In 2012, Scott Thompson resigned from his role as CEO of Yahoo — all because he was caught having lied about the details of his college degrees.
Sounds crazy, but this sort of stuff happens quite often. In fact, a 2017 survey from Careerbuilder found that 75 percent of hiring managers have spotted a lie on a resume at some point in their careers.
What's even more shocking is how outrageous some of those lies were. According to the report, here are the notable ones cited by hiring managers:
- "Applicant said he worked at Microsoft, but then had no idea who Bill Gates was."
- "Applicant falsely claimed to have a PMI credential when applying for a job at Project Management Institute (PMI), the organization that grants that credential."
- "Applicant claimed to be an anti-terrorist spy for the CIA at the same time period he was in elementary school."
- "Applicant said he studied under Nietzsche."
Given what's at stake, it's certainly understandable why so many job seekers are willing to take the risk of lying on their resumes, but don't be so naive to think employers are oblivious when reviewing applications. Here a few tactics hiring managers use to catch liars:
Employers don't head into job interviews with the intent to verify everything you put down on your resume, but they will quickly get suspicious when they receive a series of vague and unconvincing responses to in-depth questions about a your previous work experience.
If someone listed a managerial job title, they might be asked a question like, "How do handle the pressures of reaching your own goals, in addition to ensuring that your each member of your team reaches their goals as well?"
If the candidate lied about having this role and can't provide anything substantial or a few real-life examples, eyebrows will be raised. Remember, the challenges of being a team leader is very different from the challenges of working under a team leader.
One of the most common ways job seekers lie is by fudging their employment dates. If someone worked at a company for only four months, from November 2012 to February 2013, they may omit the exact months on their resume and simply write "2012 to 2013" to give the impression that they worked there for a much longer period of time.
While this manipulation sounds like a smart idea (because it's technically not a "lie"), resorting to flat-out faking start and end employment dates will get your application thrown out if caught. A question like, "Exactly how many months did you work at [X company]?" or a simple phone call to your past employer is all they need to find out about your tendency to be deceptive.
It's tempting to put down that you're "proficient" at everything you've ever attempted to learn (or anything listed under "requirements" in the job description). But keep in mind that hiring managers are very aware about this common resume tactic, and will do their best to test whether you've really mastered the skills you listed.
Two such ways they can go about this are by handing out exams as part of the interview process or by asking simple questions that candidates should be able to answer if they are indeed proficient at the skills on their resume.
Hiring managers will often talk to someone who is not on your list of references. Their goal is to get a candid account of your capabilities, work ethics and proof that you actually worked there. Thanks to networking platforms like LinkedIn, it's easier now more than ever for them to connect with a former colleague without even letting you know.
Lastly, as we've learned from Thompson, you should never lie about what schools you attended or the degrees you graduated with. Most employers, especially larger tech companies like Google and Apple, will do background checks by asking for direct transcripts from the school.
They'll often ask for permission, of course, but refusing consent indicates that you've been dishonest. As a result, you've wasted both your and your employer's time by going through an interview procession that eventually led to nowhere.
Peter Yang is a career expert and the CEO of Resume Writing Services, the parent company of ResumeGo. Before that, he worked as a manager and recruiter for more than 20 years. His work has also appeared in Inc. and Glassdoor. Follow Peter on Twitter @ThePeterYang.
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