Lying on Your Resume: Why It Won't Work

"It is never OK to misrepresent yourself," said Cathleen Faerber, managing director of The Wellesley Group, Inc., an executive search firm in Buffalo Grove, Ill. "If you have a gap in employment, show the gap. If you didn't complete your course requirements, so you attended, but don't claim a degree."

Likewise, if you never worked on the Hilton account, never held the title of "manager" or never received the Employee of the Year award, don't pretend otherwise.

Tampa-based employment attorney Ed Carlstedt, who's a shareholder with law firm Trenam Kemker, agrees.

"We don't have much tolerance for any fudging," said Carlstedt, who's screened many a recent grad for a position at his firm.

"If someone's got a 3.39 GPA and they bump it to a 3.4, that won't cost the job but it will certainly raise an eyebrow. But if a resume says they have 3.6 and the transcript says 3.3, that's inexcusable."

How Firms Ferret Out the Fibbers

I know what some of you are thinking: "Yeah, how many firms actually check? Who's going to know?"

Anyone with a phone, a computer and a halfway decent BS detector -- that's who.

"A lot of job seekers don't realize that companies do check," said Ron Colaiuti, president of Royce Ashland Group, Inc., a recruiting firm in Monroe Township, N.J.

"Someone will say, 'I worked at Company XYZ from 2000 to 2008,' and then you go on a social media site and it says something different. Out of every 10 candidates, one is lying. One at least. I've been doing this 34 years and I have never encountered so much of this."

Because Colaiuti and his team of recruiters have seen more job hunters "exaggerating, fabricating and outright lying on their resume" since the recession began, his firm has (a) ramped up its reference checks, (b) turned up the scrutiny during candidate phone screens and (c) developed a sixth sense for detecting baloney.

Many other recruiters and hiring managers I spoke to echoed similar sentiments.

"If someone thinks they should put down, "Led the XYZ project; saved X percent," they should expect a question about their leadership style, how they dealt with people who didn't do their work and how the savings were calculated," said Kelley Rexroad, an HR consultant based in Tampa. "If the applicant was just a member of the team, it will show."

But recruiters with a finely tuned BS detector aren't the only ones foiling resume fibbers. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, a majority of employers now run background checks on their applicants. And if you think these searches on your employment and criminal history won't turn up any details you're trying to hide, you're wrong.

"You won't believe what our searches turn up every day," said Joel Goldberg, a spokesperson for Aurico Reports, Inc., a background screening firm based in Arlington Heights, Ill. "Convicted thieves apply for bank jobs. Convicted rapists apply for work in largely female offices."

In fact, Goldberg said, out of the hundreds of thousands of resume checks the firm has performed, "a good one-third have a pretty significant lie." And by "pretty significant," he means fabricated references, salary history, job title, job duties, duration of employment and reason for leaving a company.

Moral of the story: The days of embellishing your bio, resume or online profile with those little whites lie are over. Thanks to the hyper-competitive job market, employers are simply too picky and too skittish to gloss over them.

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