Stories abound of job seekers inflating their resumes to land a job. Ian, the CEO here at ZipRecruiter, recently told me of one such story.
Ian was interviewing a candidate at a former company. If the candidate’s resume was accurate, then he and Ian used to work together. After a few questions it came out that the candidate never worked for the company; he had only consulted for it.
Guess who didn’t get the job?
Freakonomics coauthor Steven D. Levitt suggests that over 50% of job seekers lie on their resumes. More often than not, these job seekers “merely” stretch the truth rather than lie outright, just as the gentleman described above.
What Job Seekers Lie About Most
- Academics (“I graduated with a 4.0 from an Ivy League in the major that you want!”)
- Prior Job Title and/or Responsibilities (“As the *Director* I oversaw *50* people”)
- Prior Job Outcomes (“I increased sales 150%”)
- Dates of Employment (“Yes, I have 10 years of experience with no gaps in employment!”)
- Proficiency Levels (“I’m fluent in French and advanced in Excel”)
Aside from the moral issues associated with lying, you put yourself at high risk for being caught (read: not getting the job or being fired after you get it).
Why Job Seekers Get Caught
In today’s hyper-connected world, the chances of getting caught are high. Between internet searches, email, and cheap background check services, it’s never been easier to catch job seekers in a lie.
A survey done in November found that 91% of recruiters screen job applicants on social media sites. Of them, 69% have rejected a candidate based on their findings and 13% did so upon discovering the candidate lied about his qualifications.
And then there are reference checks for candidates further into the hiring process.
- 76% of recruiters conduct reference checks for all job candidates
- 22% check for select candidates
- 2% don’t perform reference checks
If you’re lucky enough to get someone in the 2% and you land the job, then what? How are you going to lead a large team when you have zero management experience? And what happens when your boss finds out you don’t really know Spanish or have that master’s degree?
Employees are fired for this stuff all of the time. Some have been on the job for 5 days and others for 11 years. Many are discovered when up for a promotion, as this is another common time for background and reference checks. Having been exposed, the employees are typically terminated with cause, making it much harder to find new employment. (“Tell me why you left your last job” … “Uhh, uhh, I wasn’t challenged enough.”)
If you’re set on applying to a job that you’re not a perfect match for, don’t lie and don’t stretch the truth. Do highlight your related experience and transferable skills, as well as your desire and ability to learn. Insert keywords where possible (for example, if your current job title doesn’t include “marketing,” put it in the job description), and be sure to include a killer cover letter.