Leadership

5 common white lies you should remove from your resume

Jo Lo Truglio as Charles Boyle, Andy Samberg as Jake Peralta on NBC's 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine.'
Erica Parise/NBC
Jo Lo Truglio as Charles Boyle, Andy Samberg as Jake Peralta on NBC's 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine.'

In an effort to make your resume stand out from the pack it can be tempting to stretch the truth. But exaggerating on your resume is an extremely bad idea, says Elaine Varelas, a managing partner at career consulting firm Keystone Partners.

Not only will you find it difficult to back up falsified claims in an interview setting, she says, but hiring managers will eventually find out the truth when they check in with your references.

“Your goal is to present yourself in the best light while being honest,” Varelas tells CNBC Make It.

To ensure that you're presenting all fact and no fiction, she says to remove these five common white lies from your resume:

1. Altering your job title

One mistake people often make is changing their title to a more senior role, especially if they took on a substantial amount of work, says Varelas. But if the title that you were given is “assistant," she explains, then it’s inaccurate to change it to “associate" — even if you were doing associate-level work.

Instead, Varelas recommends detailing your experience in the cover letter or resume to show that you were taking on the same level of work as more senior employees. The same advice goes for job titles that are specific to your organization, such as “assistant, level four.”

You can note who you reported to on your resume, to give the title some meaning, says Varelas, but refrain from entirely changing the title or inflating your position.

2. Listing an unfinished college degree

Applicants will sometimes include a college degree without the graduation date or list completed coursework for a degree that was never awarded, says Varelas.

But if your degree is still in progress or you’re taking a semester hiatus, you must be upfront about that. Varelas says to always provide the expected graduation date for a degree that’s in the works. If you took courses toward a degree that you don't plan on finishing, then only include the classes that you took, especially if they relate to the position for which you're applying, she says.

3. Overstating results

Don't say that you grew sales by 100 percent unless the numbers are significant. There's a big different between a $10 to $20 jump and $1 million to $2 million jump, says Varelas.

To avoid overstating results, whether that’s an increase in productivity or cost-cutting measures, remove percentages and words like “doubled” or “tripled” from your resume.

Replace these qualitative words with more concrete numbers, says Varelas, to give the recruiter a clear understanding of your outcomes.

4. Acting like you led a project or team

Be very straightforward about what your role entailed on a project, says Varelas. Many times, job seekers will make it seem like they spearheaded a major assignment, when in actuality, they assisted on a small portion of it.

A better strategy is to be extremely forthcoming about the assistance you provided and how your workhelped to move the project forward, she says.

Another mistake to shy away from is saying that you managed people when you didn’t, Varelas adds. Even if you oversaw junior employees on certain assignments, don’t say you managed them unless they were your direct reports.

5. Tweaking your employment dates

Job seekers tend to exaggerate the dates they held a position at a company, says Varelas. They'll add a few extra months to hit a certain mark, like one year of employment, or to hide gaps in their work history.

This can be problematic if your employer performs a background check, she says, or asks for a letter of employment from a previous job, which typically includes your start date.

As minor as this may sound, when a hiring manager notices inconsistencies, no matter how slight, it calls your entire resume and qualifications into question. It’s better to be upfront from the very beginning, says Varelas.

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