April 26, 2018

That Resume is a Fugazi! - Tips on How to NOT Fake Your Resume

Years ago, an incredibly bright, talented colleague wandered into my office. She looked haggard; she had spent all morning trying to solve a complex legal matter she had been working through for a customer. “Do you ever feel like a fraud?” she asked. “Every day,” I responded.  

She wasn’t speaking of ethics, but rather the knowledge that no matter how wonderfully your career might be going, if you are a person with any humility, you realize far too often that you will never have all the answers. Every day, you face the knowledge that you are just doing the best you can, and that more often than not, you are making things up as you go; hoping you’re trending in a positive direction, and knowing how to course correct when you aren’t.

As I have navigated my career, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work in environments where it has been safe to take risks, and I’ve been supported to learn and grown along the way. As a result, I’ve built some great experience, and though I am far from having a perfect resume, I have never felt like I’ve needed to embellish it in any way. And yet, being in my field, I’ve seen a surprising increase in the number of people who feel the need to enhance their resumes over the last several years.

I like to operate with the general sentiment that people are generally good. And yet sometimes even good people make poor choices. If you’ve ever considered padding your background or stretching the truth a little in hopes of bolstering your ability to take on a new role, let me share these common misconceptions many assume to be true in hopes of getting you to reconsider, or aiding others, in roles like mine to catch these kinds of embellishments.

Here are a few notable tip-offs:

  • Your education can’t be verified.  This is one of the easiest things to catch people on, and yet it happens all the time. Claiming to have gone to a top-tier institution when you really attended a small state school, or no school at all can be easily checked with a simple phone call. And while not every company does background checks, you should make the assumption many do. Thinking of buying a diploma from the Internet to support your claim? Save your money. We can spot them a mile away.

  • Your employment dates don’t make sense. Many companies will not provide any real details about your history there if contacted, but they will confirm your employment dates. While it can seem like a simple move to tweak your employment dates just a bit, this is one of the easiest things to verify. If you have a gap on your resume you are trying to fill, highlight any consulting or volunteer work you did at that time instead.

  • Your skills don’t match your claims. In an effort to impress, sometimes people will embellish their backgrounds with claims of big skills developed in past jobs. Don’t be surprised if an interviewer actually asks you questions about these areas. Claiming you are an expert in something when you don’t have the substance or experience to back it up is incredibly easy to spot check. And failing a basic test of your assertions indicates perhaps you have either stretched the truth in other places on your resume or inflated your real abilities. Either way, it’s a serious red flag.

  • A Google search doesn’t reveal much. With so much of our lives readily available, assume the majority of people you interview with will do a little online research on you as part of the hiring process. It doesn’t take a lot of work to connect the dots to determine your education is fabricated, or that high-profile job you had last year was actually at a company that went out of business four years ago.

Everyone feels like a ‘fraud’ at some point during their career. But there’s a major difference between feeling overwhelmed or in over your head on a certain project and actually fudging your background and skill set on a resume. You don’t need to be a full-fledged con artist or even a bad person to consider padding your resume and background a bit. Before you do, however, realize the ramifications could be significant. Perhaps you’ve convinced yourself a little plumping of your experiences isn’t nearly as bad as flat out lying on your resume. Erroneous. In addition, while not every company does formal background checks, if they do, you’ll be caught if you’re less than truthful. If you are confirmed to be lying, whether it’s big or small, you risk damaging your reputation, missing out on that amazing job offer, or even getting fired if you are discovered.

Is it worth that risk?

Christina Luconi is Chief People Officer for Rapid7. Follow her on Twitter: @peopleinnovator.