Why You Shouldn't Lie on Your Resume or CV

Some reasons I think lying on your resumé is a bad idea.

People, in general, aren’t good enough at lying to get all the details right.

One little lie ends up needing a whole network of lies to support it. Especially during an interview. You said that you’ve run large mail servers at your previous job. What software did you use? What did you do about spam? Viruses? If you lie about your experience you need to lie about all the details of that experience, too. That gets tricky, because it all has to mesh perfectly.

Even if you can get all the details right you’ll act funny or seem like you’re lying when people ask you about these things. People, in general, are not good enough at lying to mask the “I’m lying, please bust me” body language. You know what? Humans are really good at reading body language, even subconsciously.

Your prospective employer actually knows the truth, or knows someone who knows the truth.

A lot of people working in IT know each other. We talk to each other, run into each other at conferences, and go drink beer together. A lot of times we’ll have worked together at companies, done consulting together, or even have the same hobbies. And once in a while the topic turns to “hey, a guy you work with is applying for one of our open positions. What do you think of them?”

I will never hold the desire to go find a better job against someone, sabotage their chances if the person if I think they’re an asset to our organization, or tell anybody at their current employer anything. I’ve been in that position and it sucks, and as a result I am often a big advocate for the person. Everybody should have the option to go somewhere else if they don’t like quite what they’re doing now.

It gets tough, though, when in the course of conversation it is determined that the person is lying on their resume. In one memorable case it was someone taking credit for something I had done, and the friend that was asking me knew I’d been the guy that did that work. Now, I don’t know all the legalities of hiring someone (that’s what HR is for) but I do know it gets a lot harder when you’ve lied to someone who knows the truth already.

You don’t know who will read your resume. It could be a former coworker, a friend of your boss, or a complete stranger. You don’t know what they’ll know about you already, or what they can find out. So keep the fiction to a minimum.

A background check will show information that conflicts with your story.

Did you fudge dates, overstate your education on your resume, or try to hide something in your past? If it is a matter of public record it is easy to check, and it is better if you explain it up front than appear like you’re trying to hide it. Remember that during a hiring process people are asking themselves “would this person be a good asset to the team?” If people think you’re hiding things you aren’t going to get hired. Instead, find a truthful way to explain it that makes you look good, or at least indicate you learned something.

Heck, even just making up a story about falling in love with a traveling nurse and moving with her to Hawaii to surf for six months is a better way to go. Of course, that might get you in trouble, too, should you run into someone who lived in Hawaii…

At some point you’ll have to do what you claimed you can do.

If an employer is asking questions about things on you’re resume it is probably because you’ll have to do them as part of your job. If that’s the case, and you lied about being able to do something, people will know that right away. You might be able to get away with it if it is simple and can be looked up on the web, but if you are hired to do an HP OpenView implementation and you haven’t ever used OpenView you are probably in trouble.

The big downside to this, aside from getting fired, is then having to explain all of this to the next interview committee.

You just don’t need to lie.

Lying is a house of cards that, more often than not, comes tumbling down. Even if it doesn’t come tumbling down right away there is always the chance that someone in the future will discover the lie. With all the open source software out there, with freely-available server operating systems like Linux, FreeBSD, or even Solaris, and with free developer access to software like Oracle, there is no reason you can’t put a little experience behind your claims.

Besides, training is easy. Most employers know that they can always fill a technical knowledge gap with a book or a training course. Hiring someone who has the right mindset and will fit into the company is the real challenge. So instead of lying be truthful, be honest, be confident, be that person they want to hire, even if you aren’t perfect. Nobody is.

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