The Truth About Lying On Résumés

November 7, 2014 at 11:53 am Leave a comment

When I was just starting my career as a recruiter, a well-known trainer at my firm would often utter a phrase that used to bother me a lot. He’d say: “All candidates lie on their résumés.” (It reminded me of Hugh Laurie on the TV show House M.D. and his famous pronouncement: “Everybody lies … the only variable is about what.”) Maybe I’m just naive — or perhaps I’m just a trusting person by nature — but I’d like to believe that most people are honest and ethical, and would not intentionally lie or deceive me with false information on their résumés. Still, I know that sometimes people exaggerate, omit things, or stretch the truth here and there to inflate their profiles.

Over the years I’ve worked with a multitude of job-seekers on how to improve their résumés. While I would NEVER encourage anyone to lie or fabricate anything, I do often tell people that unlike a job application, a résumé is not a legal document and there is no requirement that it must contain a complete history of everything you’ve ever done. It should be truthful … but it’s up to each person to decide what to include or not include. For example, I sometimes tell people to not include the months in the dates listed next to each job – instead, showing them only as a range of years. That can often avoid the red flag of seeing brief periods of unemployment between jobs. (See example.) I’ve also advised people that it’s OK to leave off jobs in their work history (especially if they were short-lived) that were unrelated to their main industry or niche. But those omissions are very different than outright lying, or making claims about positions you’ve held or degrees you’ve earned that are simply not true.

The following is a fascinating InfoGraphic I found called “The Truth About Lying on Résumés.” The statistics quoted below were compiled from surveys conducted in 2012 by Accu-Screen (a background checking company,) ADP (a Payroll Services company) and The Society of Human Resource Managers. I have no way of knowing if this is a truly accurate picture of today’s truthfulness (or lack thereof) of the multitudes of résumés I review every week … but I can only hope that the ones I see are more honest than this suggests …

(You can click on the image below to open a full-sized version in a new window. Then click it again in the second window that opens to zoom in.)

Now one would think that in today’s Social Media-saturated world, and especially with the advent of LinkedIn, false claims on résumés would be a rare occurrence. After all, everyone’s past employers and co-workers can now easily view everyone else’s profiles. If someone was less than truthful about their work history, they would be immediately exposed … right? Well, perhaps not. Unless someone is called as a reference, or has a particular axe to grind, most people probably wouldn’t take the time to blow the whistle on someone else even if they see blatantly false information on their online profiles.

Of course, anyone in a highly public position is much more vulnerable than the average worker. Certainly, there have been many examples over the years of famous people who have been caught lying on their résumés in order to get jobs.

Famous Résumé Liars:

► Vice President Joe Biden first ran for president in 1988, but during that campaign it was discovered that he lied about attending law school on a full scholarship (he had only a partial scholarship) and about graduating in the top half of his class (he was 76th out of 85.) When the truth came out, Biden had to abandon his presidential bid. Apparently voters in 2008 and 2012 had either not heard of that earlier history of lying — or didn’t care!

► In 2012, Scott Thompson, CEO of Yahoo!, was fired after only 5 months on the job when it was discovered that he had lied on his résumé. He had stated that he earned degrees in both Accounting AND Computer Science, when in fact he never received the latter.

► In 2007, Marilee Jones, the Dean of Admissions at Massachusetts Institute of Technology resigned after 28 celebrated years at M.I.T. when it became know that she had fabricated her own educational credentials. She claimed to have earned degrees from 3 different colleges: Albany Medical College, Union College and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. In fact, she had no degrees at all! Rensselaer said she only attended as a part-time student during one school year. The other two colleges said they had no record of her.

► In 2006, Dave Edmondson, the CEO of RadioShack, was fired after 11 years with the company when it was revealed that he had lied on his résumé. He had claimed he held degrees in Psychology and Theology from Pacific Coast Baptist College in California. In fact, he never graduated. The school’s records showed Edmondson completed only two semesters, and that the school never even offered degrees in Psychology!

► In 2005, Michael Brown, Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), resigned after his mishandling of the response to Hurricane Katrina. To get that job, Brown had claimed he oversaw emergency services for the City of Edmund, Oklahoma and that he’d worked at the University of Central Oklahoma as a political science professor. In fact, it was later revealed that Brown had only been an assistant to the city manager, which is more like an intern. And school officials at the University of Central Oklahoma said Brown was never a member of their faculty.

► In 2001, George O’Leary was fired from the Head Coaching job at Notre Dame College after only 5 days on the job. O’Leary had claimed to have a Master’s Degree in Education from New York University and had lettered in college football at the University of New Hampshire. O’Leary attended NYU but did not receive a degree. In fact, he had taken only two courses at SUNY – Stony Brook, and never graduated! And he never earned a letter playing football in New Hampshire and never even played in a game there.

