In the words of Norodom Sihanouk, once the King of Cambodia, “Time will inevitably uncover dishonesty and lies.” Such is true when it comes to the fibs and embellishments so many prospective job seekers may use on their job applications or resumes. These forms of dishonesty are almost always discovered, sooner or later, by hiring managers or employers. And yet many job searchers feel justified in lying on applications and resumes or wonder, as the title of this article implies, if they could get away with being a little too casual with the truth.
Often, this kind of lying is born out of frustration or desperation: people get tired of being passed over for jobs, so they embellish their experience to make themselves look like more impressive applicants. Or they tell a lie in attempt to cover up a potential job-breaking criminal history. In both cases, the dishonesty can be uncovered through background checks and employment screening processes. Read on to learn how employers can cut through your web of lies, and what those lies can do to your job chances.
Reference Checks Or Verification Checks
Perhaps the most common type of fibbing that goes on with resumes and job applications is an embellishment of work history. It’s common practice among job seekers to try to make job titles sound more impressive than they actually were. Other job hunters will list employment responsibilities they didn’t actually have, to try to match up to a job description, or extend employment dates, to fill in resume gaps that might not look too flattering to a hiring manager.
Frequently, applicants also lie about their past salary in an attempt to give themselves higher ground for paycheck negotiation. And in extreme cases, some job hunters will even invent college degrees or professional certifications that don’t exist—all in an attempt to make their application or resume stand out from the rest of the pile.
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Frankly, all of these ideas are ill advised. That’s because most employers will do reference and verification checks of some kind. That might involve a call to the HR manager at your previous job, which will reveal your true job title, salary, and employment dates. It might also involve a check to make sure that you graduated from the college listed on your resume, or that you earned the certifications you say you did. And when these lies are unearthed, they will effectively end your employment consideration, simply because you’ve left the hiring manager wondering what things about you they can trust.
(Read The Anatomy of an IT Job Search)
Can I Embellish My Job Application?
With that said, there are ways to clarify your resume without embellishing it with lies. It’s a good idea, for instance, to read the job description and then tailor your resume so that the experience listed relates directly to individual items that the employer in question is looking for. It might also be wise to clarify or flesh out a job title if your actual title was very vague and broad, or if the title isn’t used anywhere in the world outside of your old company.
If you do embellish your resume in any way, though, make sure that you are doing it to clarify the experience that you have and to make it easier for your prospective employers to pull out relevant information. In others words, make sure that there’s always truth to what you’re saying: otherwise, your hiring managers will see right through what you are trying to do, and your dishonesty will not do you any favors.
Criminal History Checks
These days, virtually every employer in every industry runs criminal history checks on its incoming employees. Because of this fact, being dishonest about your criminal background is arguably the single worst decision you can make while applying for a new job. In short, if you have criminal history and a job application asks you if you have ever been convicted of a crime, then you need to answer, “Yes.”
Still, job seekers with criminal convictions in their pasts will repeatedly choose the dishonest route when it comes to disclosing background information. It isn’t difficult to understand why these applicants feel a need to lie: there is very much a stigma against criminal offenders and ex-offenders in today’s employment circles. Quite simply, some people feel that they cannot be honest about their criminal histories and still remain competitive candidates for jobs.
That’s because there are employers out there who will toss out candidates at the slightest sign of criminal activity. Too often, it doesn’t matter what the crime was, whether or not it relates to the job at hand, how long ago it occurred, and whether or not there have been repeat offenses since. Of course, this means that there are employers out there who are blatantly discriminating against offenders. Those employers can be reported to the EEOC, but lying to them will not help you get a job if you do have criminal history.
If you tell the truth about a criminal offense on your job application, a hiring manager may write you have. However, you also stand the chance of findind a compassionate employer who is willing to give you a job and help you rebuild your life. If you lie, both employers will very likely still learn about your criminal history, thanks to a background check. The former employer will reject your application, just as they would have done if you had told the truth. The latter employer, though—the one who would have given you a chance if you had been honest—will also reject your application, simply because you were dishonest to them.
The bottom line? Be honest with your prospective employers. Tell them about your criminal history and hope they will be understanding; them about your true work and educational history, even if it isn’t as impressive as you want it to be. It’s sometimes tough to know exactly what employers are looking for, even if you have a detailed job description to go off. You can know for certain, though, that the company you are interviewing with is looking for an honest, upstanding individual. So use that knowledge to give yourself the advantage, instead of trying to find the advantage through lies and deceit.
|Michael Klazema has been developing products for pre-employment screening and improving online customer experiences in the background screening industry since 2009. He is the lead author and editor for a background check company. He lives in Dallas, TX with his family and enjoys the rich culinary histories of various old and new world countries.|