Dangers of Lying on a Resume (With Effects and Solution)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 18, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Employers typically ask candidates to submit resumes to assess their skills, qualifications, and experience to determine if they're suitable for a role. This can sometimes influence candidates to lie or omit details on their resume to make it more impressive. Learning about the effect of including lies on a resume and exploring steps to rectify it can help you maintain honesty and avoid future repercussions. In this article, we explain what lying on a resume means, describe ways an employer may discover these lies, discuss the effects of lying, and share options for rectifying resume lies.

What does lying on a resume mean?

Lying on a resume involves fabricating or omitting essential details on your resume. The two broad categories of lies include lies of commission and omission. Lies of commission happen when candidates have false statements on their resumes. For example, a candidate may list design as a skill when they're not knowledgeable about it. A lie of omission happens when candidates fail to provide complete information on a subject. For example, when you list a school you attended but didn't graduate from in your education section, you are telling a lie of omission, because the reader assumes you graduated from the school. Here's a list of resume sections that candidates commonly include lies in:

  • Education: Many job openings require candidates to have an undergraduate degree or equivalent. This may cause a candidate to lie about the school they attended or the qualification they earned, which counts as deception.

  • Skills: Hiring managers typically assess candidates by their skills and other qualifications. This sometimes influences candidates to include skills they're not proficient in to make their resumes more impressive.

  • Work experience: Hiring managers may encounter candidates who forget the exact duration they spent at previous jobs and include inaccurate information. Candidates may lie about their work experience and include companies or titles they never held.

Related: How to Explain Gaps in Resumes (With Tips and Reasons)

Ways an employer may discover the truth about resume lies

There are different ways an employer may discover false information on a resume, including:

Calling a post-secondary institution to verify attendance

It's possible for some hiring managers to believe a candidate and not verify their educational information. Other hiring managers may follow standard procedures and call the institutions on the resume to confirm the candidate graduated from the school. There's also a chance that the candidate who lied about their institution may encounter an employee at the company who's an actual alumnus of the school. They may get caught if they can't answer questions to prove they attended the school.

Giving a skill test

It's easy to include skills on a resume, but proving you have them is more challenging. It's a common occurrence for people to exaggerate the proficiency level of their skills on a resume. As a response, hiring managers may ask candidates to demonstrate a skill they listed to help verify their talents. For example, a candidate may include skills like proficiency in a particular language on their resume. A hiring manager may decide to give an on-the-spot quiz on the language. Failure to pass this test can reveal the truth about the candidate's skills.

Related: Examples of Strength in a Resume to Impress Hiring Managers

Doubting candidates with exceptional job titles with limited work experience

A hiring manager can get suspicious when a candidate's job titles sound too good to be true. For example, a candidate who graduated two years ago might claim to be an executive at their previous job. The hiring manager can ask in-depth questions that may eventually reveal the truth, or they may even call the former employer to confirm these claims.

Verifying candidate's reference

A candidate may lie effectively, but an honest reference can reveal the truth about their qualifications and accomplishments. Even if the candidate finds a reference willing to lie for them, a hiring manager can research to confirm the reference and the resume information. They can do this by contacting mutual connections or the old employer.

Related: What Is Integrity? Definition and Examples

Conducting an online search

A hiring manager can search for a candidate on social media and other online platforms to get an insight into their personality. If the information on social media doesn't match that on the resume, they may discover the candidate's lies. They may also search for the websites of the companies candidates list in their work experience section to gain basic information and make comparisons.

Consequences of telling lies on a resume

There are numerous repercussions for including lies on a resume. The following are some consequences of including information that's inaccurate:

Loss of job

Including lies on a resume is a breach of contract and may lead to job termination. There are typically disclaimers on the job application that state that the company can terminate the employee's appointment if they lie about the information on their application. It's often easy for a manager to discover that an employee lied on their resume as they may not be able to complete tasks efficiently. For example, an employee lying about their proficiency in a coding language can lose their job if they cannot work on programming projects that require the use of such skills.

Damaged reputation

It's easy for employers to share information, especially in a small industry. Employers may be wary of hiring employees who lied about their qualifications and work experience if they hear about the situation. These employees may also lose the opportunity to get reference letters from a company if their contract was terminated because of a lie.

Loss of licence

Professions like lawyers, doctors, and nurses usually have a board that oversees the administration of licences to professionals. These bodies can suspend or revoke their licences if they make an ethical mistake. Discovering a lie about their qualifications and experiences may be enough to take these measures.

Criminal charges

In rare cases, a company may also charge an employee with a criminal fraud offence. The company may choose to terminate an employee's contract if they told a lie that didn't have a severe negative effect on the company or any employees. That may not be the case for a lie that resulted in substantial damage to a person, the company's image, or its financial welfare.

What to do after submitting a resume that has false information

If you lied on your resume, there are several ways to save the situation and ensure you don't damage your professional reputation, including:

Make the lie true

This applies to both lies of omission and commission. For example, if you lied about speaking a language, you can take classes in that language to improve your proficiency level. If the lie is about a skill you don't possess, you can also take online or in-person courses that can help you develop the skill. Making the lie on your resume true involves doing everything possible to meet your employer's expectations and rectifying the lie you told.

Update your resume

This typically applies to lies people can make mistakes about or misinterpret, such as exact dates or duration of employment. You can speak to your employer about it and explain that you noticed some errors on your resume. Then, you may submit an updated resume free of those errors.

Tell your employer the truth

You can discuss with an employer and tell them about the lies on your resume. It may reduce your chances of getting the job or lead to a termination of the contract, but you can avoid worrying about getting caught. It may also make the hiring manager or an employer perceive you as someone willing to correct mistakes.

Related: What Is Honesty and Integrity in a Workplace Setting?

Withdraw your application

You aren't required to explain your reasons for withdrawing your application to a hiring manager. This can be a safe option as you can update the resume with accurate information and apply for other open positions. This option only applies to candidates who haven't started working.

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