so you “dumb it down” by listing a lower job title and understating your actual responsibilities.
  • Additions of Incorrect Information: This is easy to do if you know the information will not be verified, for example, when it is confidential and cannot be released.

But why? Why do so many people lie on their resumes?

  • Maybe you didn’t have the best time at a past job, for whatever reason. After all, not everyone makes President’s Club each year. And not every project is completed “on time, under budget.”
  • You may have a verbal agreement with a former boss who will verify whatever information you include in your resume. Essentially, the boss is then “in on it.”
  • People are often afraid about lies they included in their resume from years before, but just don’t know how to rectify the problem.

But here is the reality, every single word in your resume should be the whole, unadulterated truth. You are, after all, responsible for your resume and if your business discovers that you lied to get hired, that probably won’t reflect well on your future at that company.

Over the years, I’ve worked with many, many people who have found themselves in a situation where they felt tempted to lie on their resume. Here are a few of the stories:

  • I was doing interview coaching with a man who resigned from his company after getting a DUI in a company truck. When he handed me his resume, he unexpectedly blurted out that there was a lie on it. Years before, he went through all four years of college years, but never took his last class. So he didn’t actually graduate. Both his mother and wife thought he had completed it. We just added three words to the resume and the problem was easily solved.

Confidential University, B.S., Marketing (minus one class)

I was actually the only person he told in 21 years! I genuinely respected him for finally deciding to come clean. He was afraid that he would get caught over those 21 years, so it was a big relief to finally reveal the truth and get his next job on the merits, rather than a lie.

  • Once, a sales professional called me to inquire about my resume writing services. He told me that, if we worked together, he would be giving me exaggerated information about percentages over quota, new client revenue, awards, etc. He then asked if I would be ok with that. I flat out told him “No.”  When working with someone, I don’t verify if what they tell me is 100% true, but I will not write when I know up front that the resume will be full of lies. I suggested that some interview coaching might be helpful to find a way to discuss sales results that were not stellar. I never heard from him again.
  • I once wrote a resume for someone in the swimming pool industry. Years later, he came back to me with a resume full of different job titles, dates, and numbers than the one we originally worked on. In other words, lies. I told him I would only work with him if he was ready to tell the truth. He said no, he was afraid to do that. And besides, his former boss promised he would verify the sales numbers he listed, even though they both knew they were not true. I refunded his money and declined to work with him. He eventually came back to re-engaged me, but with a willingness to tell the truth this time.

So, when you are tempted to lie or exaggerate on your resume, remember these things:

  • My mother always taught me that it is easier to keep track of your truth compared to trying to keep track of your lies. Your mother probably also gave you the same moral guidance.
  • You need to find a way to get past your fear of what potential employers will think, then start to clean up the information on your resume.
  • You must make sure that your truthful information is aligned with your LinkedIn profile and other documents. You will then have more confidence in your interviews, as you know you will be telling the truth!

Mind you, this can be very challenging to figure out how to do this on your own. The solution is to engage some professional help!  A professional resume writer and coach, like myself, will be able to assess the true facts with you, develop a strategy for making changes, and provide guidance all the way through the hiring process once the lies are gone. I promise to be non-judgmental about anything that is less than on the up-and-up on your resume! If there’s one thing that I’ve learned, it’s that there’s always a way to fix the problem.