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Lying on Your Resume: What Are the Consequences?

Lying on Your Resume: What Are the Consequences?

Kim Isaacs | Monster Contributing Writer

August 14, 2009

When a woman we’ll call Mary was offered a high-level student-services position at a prestigious college, she was thrilled to accept. But two years later, Mary was fired despite strong performance reviews and a reputation as a rising star at the college. The reason? She lied on her resume – and got caught.

An HR initiative requiring employees to furnish college transcripts revealed Mary lied about having a master’s degree. It wasn’t the lack of a degree that cost Mary her job; it was her dishonesty. Unemployed and with a blown reference to boot, Mary demonstrates what can happen when you lie on your resume.

Companies are growing increasingly savvy in ferreting out resume cheaters through more comprehensive background checks conducted both pre- and posthire. Why the latter? Subpar job performance can prompt a follow-up investigation into an employee’s past. If dishonesty is discovered, it is often grounds for termination and possibly legal action.

Yet Mary is hardly alone in falsifying information on a resume. Steven D. Levitt, coauthor of Freakonomics and a renowned economics professor at the University of Chicago, cites research suggesting that more than 50 percent of people lie on their resumes.

Given such repercussions as Mary’s fate, you might wonder why anyone would attempt to get away with lying on a resume in the first place. Levitt refers to a W.C. Fields quote in his explanation: “Anything worth winning is worth cheating for.”

Power – and Misery – Foster Temptation

In a kind of twist on the Peter Principle, which suggests that within corporate hierarchies, employees tend to be promoted until they reach their ultimate levels of incompetence, Levitt postulates that “the higher up in the organization a person rises, the more likely it is that he or she will cheat.”

His observation is certainly borne out by news headlines about executives resigning in the face of resume dishonesty. Common resume lies include falsifying academic credentials, padding dates to mask employment gaps, exaggerating job titles, embellishing job responsibilities and achievements, claiming sole responsibility for team efforts and even making up fictitious employers.

Levitt also found a correlation between mood and the temptation to cheat. The desperation felt when weeks of unemployment stretch into months, or the low morale experienced by someone employed but truly miserable in a job, appear to increase the incentive to lie.


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  • Snapshot_20120420_3_max50

    Iknowroute0610

    about 3 years ago

    4 comments

    If you're honest, then you usually suffer. If you are lie, chances are you'll get some sort of a chance to break through, and people can see that you are hard worker, but no one would have known that you were struggling, and just waiting to show that you had the potential. No one thinks about all the families suffering now because of this economic collapse, no one sees how hard people work to get pennies, and how long it takes to get the means to live normally. Employers are still discriminatory, rude, hateful, and think that you should kiss the ground they walk on just to get some pennies. The system is disgusting. People only resort to these things, like the article said, out of desperation usually. If that is the case, employers should take a hint and be a bit more understanding. No you don't have to accept just any old thing that crawls in the door, but don't be a prick either.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Etiler

    about 3 years ago

    28 comments

    Thank you very much for sharing

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  • Photo_user_blank_big

    bioject

    over 3 years ago

    2 comments

    I agree with the woman lying on her resume. She probably wouldn't have gotten the job otherwise. Proves yet again that having a Master's degree over a Bachelor's doesn't necessarily make you more qualified. At least she got two years of money out of them.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    cmargaret

    about 4 years ago

    2 comments

    I love this article. It sucks to get cheated out of a job when you work your butt off and someone else just faked their experience!!

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    gvinci

    about 4 years ago

    2 comments

    Mary showed spunk and ambition in going after a job she knew she was qualified to fill. She then vindicated herself with her job performance. So where is the problem? New paradigms are never created by those who only color safely within the lines. Like or not risk taking and bucking the trend are a leadership/entreprenurial qualities. People like her will not be down for long.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    choctawmicmac

    over 4 years ago

    2 comments

    Right. Never lie on your resume, never embellish anything, never stretch job dates to cover large gaps in unemployment, etc. Just starve to death when no one will hire you for years and years on end because the truth gets your resume thrown in the trash and you are in a state with no welfare benefits to fall back on when the job search turns decades-long.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    SeattlePsychologist2

    over 4 years ago

    2 comments

    Cheaters never win..

    In the end a cheater will always be a loser..

    This has been a great article.

    Thanks for posting.

  • Tn_max50

    clescelius

    over 4 years ago

    2 comments

    I agree with the concept that if you never lie or cheat you never have to worry about what you have said or done.

  • Userprofilephoto

    Evan_komm

    over 4 years ago

    2 comments

    It's stupid to lie about that kind of thing, what do people do when they lie about a skill they can do and when faced with doing that skill, do they fake it.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    crystalbarker

    over 4 years ago

    16 comments

    sweet