Mark Twain said it best when he said there were “lies, damned lies, and statistics.”
There are resume lies – like those that got former Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson fired. Thompson stated he had degrees in both computer science and accounting, but was canned after it was proven he never obtained that computer science degree.
And there are damned lies, like those told by George O’Leary that resulted in him resigning as head football coach at Notre Dame five days after being hired. O’Leary claimed to have a Master’s Degree in education from New York University, which he didn’t, AND to have been a football player at the University of New Hampshire from 1966-68, which he also did not do.
About those statistics. According to an OfficeTeam survey of 1,013 managers at companies with 20 or more employees employed in office environments:
- 43% of managers believe job seekers lie on their resumes somewhat or very often.
- More than one in five (21%) workers said they know someone who stretched the truth on these documents.
- Job duties (58%) and education (34%) were cited as areas that are embellished most frequently.
There have been some pretty mind-boggling resume lies over the year shared in various reports and studies: One applicant claimed to be HVAC certified but had to ask the interviewer what HVAC meant; another claimed to speak multiple languages – one being pig Latin. Another applicant claimed to be a Nobel Prize winner and another an Olympic champion – which were both easily found to be lies via simple Google searches.
While there are tales of outlandish resume lies that run rampant on the Internet, the reality is, today’s employers are faced with more embellishments than lies. And they usually revolve around work experience, education, skills, work history, achievements and job titles.
Chris Skaggs, Sr. Director, Talent & Brand Management of TX-based TSP, a privately held information technology services company, says the most common lies he sees relate to degrees earned and inflated GPAs. There’s also language job seekers use, like saying they attended a college versus graduating, “to dodge the bullet of having to admit they did not complete their degree,” says Skaggs.
Then there is the IT professional who claims to be a web site developer but has an outdated personal web site, the blogger or writer who hasn’t posted an article in 6 months, or the social media expert who has 15 followers and hasn’t posted a Tweet since June of 2014.
“Don’t claim to be a tech expert then have none of your sites updated,” says Skaggs.
Other embellishments revolve around applicants with inflated sales figure that are too good to be true, or loosely using the term “consultant” when describing a job title, or “consulting firm” when describing a company. One so-called consultant said she had three years of experience as a consultant, but in reality only completed one two-week project during that timeline.
It’s okay to be creative, however. When Elizabeth Laukka, a recruiter specializing in placing advertising, marketing, public relations, communications, and digital talent saw the title of Domestic Engineer on a resume, where the applicant claimed to “manufacture three children” Laukka immediately knew this person was a stay-at-home mom during that time period. “The cut and dried nature of that statement was what made me laugh,” says Laukka.
Employers can’t always take everything on a resume at face value, says Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam.
“That’s why it’s so important to get to know a prospective hire by probing for specifics during the interview, conducting thorough reference checks and testing skills where appropriate,” says Hosking.