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Tuesday, August 01, 2006
To Tell the Truth
I was reading an article today about how to tell if someone is lying. In the article, it noted that there are some indicators for identifying false information on a resume. Some of the indicators, I agreed with but some of them were just plain examples of bad writing (like use of personal pronouns).

A resume is by nature a marketing document meant to sell something to someone. You, as the job seeker, are the “product” being “sold” and the employer is the “buyer”. Of course, you won’t include derogatory information in a resume – that would be stupid. You don’t sell something by noting all its flaws in the sales brochure. You highlight the selling points or the advantages and that is the key function of a resume – show how you are the best candidate for the job and should be contacted immediately.

Unfortunately, people often feel they don’t have the right background or credentials to qualify them for a job and they fall back to lying on their resumes. That is a bad idea all around. First of all, if you claim to have experience that you don’t have, that deficit will show up eventually in your job performance and you will have an even bigger problem on your hands. Second, most employers are using behavioral interviewing techniques now and that means you will have to show in the interview that you have the experience you claim in the resume. Third, lying on your resume can get you sued. Employers spend a lot of money hiring new employees and if you lie on the resume, you may very well be sued for reimbursement of those hiring expenses. Finally, if you are in any kind of public role and you are found to have lied on your resume, the fact gets publicized and you will have to start looking for work at a 7-11 because no one else will believe anything you say.

Hiring managers aren’t stupid, either. They are pretty good at identifying false information on a resume. They know which schools are “diploma mills” and which ones are truly colleges. If you only have three years experience but claim to be a VP, they will realize something strange is going on. If you claim to have worked for a specific company, and you didn’t, the hiring manager will find out in the background checks.

Some hallmarks of resume lying include:

- Degree from a vague-sounding school in the Caribbean.
- No quantitative information that specifies what you did and what you accomplished. Lack of specificity is not a good way to show you know what you are talking about. “Top Performer three years in a row” is not specific.
- A functional format. The functional is a BIG red flag that you are trying to hide something from the reader. Employers and recruiters hate the functional format.
- Not naming companies in your employment history. It’s okay to omit the current company name but if you omit all the company names, eyebrows will raise.

Play it safe – don’t lie on your resume. It’s not worth it.

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