The Ladders – Should you fess up to your boss or HR if you lied on your resume?

By: Rachel Weingarten

When you’re in the thick of a job hunt, it can feel incredibly pressing to include fantastic details about yourself and your accomplishments. For some people that can mean including details that don’t just stretch the truth, they reinvent it. And these folks prone to resume enhancement are definitely not alone.

According to research from staffing firm OfficeTeam, almost half of workers (46%) know someone who included false information on a resume. The two biggest things they lie about? Job experience (76%) and duties (55%) are both frequently embellished. But they don’t always get away with fibbing since 38% of senior managers said their company has removed an applicant from consideration for a position after discovering they lied.

“I have seen multiple people fired if they are caught after the fact,” said Allison O’Kelly CEO and Founder of boutique staffing firm Corps Team. The reason being that “Many companies have you fill out a job application where you sign something stating that your application (which includes your resume) is truthful and that any discrepancy is grounds for termination!”

On the heels of the College Admissions Scandal, now is a really dumb time to fib about your accomplishments. But what if you stretched the truth in the past; should you admit to it now? Not necessarily. O’Kelly believes that “the best time to correct inaccuracies is when you are looking for a new role.” And allow yourself to “start with a clean slate! Make sure you change it in both your printed/electronic versions as well as in your online profiles on career sites.”

But what if your lie is much more substantial and you didn’t really get that degree, those grades or that license? O’Kelly says it’s time to fess up because you’re potentially putting the careers and reputation of others at risk. She said, “You could be putting your employer at risk and you could be legally liable. That said, you will likely need to get started on your next job search – this time using an accurate resume.”

So, what happens if you lied on your resume and aren’t sure if it’s egregious enough to bring up? You should probably research any information about your company’s hiring requirements before mentioning it to HR.

Whatever you do, don’t tell your work wife and expect them to help you figure it out. That could be a bad idea since depending on your company policies, you might be sharing the guilt if you share the details. And you also might eventually break up with your best friend in the office and you’ve just given them a valuable piece of leverage over you.

A few more tips
If your lie wasn’t actually a lie, but rather a buffing of your skills, speak to HR:

Heather Q., who wants to keep her information private to protect her career, didn’t even realize she had lied on her resume until she was at her new job for a few months. “I thought I knew how to do something, so I added those skills to my resume. It was only after I realized the details involved that I worried that I might have lied on my resume.”

Heather ended up going to HR and explaining the situation. She then confessed to her boss. While it wasn’t a pleasant situation initially, her boss ended up trusting her more because she realized that instead of propagating a lie Heather chose to “expose my professional vulnerabilities in the past and show my boss how much my skillset had improved.”

Talk to a resume pro:
Santiago R. reveals that when he first came to the states as an exchange student, his English was good but not great. Santiago tried to craft a resume on his own but realized that he wasn’t necessarily telling the entire truth on his resume. As he became more confident with his career skills, he hired a resume professional to go over his professional claims with him.

“I knew I was good at my job, but I figured that if I was ever up for review, I needed to be sure I told the truth in the first place,” Santiago said.

A resume pro was able to point out the trouble spots and eventually, Santiago confessed all to his boss. “I wanted my work to speak for myself instead of the fibs on my resume.”


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