Telling a girl you were the star of your high school basketball team when you really rode the bench can be defined as embellishment. Telling that girl you were scouted by the Timberwolves is a lie. And a pretty dumb one. Because in this age of the internet, both lies and embellishments are easily uncovered. So when composing your resume, it’s so important to weigh the benefits and consequences of embellishing and lying.
As for lying, don’t do it. Google is littered with colorful stories of titans of industry, brought down by a degree they never earned or a job they never held, throwing their whole code of ethics into question. This wanton disregard for the truth leads not only the employee to be held accountable, but his or her company, as well. Which in turn leads to an environment of mistrust when it comes to hiring, inevitably leading to more problems for you. If this trickle-down affect seems far-fetched, you must not have heard of the internet.
Twenty- five years ago, a background check was the charge of people who sleuthed for a living. Most important were criminal or mental health information, but realistically, employers were not calling alma maters and the Peace Corp for confirmation on potential employees resumes. With the advent of the web, not to mention the explosion of social media, an employee’s internet footprint is at the layman’s fingertips.
Finding out where an employee went to school or worked previously is as simple as a LinkedIn or Facebook search. It is vital that your history on these two sites mirror each other- it would be tragic for your prospects if you were the reason you didn’t get the job. As easily as headhunters and bosses can see that you graduated Cum Laude from Columbia University via LinkedIn, they can also see that you pledged Kappa Tau at Columbia College. And that is a discrepancy that will not only ruin your chances for the job you are currently applying for, it will hurt your chances in the future.
So why take the chance? Why do studies show that even with the new and innovative ways recruiters and employers have to catch applicants in a lie, applicants continue to take the risk? Doesn’t it seem counterproductive? The main reason is competition. It’s been a little more prevalent because it’s more competitive. Gone are the days when college degrees were an option instead of a certainty. Now advanced degrees are becoming the norm, and high-paying, entry level jobs are becoming scarce. This leads to a need to stand out from the pack, which can be difficult for a recent graduate with little life experience. Unfortunately, this shortcut generally backfires. Recruiters report that even when the embellishments or bent truth isn’t that bad, employees will generally not get the job or lose their offers if found out. Since the market is such a competitive place, any excuse not to hire someone is an excuse an employer will take.
Aren’t there any embellishments someone new to the job market can use? Actually, yes. Instead of leaving gaps of unemployment, highlight the positive activity you took part in at that time. Explain that you utilized that gap year to further your education some way or volunteered in your community. Use creative and innovative words to describe what you’ve done, rather than fudge the details. This way, instead of explaining that you didn’t really head a department, you can describe what you meant by “incorporating an inventive initiative” in your previous company’s marketing campaign.
And the best way to avoid getting tripped up by a padded resume is to actually build your resume! Volunteer your time, further your education, join community projects, travel and take advantage of position opportunities to broaden your life experiences and allow your resume to speak for itself, no embellishment necessary!