Of course, the above examples are only some of the most well know liars who had the misfortune of getting caught in very public positions. It kind of makes you wonder how many other résumé liars fly under the radar, and never get caught!

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Entry filed under: Advice for Job Seekers. Tags: , , , , , .

Comic Relief: Job-Seeking Humor – Volume 6 Job-Seekers’ Top-10 Lists for 2015, and New Year’s Resolutions for 2016

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Michael Spiro

About the Author:

Michael Spiro has been a 3rd-Party Recruiter and Account Executive for over 15 years. He is currently the Director of Recruiting / NE Ohio Region for Experis Finance, a dedicated business unit of ManpowerGroup. Other recent positions include President of Midas Recruiting, a boutique head-hunting firm, Director of Talent at Patina Solutions, and Executive Recruiting positions with two of the largest search firms in North America. Before his career in the staffing industry, Michael was a manager in a large non-profit social-services organization. And in a former life, Michael was active in the entertainment industry, with extensive road-warrior experience as a touring performer (singer-songwriter / guitarist / comedian) and as a recording artist, producer and booking agent.  [More...]

Index (by Topic):

Résumés & Cover Letters:
 The "T" Cover Letter - The
         Only Type Worth Sending

 The Brutal Truth on How
         Résumés Get Eliminated

 Explaining Short Job Stints
         and Employment Gaps

 The Résumé Test &
         Checklist: Does Yours
         Pass?

 Beating the Résumé-
         Elimination Game: Where
         Do Recruiters' Eyes Go?

 The Truth About Lying on
         Résumés

Networking:
 How to Network: A
         Step-by-Step Guide for
         Job Searching

 Looking for Networking in
         All the Wrong Places

 Targeted Networking: How
         to Effectively Reach Out

 The Art of Giving: the Key to
         Effective Networking

Interviewing:
 Face-to-Face Interviews:
         Secrets, Tricks and Tips

 Phone Interviews: Secrets,
         Tricks and Tips

 Skype Interview Tips ...
         Welcome to the Future!

 Nuggets: A Secret
         Interviewing Technique

 Answering the Dreaded
         Salary Question

 20 Surefire Ways to Blow
         an Interview

 "So, Do You Have Any
         Questions?" Nailing the
         Interview Closer

 Cool InfoGraphic: "What
         You Wish You'd Known
         Before Your Job
         Interview"

Age Discrimination:
 Age Discrimination: Secret
         Conversations Revealed

 Age Discrimination:
         Exposing Inconvenient
         Truths

 Are You "Overqualified?"
         Handling the Age Issue

 Baby Boomers to the
         Rescue! An Idea Whose
         Time Has Come ...

 Overcoming Job-Search
         Obstacles and
         Redefining Your Career
         After 50

 Advice for Recent Grads
         and Career-Changers

Switching Jobs:
 The Proper Way to
         Quit a Job

 Counteroffers: Just Say No!

General Job-Seeking Info:
 The Real Truth About
         Working with Recruiters

 Contract/Consulting Jobs
         Explained ... Available in
         3 Different Flavors

►  What Recruiters Say
         vs. What Job-Seekers
         Hear

►  The Dirty Truth About
         Misleading Unemployment
         Statistics

►  Let the Jobs Find You:
         Making Yourself More
         "Searchable"

 "Help ... I Need a Job!" A
         9-Step Guide for Newly
         Minted Job-Seekers

 Avoiding the "Black Hole
         of HR"

 Is Your Elevator Pitch
         Taking You UP
         or DOWN?

 Time Management: Recipe          for a Well-Balanced Job          Search
 Getting Un-Stuck from your
         Rut!

 The Double-Whammy of
         Rejection and Isolation

 "Unemployed Need Not
         Apply" - Working Around
         This Scary Message

 Using Social Media to
         Enhance Job-Searching

 Warning: That Rant You
         Posted Just Went Viral!

 The Golden Rule for
         Business: Never Burn
         Bridges

 The Power of a Positive
         Attitude

 Why Job Hunting is a
         Consultative Sales
         Position

 Top 10 Most Helpful Things
         for Job Seekers

 Top 10 Most Annoying
         Things for Job Seekers

 New Year's Resolutions for
         Unemployed Job-
         Seekers

Job-Seeking Humor:
 Comic Relief: Volume 1
 Comic Relief: Volume 2
 Comic Relief: Volume 3
 Comic Relief: Volume 4
 Comic Relief: Volume 5
 Comic Relief: Volume 6
 "In Transition" and Other
         Awkward Euphemisms

 Candidates Gone Wild:
         Recruiter Horror Stories

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