“If you tell the truth you don`t have to remember anything.” – Mark Twain
One fact that is a constant in HR circles is that a dishonest resume is a straightforward No! It causes immediate disdain among hiring managers so much so that an otherwise valuable candidate lands in the reject pile. Jobseekers who have to anyway contend with thousands of other candidates vying for the same job should be extremely mindful of this. Of course, the most significant resume objective is to convey your achievements in the most favorable light. It is the fact contained in the achievements, however, which cannot be compromised.
Operating in a cut-throat job market as a hopeful applicant can be quite daunting. It is not too difficult, actually, for candidates to succumb to the urge of pushing details beyond the realm of truth. In an effort to embellish some professional stints, they end up describing tasks which they never performed or skills they never actually possessed, or perhaps overstating the outcomes of their work.
There are a few ways that candidates cross the line:
Overstating Skills & Accomplishments
Exaggerating on the kind and proficiency level of technical skills for resume is a common habit among applicants. In an effort to send a more relevant resume as that required by the job description, candidates claim expertise in certain tools or applications when in reality they just have a superficial familiarity with them. Merely being exposed to a program as part of a one-off task does not entitle anyone to specify the same as part of specialized skills. Also, mentioning a skill which you applied ages ago does not seem wise – unless you remember how you applied it and can confidently claim to have a working knowledge of it.
Also, while it is great to present the outcome and impact of your work in a manner that catches the eye of the recruiter, these need to be close to reality. In an effort to add quantifiable impact on their resumes, candidates often feel compelled to overstate what they achieved. Keep these close to reality, remember recruiters are savvy and they know what is achievable by someone in a particular job role. Also, you may be asked to dive deep into how you facilitated the mentioned impact during an interview and the truth has a way of coming out.
One area where candidates usually err is the work history section. Candidates who have taken breaks in their career often try to hide the dates when they actually took a break. Often recruiters find professional resume designs with dates or duration for a particular job position omitted by candidates. A more effective route to deal with the issue of employment gaps is to provide details of any volunteer, part-time, freelance, contract or pro bono consulting work undertaken during the gap period. Most employers undertake thorough background checks and can easily identify such misrepresentation. In the era of intense online engagement, it`s literally a matter of tracing a couple of links and making a few calls. Recruiters are largely accepting of inconsistencies as long as there are justified grounds for their occurrence. Candidates should not be hesitant to, for instance, explain a career switch or employment gap arising due to health or family issues. They should, however, be more alive to the inaccuracies resulting from mismatches between information disclosed in the resume template and that accompanying the job application. Similarly, an innocuous nugget of detail obtained via an online check can make the difference between selection and rejection. Such mismatches set the alarm bells ringing and make recruiters all the more suspicious of an applicant`s credibility.
Usage of Buzzwords
Another practice that evokes an inflated sense of achievement is the rampant use of buzzwords in contemporary resumes. Phrases like ‘dynamic team player’, ‘out of the box thinker’ may seem savvy but they often create a negative perception in the reader`s mind. Recruiters feel that the candidate is trying to blanket an important skill gap or lack of experience. It serves well to substantiate such terms with real- life examples laced with specific results. Also, providing suitable and legitimate references is key to earning an interview call. Inaccurately mentioning additional qualities such as knowledge of foreign languages or musical instruments can also ruin an applicant`s chances of selection even though they may not be related to the job.
Although it`s not very common, but in some cases candidates who lie about academic degrees, certifications, diplomas or professional licenses on their resumes not only risk their reputation but also set themselves up for immediate rejection. The hiring manager can immediately ask for degrees or diplomas to be produced along with the job application. Also, any degree which the applicant did not complete should not be stated under the “Education” section. It can be listed under the “Additional” section in terms of the knowledge or skills pertaining to a particular academic course. Some job seekers omit graduation dates corresponding to an academic course, perhaps with the view to cover their age or hide a break between courses.
Dishonesty whether through direct lies or subtle omissions can bear serious ramifications for a candidate. From not making to the interview round to eventual termination to being embroiled in a legal suit. Other consequences of lying on resumes include being asked to practically demonstrate knowledge of a skill or application during interview or training time. Even if candidates manage to land the job, they can never escape the scrutiny which ensues a fake job application. It would prove much more tedious to craft a rapport with fellow workers and superiors.
Remember it is not just about getting shortlisted or getting the job you want but actually about finding the right career fit. This is possible only if you put forward your best, true self. In this way if you and the recruiter decide to partner, it is based on transparency and a clear representation of who you are and what you bring to the table.
Credibility often takes a lifetime to be built. We should be wary of forsaking it for an untruthful resume.2