Embellishing Your Résumé


I don’t have a lot of work experience. I’m in a dead-end job, and want to move up in the world. Is there anything really wrong with fudging my experience on my résumé or job applications? Like saying I have advanced Excel skills when I’m more intermediate? I’m sure I could google to figure out the answer to any questions that come up and no one would be the wiser.

Liar_Crossed_Fingers_000057522922Dear “Pretty Little Liar,”

Oh, really? You think you’ll be able to fake it ’til you make it when you need to use an Excel pivot table or complex formulas?

I believe everyone should wax eloquent about their qualifications on their résumé and portray themselves to potential employers in the best possible light. But enhancing your education, exaggerating your duties, and embellishing your skills is a horse of a different color.  Walt Disney said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” But only include it on your résumé if you can actually do it.

Résumé padding (doesn’t that euphemism sound a lot less consequential than “falsifying?”) seems to be a widespread problem. In fact, there are deceitful services out there – which shall remain unnamed – that offer counterfeit degrees and provide bogus virtual companies to add on résumés that will even supply fake job references when called. Sigh.

Pinocchio_Nose_000000335618A recent CareerBuilder survey found job seekers’ most common résumé lies:

  • Embellished skill sets – 62%
  • Embellished responsibilities – 54%
  • Dates of employment – 39%
  • Job titles – 31%
  • Academic degrees – 28%

Just because 62% of people fudged about their skill sets, doesn’t mean you should too. More than half of employers (56% to be exact) uncovered the résumé lies. Education credentials are easily checked. Dates of employment and job titles can be verified by previous employers. When interviewing for a specialized position, you may be asked technical questions that will show you’re obviously not qualified. (I heard of an instance where the candidate looked up answers on his smartphone!) Why waste your time and the interviewers’?

If you do manage to hornswoggle a company into hiring you, what happens when your deceptions are discovered? While you may root for Mike Ross on TV’s Suits who faked his way into a law firm position without the Harvard degree, in real life it could cost you the job, as these executives discovered. Where safety is a factor (claiming you are certified to operate a forklift, for instance, or have the necessary medical training for a healthcare position), your falsehood could have disastrous consequences for others.

A better way to move up in the world is to take classes in areas in which you need to gain proficiency. Then proudly list those courses on your résumé under “Education” to show prospective employers you proactively focus on career development.

Readers: Have you ever padded your résumé? How did your embellishments return to haunt you?

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

Subscribe to receive weekly emails with career tips and advice for job seekers, employed people, and managers and supervisors.

Applying for a Job When Not 100% Qualified
How to Get Hired if You Don’t Have Experience
Lack of Training


Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
%d bloggers like this: