Lying on your resume?

A recent study about lying on resumes found that over 90% of the participants lied at least a little on their resumes.

What People Lie About on Their Resumes

In looking at the lies, the researchers found they grouped neatly into four categories:

1. Job responsibilities — what the participants did.

2. Abilities — how well they performed their responsibilities.

3. Involvement — the level of the participants’ roles and the relative amount of time they spent on each responsibility.

4. Interests.

What People Lie About on Their LinkedIn Profiles

The researchers also looked at what their participants lied about on their public LinkedIn profiles.

They found the same four topics.

However, the participants were more likely to lie about information that is harder to verify, such as interests.

They were less likely to lie about information that’s easy to verify, such as responsibilities.

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What People Lie About on Both Their Resumes & LinkedIn Profiles


Lying on Resume, Expertise

The participants lied most about their abilities — at about the same rate on their resumes and LinkedIn profiles.

Next, they lied about their level of involvement — at the same rate on their resumes and profiles.

Lying on Resumes: Abilities & Level of Involvement

In my experience, most of these types of lies seep into resumes and LinkedIn profiles via the use of adjectives and adverbs.

Look at the following examples of how a Director-level job seeker might represent his/her ability and involvement with C-level executives:

Less believable:

Quickly and successfully built C-level relationships across disciplines.

The words “quickly” and “successfully” reflect the writer’s opinion. Maybe he’s right. Maybe he’s lying on his resume. Who knows?

Once a sophisticated reader sees adjectives and adverbs on a resume, they roll their eyes and start asking themselves, “Is this person lying?”

More believable:

Member of IT Steering Committee comprised of COO, CIO, and CFO.

This is a factual statement. The reader can infer that C-level executives think highly enough of this person to include her on their company’s IT Steering Committee.

Her simple statement of fact carries more credibility than the first example’s opinions.

How to Make Your Resume More Believable

Read through your resume. Highlight the adjectives and adverbs. Rewrite to eliminate them.

Other people get to describe you with adjectives and adverbs.

You will make your resume and LinkedIn profile more believable by stating facts.

If you need inspiration, look at this post.

A Second Way to Make Your Resume More Believable

The researchers found that the study participants lied more about their responsibilities on their resumes than they did on their public LinkedIn profiles.

The more verifiable a statement was — such as responsibilities — the more likely the participants were to be honest about it on their public LinkedIn profiles.

If you want to make your resume more believable, give it some daylight. Copy and paste it into your public LinkedIn profile.

Showing you’re willing to submit your resume to public scrutiny, and the eyes of former colleagues, makes it more believable to recruiters and hiring managers than hiding it.

Note to Interviewers

Knowing that many people embellish their abilities and involvement can help you craft clarifying interview questions.

Lying on Resume

Like these:

• Tell me more about your relationship with the COO. What was your most significant interaction with him? Define your role? What results did you obtain?

• What percentage of your time did you spend working with/for C-level executives? Who? What was your most critical responsibility/project? What was the situation? How did you deal with that? What results did you obtain? How much of your year did it take?

• What was the Steering Committee’s charter? Tell me about a time you influenced a significant decision. What was the situation? How did you handle it? What was the result?

Dig in on candidates’ big claims — especially about abilities and involvement.

Don’t assume their resumes and LinkedIn profiles give you accurate information. The study showed us that lying on resumes, at least a little, is the norm.

Do you have your resume ready but you’re unsure how to start looking for a job? Our Returner Roll-Up Session can help you Create a plan for your online job search.

Donna Svei Contributor
With a background in retained executive search, Donna is an Executive Resume and LinkedIn Profile writer and Interview Coach, she collaborates with her clients to write job-winning resumes and LinkedIn profiles and their core career marketing materials.

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