Pros and Cons of Ex­ag­ger­at­ing on a Re­sume

The Washington Post Sunday - - JOBS -

You sit down to up­date your re­sume to send out to po­ten­tial em­ploy­ers, but you worry it will be over­looked in a sea of ap­pli­cants. Th­ese days, jobs are typ­i­cally com­pet­i­tive, and many re­sumes are quickly tossed in the nay pile. As you read over the pre­ferred or re­quired skills for th­ese po­si­tions, you won­der if it’s OK to fudge the de­tails a bit.

If you’ve had this thought, you’re not alone. Ac­cord­ing to a 2015 sur­vey pub­lished by Ca­reerbuilder, 56 per­cent of em­ploy­ers found peo­ple aren’t to­tally truth­ful on their re­sumes. A sep­a­rate sur­vey con­ducted in 2016 by HireRight had an even more re­mark­able result. Hav­ing asked 3,500 em­ploy­ers, a whop­ping 88 per­cent said they’d found some kind of mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

If so many peo­ple ex­ag­ger­ate on re­sumes, what are the most com­mon fibs and the per­ceived ben­e­fits of telling them?

Ex­ag­ger­a­tions about skills

Statis­tics sug­gest ex­ag­ger­a­tions about skills are the most com­mon re­sume em­bel­lish­ment. The clear ben­e­fit is th­ese claims make an ap­pli­cant look good. By tick­ing off all the boxes of the skills and knowledge an em­ployer is look­ing for and plug­ging th­ese in their re­sumes, peo­ple feel it in­creases a chance to get an in­ter­view.

If you do this, you might shine dur­ing the ini­tial re­sume scan and per­haps even the in­ter­view. If hired, you’ll prob­a­bly even get through the first weeks, months or even longer. Even­tu­ally though, the truth is likely to come out on the job. Worse if it hap­pens dur­ing an im­por­tant project where peo­ple are count­ing on you. That could mean trou­ble— and pos­si­bly a fir­ing.

Did you know a good per­cent­age of em­ploy­ers say can­di­dates who only meet three of five “key qual­i­fi­ca­tions” would still be con­sid­ered for the job? Many bosses are will­ing to train can­di­dates who are a good fit oth­er­wise. Food for thought.

Bot­tom line, it’s best to be truth­ful about what you can re­ally do and then ex­press a strong de­sire to learn in any ar­eas you have some weak­ness. Plus, you can al­ways con­sider high­light­ing your soft skills. Em­ploy­ers are often in­ter­ested in peo­ple who pos­sess strong ones.

Salary en­hanc­ing

The big ad­van­tage to salary in­flat­ing is to try to lever­age more money through telling th­ese lit­tle white lies. Re­al­is­ti­cally though, former salaries are all too easy to ex­pose when the em­ployer checks em­ploy­ment de­tails. Don’t ex­ag­ger­ate your past salary, in­stead, present your­self hon­estly as an ea­ger and el­i­gi­ble can­di­date and de­velop a stronger strat­egy to ne­go­ti­ate the bet­ter pay­check.

Em­bel­lish­ing re­spon­si­bil­i­ties

In­flat­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity or lead­er­ship lev­els is likely to make any re­sume sparkle, but chances are, this will come out in an in­ter­view when asked spe­cific ques­tions. Even if it doesn’t, a hir­ing man­ager might just check with former em­ploy­ers. In the afore­men­tioned 2015 sur­vey, 54 per­cent of can­di­dates were caught fudg­ing the scope of their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

Does mis­rep­re­sent­ing your­self re­ally give an edge?

Does a small fib give you an edge? Prob­a­bly not. In a 2014 sur­vey of 2,188 hir­ing man­agers and HR pro­fes­sion­als, it was found: • 51 per­cent said they’d dis­miss some­one who lied on a re­sume • 40 per­cent said it would de­pend on what the can­di­date lied about • 7 per­cent said they’d over­look the lie if they liked the can­di­date While ex­ag­ger­at­ing or telling a few it­ty­bitty un­truths on a re­sume may seem harm­less, it’s im­por­tant to keep in mind some­one (or mul­ti­ple peo­ple) might ac­tu­ally care­fully read your re­sume, es­pe­cially if it gets past the ini­tial scan. Re­sumes are in­creas­ingly be­ing looked at with a skep­ti­cal eye, and some em­ploy­ers might even turn to so­cial me­dia or other web­sites for more in­for­ma­tion.

As you de­cide how to present your­self, it’s im­por­tant to keep any long-term con­se­quences in mind. You never know who you might run across later in your ca­reer or what you’ll be re­mem­bered for! Any lie un­cov­ered, no mat­ter how small, will prob­a­bly make a boss won­der if you have in­tegrity or are trust­wor­thy. And if they ques­tion ma­jor char­ac­ter qual­i­ties, they’ll toss the re­sume aside.

In the end, it’s best to be hon­est and be your­self.

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