Three quarters of applicants have already lied to you

by Stephanie Zillman23 Sep 2013

It could be embellishing a former job title, talking-up responsibilities or even fudging qualifications – you name it, an applicant has done it. The problem is it’s happening more often than many employers realise.

The demise of former Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson showed how spectacularly resume lies can come to a head, and how damaging they can be to the company once exposed.

According to one background check firm, as many as 75% of resumes contain an inaccuracy. Some are fairly minor in nature, while others are out-and-out falsehoods, designed to tailor the resume to a specific job or to mask aspects of their background that are less favourable. “A candidate’s resume is their marketing tool to gain employment and hence they use it to portray themselves in the best light possible,” Greg Newton from background-search firm Verify previously told HC.

According to Verify, the most common omissions or embellishments include:

  • Leaving out positions which are less flattering to a person’s ‘on paper’ career profile.
  • Modifying job titles to portrait a higher level position was occupied e.g HR Executive when they were an HR Officer
  • Listing qualifications that were only commenced and not yet completed

As to who is doing the bulk of the fibbing, younger people may point the finger at the older generations and vice versa – but Newton said every demographic is prone to the practice. “As a generalisation, the more mature applicants tend to leave out jobs early in their career and list qualifications not necessarily completed. Younger applicants are more prone to embellish their responsibilities,” Newton commented.

Data has indicated that candidates are more honest in their online profiles, such as on LinkedIn, than on their paper resumes. Research from Cornell University found that people are less likely to tell “big lies” in online resumes, compared with traditional paper or e-mailed resumes. It was hypothesized that this was because claims are more easily verified in a public, online setting, so liars are more likely to get caught. However, “people still found ways to make themselves look better”, such as by fabricating harder-to-verify claims such as personal interests, Jamie Guillory from Cornell University said.

Yet this finding didn’t sit with the experiences of Verify. “We certainly have not found that to be the case and repeatedly find profiles on sites such as LinkedIn to be highly tailored, very much more so than a person’s own detailed paper resume,” Newton said. Time and time again, online profiles have positions omitted, titles altered and qualifications ‘alluded to’ in the brief space that candidates have to ‘sell themselves’. What’s more, online profiles have the scope for less direct embellishments in the form of tailored testimonials or recommendations designed to heighten perceived competence. “It is amazing how some executives that we have come across have literally hundreds of connections and many recommendations yet it is well known that they are not regarded as a high performer in their profession,” Newton commented.


  • by Peter Maxfield 24/09/2013 1:35:52 AM

    Given that a Resume is used to convey information about a person and their career to see if they might be suitable for a specific work role, presentation and content are really up to the applicant. there are no specific rules. An inaccuracy can sometimes be a matter of perception, and as long as the person hasn't deliberately set out to mislead, then I think lying, in this context is too strong a word, for a mistake. Still, it is a good idea to review your resume in this light; so a nice article.

  • by Joh W... 24/09/2013 11:04:02 AM

    The competition is fierce out there, and when you look at the numbers that are competing for a single position, it would seem that everyone is vying for that "edge".
    Though, I do believe that a resume is just an introduction, it is the interview which then, the employer should be able to assess the worth of a candidate and whether or not they are suitable for the position that is being offered.

  • by Craig Dandeaux 24/09/2013 4:04:22 PM

    If 75% of CVs are such a poor indicator then why are you still using them?

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