Human Resources News & Insights

5 resume lies they hope you don't catch

Depending on who you believe, either some or most job applicants stretch the truth in their resumes. Here are the most common lies HR managers are told.

The issue’s gotten some press lately, as both Food Network chef Robert Irvine and Lee McQueen, a contestant on the British version of The Apprentice, were recently ousted as having lied to get their TV jobs.

Apparently they aren’t alone — 48% of job-seekers have stretched the truth on a resume, while 10% have told bold-faced lies, according to a survey by Other studies report discrepancies in as many as 56% of all resumes.

Things you’ll find in a background check

What truths are being stretched? These are the most common areas:

  • Compensation — Some applicants seem to think the easiest way to get a higher starting salary is to lie about their current pay. Many employers ask about this when they check references, but some have even started asking candidates to turn over pay stubs. (Look out, though — that might be a big turn-off for the candidate.)
  • Title — Candidates might make up phony titles to sound more important, or because their current employer uses esoteric titles that wouldn’t mean much to an outsider. Either way, that’s another thing that’s easy to check with a reference. Also, you should remind hiring managers to focus on what candidates did, rather than what they were called.
  • Education — Candidates lie about their education surprisingly often. Common lies about school: fudging dates to appear older or younger, claiming degrees that were started but never finished, and listing degrees from an institution that doesn’t even exist.

Other fibs

Those discrepancies are the easiest to catch in a background check, but that hasn’t stopped folks from trying anyway. About 20% of HR managers say they’ve caught someone lying about a previous job, while 16% have exposed lies about academic degrees.

Also, there are other kinds of lies that can’t be easily uncovered by talking to an old boss. Two more common areas:

  • Accomplishments — This usually involves taking credit for previous co-workers’ work. For example, people might say they “led” a team when they were really just one of many members. The best way to figure what accomplishments the candidate can rightly take credit for? Probing deeply in the interview. A series of questions such as “What was your biggest challenge? How did you overcome it? What kind of help did you have?” should help you get the real story.
  • Technical skills — Beyond official academic training, candidates might exaggerate proficiency in computer programs and other areas. How should you guard against it? If it’s something a position requires, consider giving some kind of test, or making sure you hire someone who had to use those skills in a previous job.
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  • Great posting, I will be linking to it from our blog. We have a whole series on Resume and CV Fraud.

  • Jeremy

    Sir, with all do respect and For the record I never said i didnt hire him… becuase I did! I was just giving an example of how someone can lie becuase it seems to help them when the truth was I was looking for young buck and if he would have told me his real age he would have been hired on the spot.

    As far as the suing thing goes, its whatever… I hire who I need based on what I need. I dont care if your 20 or 80 if you can do what I need you to do. For example I am not going to hire a 60 year old to stack steel with the rest of us. That in my mind is not discrimation at all. That is good business. I dont know how it works for “office folk” and frankly I am glad that I dont.

    Thanks for the advice and good day to all of you’s

    Dont take a comment as something it is not…

  • Edward

    {I dont care if your 20 or 80} {I am not going to hire a 60 year old} ???

    The court of law does not care what is “in the mind” of anyone. If you state you will not hire someone that is 60 to stack steel – that is discrimination. If you state you will not hire someone that cannot lift the required weight – that is a BFOQ.

    “Office Folk”, “general labor”, “skilled labor” etc. . . all fall under the same laws.

    The admission part that I mentioned, is that you stated you were looking for someone “22ish” there are plenty of 22ish people that are weaker and have less stamina than some 60ish people. By stating that you were “looking for a young buck” you are opening yourself to a potential lawsuit.

    I NEVER meant to offend – just help protect you and your company. Take the time to state things in terms that match the job description. If the reasons you disqualify a candidate are based on the job description (and the job description should closely match the job) then no court of law will find you guilty.

    BTW what area of the country is your company?

  • Wayne

    Off the record I think that there is WAY too much Federal regulation in all aspects of our lives. It is a sad day when you spend 70% of your day covering your butt because you want to get good people to work for you, but you have to play a million games to make it happen and to “appear” that you are being non-biased. Get real! We are humans, there is no way to be impartial about anything. We were born to discriminate to an extent. If I see a tiger, I’m going to get scared- I am not going to wait around to see if he is a man eater or not because I am afraid of being non PC to the tiger.

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