Peddling porky pies: the risks of stretching the truth for career advancement
Thinking of stretching the truth on your resume to increase your chance of landing a job? Think again.
Candidates can be tempted to pad the information on their resumes, claiming qualifications never completed, job responsibilities that were their previous manager’s, extending dates to add tenure to a role and even exaggerating salaries, in the hope of securing more money in their next role.
It is highly likely your resume and credentials will be checked. Apart from the more formal arrangements many organisations have in place to reference and run background checks, using Google and networking sites can return information such as profiles, articles published, the groups a person belongs to, their interests and other relevant information. Apart from these channels, recruiters will verify a resume discussing the content in detail. It is their job to qualify the information by asking questions, listening and assessing responses and observing body language. They can usually detect inconsistencies and when something is not quite right.
In most cases an inaccurate resume is not necessarily an outright lie, it’s usually a case of the truth being stretched too far. Besides exaggerating salary, many candidates will exaggerate their experience and responsibilities. For example, candidates who want to get into marketing but who have experience in sales will often pad their resume to make it appear that they have much more marketing experience than they actually do, Or someone applying for a management role, when in fact they have not had management responsibilities. One of the most common false claims we see is experience in developing marketing strategy and planning – terms used very loosely. One example of a candidate providing inaccurate information involved a general manager level role for a blue chip brand. The candidate had successfully navigated four interviews and was about to be made an offer, subject to reference and background checks. At this stage some cracks started to appear in relation to role titles and tenure. In addition to our reference checking, the client had commenced their own due diligence and probity. They discovered information on the resume was not correct. As a result the candidate was disqualified.
Where resumes are inaccurate there are usually inconsistencies. When candidates are drilled on the ‘what and how’, they tend to hesitate, and fail to deliver a clear, logical response. Its one thing to stretch the truth on paper, but you have to be good to back it up in the interview. Stretching the truth in this way is a waste of time. Recruiters will get to the truth at some point, and you will likely be disqualified from consideration for the job. In addition the damage to your reputation is long lasting.
So why do candidates exaggerate their resumes and why bother? There are a number of reasons – they are naïve in thinking they won’t get caught, they change dates so their tenure looks more credible – they could have been dismissed or made redundant and don’t want to look incompetent, or they align their experience with that of the job ad, they use their manager’s title because they feel they did what the boss did anyway and believe they deserve the credit, they inflate their salary, particularly if they were paid below the market, or because they believe they deserve more.
In short, if the role you are going for is a good fit, then there should be no reason to stretch the truth, so:
- don’t claim qualifications or education status if incomplete – this can be easily validated by contacting student services,
- don’t fudge your tenure dates – a phone call to HR or payroll can confirm your service period,
- don’t self-anoint – your referees and a call to HR can confirm your role and title,
- make sure your referees are real – not your girlfriend (yes that has happened),
- don’t exaggerate numbers or achievements – your new boss will expect you to deliver the same, if not better,
- don’t inflate your salary – again a phone call to HR or payroll can confirm the details. You may even be asked to produce a pay slip!
It’s important to always be honest with your recruiter: they are the one representing you to a potential employer. The more informed they are the better they can represent you. If the role you are applying for, or being put forward for is a good fit, as it should be, then take the honesty path. Stretching the truth doesn’t pay – let your real qualifications speak for themselves. And finally, beware of Karma. In the end what goes around comes around.