Human Resources News & Insights

The 6 worst resume lies – and what HR can learn from them

If a major player like Yahoo can’t catch the padded resume of its CEO, what chance do small firms have? Fear not — new research points HR pros to the areas candidates are most likely to fib.

Eight percent of Americans admit to embellishing or exaggerating info on their resume, according to recent research from FindLaw.

You may be thinking, “That’s not that bad.” But the consequences can be disastrous.

Take Yahoo. The Internet corporation recently ousted CEO Scott Thompson when a shareholder called him out on padding his credentials.

Thomspon claimed he’d received bachelor’s degrees in computer science and accounting from Stonehill College in Easton, MA.

Turns out he was only half right — the computer science degree was bogus.

Thompson resigned after only four months on the job.

Not the first time it’s happened

Thompson isn’t the only one to have his little white lie come back and bite him. Of the people who admitted to padding their resume on the FindLaw survey, 27% of them lost their jobs when the info was discovered.

Other recent examples:

  • Celebrity chef Robert Irvine claimed he cooked White House dinners, created Princess Diana’s wedding cake and was knighted by the queen. Pretty amazing stuff — except it was all made up. Irvine lost his television show on the Food Network in 2008 as a result.
  • George O’Leary was hired to coach football for Notre Dame University in 2001 — and fired four days later. O’Leary falsely claimed to have graduated with a master’s degree from New York University and earned three varsity letters.
  • New Zealand television exec John Davy was sent to jail for eight months for resume fabrications, including that he worked for the BC Securities Commission in Canada, authored two books and had an MBA — from a school that didn’t exist.
  • Sandra Baldwin lost her job as president of the 2002 U.S. Olympic Committee due to false claims about her academic background. She claimed to have an undergrad degree from University of Colorado and a doctorate from Arizona State University. She actually only had an undergrad degree from ASU — and nothing from University of Colorado.
  • Laura Callahan was forced to resign from her post as senior director with the Homeland Security Department’s Chief Information Office. Callahan held three degrees — but they were all from Hamilton University in Wyoming, a well-known diploma mill.

So what’s HR to do?

FindLaw’s survey also found that 36% of the time companies discovered falsified info, it was after the fact.

So what can HR pros do to avoid the wasted time, lost money and embarrassment that come with finding an employee isn’t quite as qualified as he or she said?

Applicants are most likely to fabricate five specific areas of their resumes, according to Job Mouse. If HR pros do their due diligence in verifying these types of info, they’ll have a much better chance of catching candidates before they’re hired:

  • Education: inflating grade point average and honors; claiming a degree that wasn’t awarded or came from a school the person never attended; degrees from non-accredited diploma mills.
  • Job title: creating a title or claiming a higher title to get a higher salary.
  • Compensation: padding previous salary and/or benefits.
  • Reason for leaving: “It was a big layoff” — but he or she was fired due to performance; “I quit” (after they asked him or her to leave).
  • Track record: stretching the truth about his or her role in a successful project and being recognized for special performance.
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  1. Melissa Fleming says:

    This post is very informative, thank you! It’s truly amazing how many people will put blatant lies on their resume, and expect no one to find them… At, we know that industry trends show that 85% of criminals don’t report that they have a criminal background.

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