When is it ok to lie on your resume?
I regularly hear the job hunter excuse “but everyone lies or exaggerates”. Well, there is truth in this. So, the real question then, is which lies do hiring managers and recruiters actually accept on your resume?
Repeat after me: It’s wrong and just-plain-stupid to lie on your resume. It just takes a few mouse clicks to check you out and for a recruiter or employer to verify what you’ve claimed, especially these days with information so readily available on the internet. Lying on your resume is unethical and can immediately give an employer the impression that you would continue to be dishonest if you were hired. It is also a guaranteed way to get put into the ‘no’ pile.
When is it not only beneficial, but also morally acceptable, to lie on your resume?
Only in instances when you’re lying to yourself for the benefit of self-confidence.
I have written many blog posts about building confidence for an interview. But how do you get the interview in the first place? To be sure, lying to yourself without misrepresenting who you truly are is a balancing act. Here are some tips you can use to understand the difference between lies and white lies and how to pull it off.
#1 Resume Lie: Expanding your job title
Your boss may have never officially called you a manager but if you approved expense reports or regularly co-chaired meetings or managed and evaluated staff, you were performing duties as a manager and possibly doing a job above your pay grade. Many businesses are hesitant in the job title department, so it’s very common that people perform work that is not reflected by their position title. And, while you can’t promote yourself to a new position on this piece of paper, it’s OK to point out what your position should have been. I always recommend to our clients who struggle with their titles that listing their real title on their resume alongside its industry equivalent does help. This way, you are able to provide your actual job title but also provide an equivalency to where you are able to perform.
#1 White Lie – You don’t need to be an expert everywhere
This is part of nearly every coaching session we have. It is important to know your limits as a candidate. The word “expert” is one of the most commonly overused words on resumes and one that can come back to bite you. For example, knowing how to use Sales Force CRM does not make you a Sales Force CRM expert. If you consider yourself to be an advanced user, by all means, work that into your resume, but be careful not to overstate things.Confidence is a double-edged sword. Displaying overconfidence can paint you as out of touch or arrogant, while being more reserved or timid can come across as weak. As with everything in life, make it a goal to strike that healthy balance.
And, if you have to tell a white lie to yourself to get there, do so confidently.
#2 Resume Lie: Over-the-top information to sell yourself
As they say, sometimes you have to fake it until you make it. Using text that sells you and your skill set — more than you normally would in conversation — is just part of what you do on your resume. So, go over-the-top to make yourself sound like the confident, in-control candidate you believe yourself to be without taking it too far. For example, saying you won a company sales award when you really just snagged a compliment from your boss is just simply lying. Re-read your resume and if you’ve written something that sounds better than it actually was and if it feels like a blatant lie instead of a slight embellishment, don’t do it. You know the difference.
#2 White Lie – Recruiters know that candidates brag about success
Own your successes by all means, big or small! You’ve done some remarkable things. Find a plausible way to include these achievements in your resume and/or cover letter. You might not think it’s a big deal, but this is where you need to overcome the subjectivity of your self-view and derive confidence from your accomplishments.
If you worked part-time as a UX Designer while maintaining a 3.5 GPA throughout your time at Melbourne University, point to this as a demonstration of your impeccable work ethic.
If you were the Chief Fundraiser of your company’s annual charity and raised in average $15,000 with your team, then highlight your advanced organisational and management skills.
#3 Resume Lie & White Lie: Leaving off an irrelevant job
The job ad asked you for your complete work history, but you don’t think your recent stint as a night receptionist, when you’re applying for a management position, will help your chances. I always say to my clients that leaving that little job off, or jobs so old they no longer matter, is OK and not really a lie.
Resumes are meant to provide the reasoning behind why you would be qualified for the job, so your job in high school at Maccas, for example, doesn’t need to go on there. For that matter, academic or training qualifications that, while admirable, are irrelevant to the position don’t need to be included. Space on your resume is precious so use it wisely.
Avoid trying to be the perfect fit
Don’t let the pursuit of the perfect job stand in your way of getting hired. The truth is, most job ads list requirements and qualifications they assume the right candidate should possess. Some are strict. Others are, at best, an educated guess.
In a highly competitive job market, hiring professionals continue to enjoy the luxury of selectivity in the hiring process. You’ve probably seen it: it’s the perfect job ad for you but you’re missing out on one of the ten soft skills they’re requiring. (… “I’m not sure if I’m a true self-starter.”)
Rest assured, if you’re checking off most of the boxes in the requirements sections of a job description, you’re likely a highly competitive candidate. Whether you believe it or not, present yourself to employers as the candidate they’ve been looking for all along and don’t be afraid to embellish a bit, just don’t lie. Do your best and always remember to hunt wisely!