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Never Let The Truth Get In The Way of a Good… Resume?

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While telling the truth is aspirational, the reality is that everyone tells lies. Plenty of people would say that only an idiot would say ‘Yes’ when asked ‘Do I look fat in this ?’, so the line between truths and lies is not always so straightforward. 

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has conservatively estimated that 25% of people have lied on their resume. Even top organisations have hired executives who have committed extensive resume fraud, subsequently been found out and prosecuted. Resumes are not official, legal documents, so it’s technically not illegal to lie on a resume, but legal ramifications could occur depending on the type and extent of the lie. 

Lies come in various sizes and toxicities with hotly debated questions... Is a half truth a lie? Is omission of truth an outright lie? Can a white lie be justifiable? And with resumes being the first step in an ongoing relationship, is it ever okay to lie, omit or bend the truth on what you include?


The Theory

The idea of lying on a resume may be to avoid questions about a resume gap, to cover a lack of necessary job experience, or to stand out from a crowd of applicants for a particularly good job or desirable position. 

Some argue that being too truthful and inadvertently revealing certain things that can be deemed or perceived as weaknesses will knock some candidates out of the game. Others say it’s not a big deal to include a white lie, embellish involvement in a successful project or exaggerate credentials to stand out as long as you’re capable of doing the job you’re applying for.

It's suggested that the education section of the resume is where embellishments are most frequent. This often comes in the form of an individual claiming that they have completed an educational program that they may have only started. Embellished titles, exaggerated job duties, altered dates of employment, and even false references are also common.


The Reality

It may seem like a little white lie when someone covers up the reason they left a previous job or says they graduated but are actually a semester shy. But from an employer or recruiter's point of view, lying on any level is seen as a serious character flaw. Just ask yourself: if you know someone has lied, why would you trust that their next sentence will be the truth? And would you want them to work with you? Not likely.

A good interviewer will be able to prepare questions that will uncover any underlying misrepresentations. Any recruiters worth their salt will also spot inconsistencies between a resume and the candidate almost immediately, and  if not, a quick background check sorts the truth from fiction.

There’s also a strong chance that you’d have difficulty in meeting the expectations set out in the new position if you’ve not been truthful about your job duties or skills in past positions. Even if your resume’s misinformation wasn’t found in the initial recruiting process, you can bet your bottom dollar that employers and their recruiters go digging to the deepest depths when an employee is not meeting expectations.

Another major problem with lying is that one lie tends to lead to another. It could be to prevent the original lie from being exposed, or it could be to mitigate the negative consequences of having told a lie and getting caught. 



If fake documents which support made-up credentials or degrees are included in your resume, you can be charged with fraud. Where you sign a legal form confirming false credentials, this is also fraud, penalties of which include jail time.

Lying about references may be engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct, which is breaking Australian Consumer Law. Employers who hire someone who has lied about their references may be able to recover the cost of hiring and paying an employee who has been found to have lied.

Employment law provides for recourse where an employer has acted illegally. But if an employment relationship is found to be based upon fraudulent information provided at the outset by the employee, by law there is no recourse against the former employer.

But let’s say you're found to have false information on your resume that isn’t illegal… at the very least you can be dismissed without notice and will have to kiss your employment references goodbye! You’ll also struggle to find a recruiter to work with, as your false resume may be flagged within recruiting and employment firms.


Final Say

The old saying ‘Honesty is the best policy’ is absolutely true when it comes to your resume. It’s better to start off on the right foot with a recruiter or potential employer and avoid any nasty surprises in the future.

If you’re concerned about perceived weaknesses in your resume, ensure that you cover these topics in your cover letter and interview. Where you feel your education section may not cover requirements for the job, include an explanation of what skills and reasons make you suitable for the role.

Rather than lying, own your background and learn how to sell yourself the best way you can.


Looking for your dream job? If you want to be an opera singer, a fighter pilot or a priest, then that's not our thing. But if you’re in building services, engineering or IT and thinking about your future, book a free career consultation with our Director Trudi Hedley and let’s see how we can help you grow and succeed!


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