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This job applicant said he was a CIA spy; he didn't get the job

  • Lies on resumes are not uncommon; 75 percent of human resource managers have caught a resume lie
  • These efforts can backfire: Just 12 percent of human resource managers will call a dishonest candidate back
Handshake at interview
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They all wanted a job. Maybe too much.

One applicant said he worked for Microsoft but had never heard of Bill Gates. Another said he'd studied under the philosopher Nietzsche, who died in 1900. One man claimed he was a CIA anti-terrorist spy during the years he was in elementary school.

Lies on resumes are not uncommon; 75 percent of human resource managers spot inaccuracies on resumes, according to a survey by CareerBuilder. The national survey was conducted online in May and June, and included more than 2,500 U.S. employers across industries and company sizes, including 221 human resources managers in the private sector.

Under pressure to make their resumes stand out, many people exaggerate or flat out lie about their experience. But these efforts often backfire as just 12 percent of HR managers will call a dishonest candidate back.

"If you want to construct a powerful resume, it's about focusing on your accomplishments." -Dan Schawbel, author

"Sometimes a small lie is the path candidates take, but it's ill-advised given the ability to verify the areas people choose to lie in," said Jaclyn Jensen, director of the human resources program at DePaul University in Chicago.

Hiring managers are trained to fact-check resumes, Jensen said. And many will scour applicants' Facebook and LinkedIn pages, call applicants' references and request official transcripts.

Lying is never the way to go. However, understanding why candidates lie can help correct the problem, said Dan Schawbel, author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success.

"Even though the economy might be doing better in terms of unemployment, there's still a skills gap," said Schawbel, adding that there are currently 6.2 million open jobs for which employers can't find the right people.

And many employers' expectations have entered the absurd, he said, noting how one McDonald's location required their cashiers to have a bachelor's degree.

In addition to rising experience or education expectations, nearly half of hiring managers spend less than one minute with a resume, the CareerBuilder survey found.

"It's important to be proactive with your resume and avoid embellishments or mistakes," said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder.

Here are some ways to stand out the right way, according to CareerBuilder:

  • Show involvement in your community.
  • Have (or develop) a sense of humor.
  • Dress appropriately when called in for an interview.
  • Find common ground with your interviewer.

But don't forget to tune out the pressure sometimes, and appreciate what you have done.

"If you want to construct a powerful resume, it's about focusing on your accomplishments," Schawbel said.

Correction: Headlines for this article have been changed to reflect that 75 percent of human resource managers have caught a resume lie, according to a survey.