It could be embellishing a former job title, talking-up responsibilities or even fudging qualifications – you name it, an applicant has done it. The problem is it’s happening more often than many employers realise.
The demise of former Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson showed how spectacularly resume lies can come to a head, and how damaging they can be to the company once exposed.
According to one background check firm, as many as 75% of resumes contain an inaccuracy. Some are fairly minor in nature, while others are out-and-out falsehoods, designed to tailor the resume to a specific job or to mask aspects of their background that are less favourable. “A candidate’s resume is their marketing tool to gain employment and hence they use it to portrait themselves in the best light possible,” Greg Newton from background-search firm Verify said.
According to Verify, the most common omissions or embellishments include:
Leaving out positions which are less flattering to a person’s ‘on paper’ career profile.
Modifying job titles to portrait a higher level position was occupied e.g HR Executive when they were an HR Officer
Listing qualifications that were only commenced and not yet completed
As to who is doing the bulk of the fibbing, younger people may point the finger at the older generations and vice versa – but Newton said every demographic is prone to the practice. “As a generalisation, the more mature applicants tend to leave out jobs early in their career and list qualifications not necessarily completed. Younger applicants are more prone to embellish their responsibilities,” Newton commented.
Recent data has indicated that candidates are more honest in their online profiles, such as on LinkedIn, than on their paper resumes. Research from Cornell University found that people are less likely to tell “big lies” in online resumes, compared with traditional paper or e-mailed resumes. It was hypothesized that this was because claims are more easily verified in a public, online setting, so liars are more likely to get caught. However, “people still found ways to make themselves look better”, such as by fabricating harder-to-verify claims such as personal interests, Jamie Guillory from Cornell University said.
Yet this finding didn’t sit with the experiences of Verify. “We certainly have not found that to be the case and repeatedly find profiles on sites such as LinkedIn to be highly tailored, very much more so than a person’s own detailed paper resume,” Newton said. Time and time again, online profiles have positions omitted, titles altered and qualifications ‘alluded to’ in the brief space that candidates have to ‘sell themselves’. What’s more, online profiles have the scope for less direct embellishments in the form of tailored testimonials or recommendations designed to heighten perceived competence. “It is amazing how some executives that we have come across have literally hundreds of connections and many recommendations yet it is well known that they are not regarded as a high performer in their profession,” Newton commented.