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The Ugly Truth About Resume Lies

False information on resumes is on the rise, according to new survey data.

Resume in envelope with pen on table – business concept.

Staffing firm OfficeTeam, a Robert Half company, surveyed more than 1,000 workers 18 years of age or older employed in office environments, and more than 300 senior managers at U.S. companies with 20 or more employees.

What Workers Say

Nearly half, 46 percent, of workers polled say they know someone who has included false information on a resume—a 25-point jump from a 2011 OfficeTeam survey.

The research finds demographic differences. More male workers (51 percent) know someone who’s lied on his or her resume than their female counterparts (39 percent). Fifty-five percent of employees ages 18 to 34 can name a person who fibbed on their resume, the most of all age groups.

What types of lies do job seekers tell?

Job experience (76 percent) and duties (55 percent) are the areas most frequently embellished, followed by education (33 percent) and employment dates (26 percent).

Managers Not Surprised

The management survey finds that 53 percent of senior managers suspect candidates often stretch the truth on resumes. Thirty-eight percent of senior managers say their company has removed an applicant from consideration for a position after discovering he or she lied.

In light of findings from the two surveys, OfficeTeam offers advice to job seekers and employers.

“It may be tempting to stretch the truth on a resume to stand out, but even small misrepresentations can remove an applicant from consideration for a position,” said Brandi Britton, a district president for OfficeTeam. “To verify information and avoid costly hiring mistakes, employers should conduct thorough interviews, reference checks and skills testing with the help of a staffing firm.”

Warning Signs

OfficeTeam identifies five signs a job seeker may be lying on a resume – and offers tips for confirming details:

  1. Skills have vague descriptions. Using ambiguous phrases like “familiar with” or “involved in” could mean the candidate is trying to cover up a lack of direct experience. To assess a worker’s abilities, conduct skills testing or hire the person on a temporary basis before making a full-time offer.
  2. There are questionable or missing dates. Having large gaps between positions or listing stints by year without months can be red flags. Inquire about the applicant’s employment history during initial discussions and ask references to validate timelines.
  3. You get negative cues during the interview. A lack of eye contact or constant fidgeting may suggest dishonesty, but don’t eliminate a promising candidate by making a judgment based solely on body language. Consider the individual’s responses to your questions and feedback from other staff members who met him or her.
  4. References offer conflicting details. Ask initial contacts about additional people you can speak to about the prospective hire. Also check if there are connections in your network who can provide insight about the candidate.
  5. Online information doesn’t match. Don’t always take what you find on the internet at face value. There may be multiple professionals with the same name or legal issues with how the information can be used. Verify facts during the interview and reference check processes.