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What to do when you know a Fellow Employee Has Lied on His Resume

More than Half of Job Applicants Lie on their Resumes

Advice for Employers to Spot Falsified Resume Information

According to research conducted by The Society of Human Resource Managers, over 53% of individuals lie about their resume in some way. Knowledge of the ways in which lying occur should be instructive to employers who are being asked to review more and more resumes in our down economy that sometimes are put together by desperate people. Here is the list of the top offenses:

  • 80 percent of all resumes are misleading
  • 20 percent state fraudulent degrees
  • 30 percent show altered employment dates
  • 40 percent have inflated salary claims
  • 30 percent have inaccurate job descriptions
  • 27 percent give falsified references

Lying on resumes is becoming more and more common. When college students were asked in the same study by the Human Resource Managers, over 70% said they would lie on their resumes to land their dream job. The managers provide helpful advice to target the lies efficiently. Below are nine of the most common areas where lies will appear on resumes.

  1. Job title/Role: Is the title inflated? How many directors can one company have?
  2. Job Requirements: Do the responsibilities match the role? Are they embellished?
  3. Financial Success: Has the candidate exaggerated on the revenue brought in to one’s employer or financial benefits to make him/her appear more successful?
  4. Dates of Employment: Are they accurate? Have they been tampered to remove gaps of unemployment?
  5. Certification or degree: Did the candidate complete, fail, or drop out? Was the degree listed attained? Can this be confirmed?
  6. Previous salary: Does the salary match the role and responsibilities? Check W-2 history.
  7. Reason for leaving previous employer: Does the wording mask poor performance, or a conflict situation?
  8. Academic dates: Has the candidate changed these to cover failed or repeated subjects?
  9. Technical abilities: Is the candidate exaggerating? Does the candidate really understand ASP.NET?

Applicants may not be aware of the fact that lying on the resume can have serious consequences down the road if they duplicate a lie on a formal employment application. When the job-seeker completes the application, perhaps as part of the interview process, he or she is legally affirming the dates of employment and employment history. Even after the hiring, lying on a job application is grounds for termination at any point in the future - even years later.

I have come across students who lie on their resume and embellish their job responsibilities. They know the prospective employer wants to hire someone adept in using a specific software program or with specific knowledge of a computer system. I’ve even talked about it with some students who rationalize their actions by saying “everyone does it.” In other words they view ethics as the lowest common denominator and that it is relative to a particular situation.

Trust is an essential element in the workplace. Once a lie is told the liar begins to slide down the proverbial ethical slippery slope where it is difficult to reverse direction and head uphill. The tendency is to cover one’s tracks by perpetuating the lie and compounding the problem.

The most important workplace skill is ethical reasoning. If a prospective employee lacks a moral compass or does not know how to do the right thing when ethical dilemmas arise, then pressures that build up to deviate from ethical norms are likely to lead that person astray. The challenge is to evaluate this aspect of an applicant’s character simply by looking at the resume. As an employer you can check on references and hope such failings come out in the discussion. However, don’t count on it because rarely does a job applicant list as a reference someone who might inform the prospective employer of an ethical lapse.

My advice is to develop an ethics scenario related to the particular job responsibilities of the prospective employee and ask how he or she would handle it. An ethical person will have already formed a sense of right and wrong and won’t hesitate to answer or obfuscate the truth. An ethical person should not have to think about what is right or wrong – he or she instinctively knows it. In my next blog I will discuss two situations of lying on the resume that can have serious consequences both for the employer and employee.   

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on August 2, 2012