Lies And Resumes

What are the biggest lies employers catch on the resumes of potential hires?


The most important resource a company has is its people; unfortunately, people aren’t perfect. We tell white lies from time to time to make ourselves more appealing. Hence, 5 feet 11 inches becomes 6 feet tall.

But that tendency toward embellishment creeps into resumes all too often as job seekers in a tight market strive to make themselves appear more qualified. A recent poll conducted by Harris in partnership with CareerBuilder — and written about on LinkedIn — identified the most common lies that applicants told on their resumes. Turns out, people lie about pretty much everything. Here are the top seven that employers catch:

  • Embellished skill set (57%)
  • Embellished responsibilities (55%)
  • Dates of employment (42%)
  • Job title (34%)
  • Academic degree (33%)
  • Companies worked for (26%)
  • Accolades or awards (18%)

The importance of each of these is somewhat subjective. Does the lack of an undergraduate degree really disqualify an applicant from some types of positions? And with this new trend of whack-a-doo titles, it’s understandable if an applicant opts to go the clearer-is-better route.

Importance aside, these lies manifest themselves in a more critical way. The employee-employer relationship is one built on trust. The applicant promises his or her experience and personality are as presented in the application and interview. The company promises the position is as marketed. Discrepancies from either side lead to unsatisfactory job performances and unhappy hires.

Trust is an important quality in the workplace — it helps create a better environment for all parties. The best way to start off a relationship is not with an embellishment or flat-out lie.

The level of experience, skill set, or background for new hires at a credit union is not insignificant. Credit unions need a specific applicant to fill their financial-centric positions. Although data was not available to show the number of lies submitted, financial service companies catch lies more frequently than others — on 73% of applications. That’s compared to leisure and hospitality companies at 71%, information technology at 63%, health care at 63%, and retail at 59%. This is not to suggest they get more lies, just that they consistently find the most.

So what does all this mean? It means applicants lie more often and across more areas than you might have imagined.

As a credit union, you must determine your tolerance level for such discrepancies. When is an embellishment unacceptable under any circumstance? When does an embellishment not matter as much? Unless the lie is egregious and intolerable, will you give the applicant an opportunity to explain him or herself? Your hiring manager will likely be able to determine whether (1) the applicant is a serial liar and not the type of person your credit union should employ, or (2) the applicant is able to provide sufficient explanation or background information that quells any worries. Hiring is an imperfect science for a complicated field. So think about when you might give applicants the benefit of the doubt.


Aug. 26, 2014

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  • In each of our departments we have a survey we request the applicant complete in the 2nd interview. The items are general office skills and then skills that are needed to perform the job they are applying for. The applicant must rate their degree of expertise. It is helpful to use this tool in mini reviews during the introductory period - helps to cut to the chase and eliminate someone who went over the top on the resume and in interviews.
    sarah mosley
  • Honesty is the best way to go as long as you are sure that honesty will be acknowledged and appreciated. Unfortunately, that is not something that you can take for granted while sending in your CV. For example, a candidate might have taken a few months working with some unorganized NGO managing their affairs and leaving them better than she found, but her CV might not get shortlisted only at various opportunities because of the gap in employment. Would you blame her if after a couple of such rejections she 'manages' the gap in employment?