This Is the Worst Lie You Can Put On Your Resume

Job applicants waiting in line reviewing their resumes
Job applicants reviewing their resumes | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

You know you shouldn’t lie on your resume, and yet, heaps of people do. It’s tempting — relatively speaking, you’re probably not going to get caught. Especially if it’s just a little white lie; a lie that is seemingly so insignificant that it’s not even worth fact-checking. While some skills or abilities are seemingly ambiguous and difficult to itemize on a resume, there are certain things that hiring managers keep an eye out for. And if you get caught lying on your resume? It can cost you.
But what is the cardinal sin in terms of lies on your resume? Is there one lie that trumps all others — that is more severe and misleading? A new project from Hloom sought to address that very question. And we now have an answer.
58% of hiring managers report that they’ve spotted lies on applicants’ resumes. We asked 2,000 people in the U.S. to weigh in on the subject – and come clean about their own resume fabrications,” the Hloom team writes. “We asked respondents to categorize common resume embellishments as real or white. Interestingly, 5 of the top 10 real lies relate to education: alma mater, academic degree, college major, GPA, and college minor. Other lies considered real include lying about foreign language fluency, employment history, job titles, and projects/portfolio.”
The project generated many interesting findings, including the fact that men are twice as likely to lie on their resumes as women. And when you look at age groups, people between the ages of 55 and 64 — with more than 48% of them likely to tell a “white,” or small lie, and 12.74% of them likely to tell a “real” lie.
In terms of the top ten “real” and “white” lies, here is what Hloom found:
Resume lies | Hloom

As mentioned, the top “real” lies are mostly centered around education, work history, and accomplishments. The “white” lies, on the other hand, are harder to quantify or verify; it’s hard to make a call, or check out the paper work regarding someone’s “presentation skills,” after all.
Next: Let’s take a look at which lies are actually the most serious.
But in terms of seriousness, what’s the absolute worst lie of all? Hloom’s research says it’s lying about where you went to college:
Resume lies | Hloom

For a lot of people, this might be an easy aspect of one’s history to lie about. Who’s actually going to check, anyway? In today’s climate, having a degree from a “brand name” or high-ranking school can be all you need to punch a ticket to a great job. People are increasingly becoming aware of that — which is likely why people are willing to fib about it on their resumes.
But it’s evidently a pretty serious lie, and one that hiring managers take very seriously. When you think about it, saying you went to Stanford, when you really went to some university that nobody’s ever heard of? That’s a serious misrepresentation, and one that is bound to rub people the wrong way if it’s exposed.
Next: Why we lie and when you should tell a good lie.

Why do people lie?

TOKYO, JAPAN - MARCH 08: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) College students walk between expo halls as they attend company information sessions at the Mynavi Shushoku MEGA EXPO at the Tokyo Big Sight on March 8, 2015 in Tokyo, Japan. 70,000 job-seeking students are expected to attend the two-day career fair with 1230 companies participating. Under new rules starting this academic year, companies are allowed to conduct recruiting activities from March 1 onward, rather than December so that third-year university students can concentrate on their studies. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Job applicants | Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Continuing into Hloom’s research, we also see that the most common reason people lie on their resumes is to appear as a better fit for a particular opening — something that nearly half of people cite as a reason for fibbing. That’s followed up by trying to look more experienced. Surprisingly, around 7% of Hloom’s participants said that they lie on their resumes for no particular reason at all — which seems like an odd strategy, considering that you’re exposing yourself to risk with no immediate goal in mind.
Taking all of Hloom’s efforts into consideration, if you feel inclined to embellish and pass a few lies off on your resume, you might want to steer clear of the more serious items outlined on the list above. Obviously, many people are going to lie or stretch the truth to try and get a strategic advantage on the job hunting trail. But there are risks involved, and if you’ll need to think carefully about what you ultimately hand over to employers.
Next: If you choose to lie, just know that some lies are worse than others, and sometimes lying is necessary in certain job interview situations. Let’s take a look at one such situation.

Example of a good lie

The boss in The Wolf of Wall Street
Boss in the office | Paramount Pictures

What if an interviewer ask you about where you see yourself in five years?
Job hopping is more common these days because it’s one of the best ways to receive a big raise in a sea of stagnated wages. A hiring company doesn’t want to take the time and money on training a new employee that is likely to leave within a year or two. This question is aimed at finding out your career goals and if you enjoy the line of work, which may indicate a long-lasting and successful career at the company.
The interviewer doesn’t expect you to have a perfect crystal ball. You don’t really have to divulge where you think you’ll be in five years if you think it will cost you the job. Stay positive and keep your answer fairly general if you don’t expect the position to be long-term. You can add specifics by focusing on the overlapping job responsibilities for this position and your ideal position. Truth be told, life has a funny way of surprising you. Don’t blow your chances at the position by openly telling the interviewer this job has no place in your long-term career path. It’s good to have options.
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