A recent survey
revealed that tech pros tend to embellish their skill sets, previous experience and responsibilities more frequently than workers in other fields. While you can probably get away with boasting or exaggerating a bit, the problem with lying on a résumé is that the odds of getting caught are high. Whether the hiring manager or recruiter catches on during the initial review process, the face-to-face interview, or the reference check, spotting a lie or misrepresentation will doom your chances of landing the job. With that in mind, here’s how recruiters and hiring managers spot these discrepancies.
Job Titles and Duties Don’t Align
Having less responsibility than someone at a similar level is often the first indicator that something is wrong with a candidate’s résumé, noted Amber Eastman, recruiting manager with the Eastman Group. For example, “senior software engineer” is a title that usually applies to someone who has served as a product owner and/or project leader, not someone who has assisted a development team or reported to a fellow engineer, explained Dave Druzynski, Chief People Officer for Auto/Mate Dealership Systems, who trains recruiters and hiring managers to spot possible fibbers. If your job titles and duties don’t align, put a secondary title in parentheses next to your actual job title. That may help clarify things for the person reviewing your résumé.
If you tweak the experience levels in your opening profile or skills summary to match the job requirements, make sure your claims are actually supported in the résumé sections that follow. “Some candidates forget to backtrack and modify the entire document,” Druzynski explained. “For example, they may tweak the employment dates of their most recent job to show more experience in a specific role, but they forget to change the rest of their work history, so the date ranges overlap.” Reviewers also spot date discrepancies by comparing your résumé to your social-media profiles or previous résumé versions stored online. A short stint at a company followed by gap in employment is a sign that you weren’t laid off, as you might have claimed, but were actually terminated. Almost everyone gets fired at some point in their careers. It’s better to admit that things didn’t work out than get caught in a lie, Druzynski advised.
Education Doesn’t Compute
According to employers, the most common lies they catch on résumés relate to academic degrees. Some misrepresentations are easy to spot, Eastman said. For instance, a candidate might list a CS degree from a university before it was offered at the school. Other candidates try to hide the fact that they didn’t actually earn a degree by indicating that they attended a college or university for four or more years. Unfortunately, trying to cover up the truth won’t work because employers usually call the school, run a background check, or use a service such as the National Student Clearinghouse to verify a candidate’s education.
Inconsistencies in Your Stories
Fibbers have a hard time describing their role or the specific steps they took to resolve a problem, especially if they’re claiming credit for projects or tasks assigned to other professionals or teams. Interviewers often ask detailed questions or use whiteboard exercises
to weed out candidates who may have misrepresented their experience or are trying to compete for a higher-level position than they deserve. Moreover, deceivers tend to contradict themselves or have inconsistencies in their stories; don’t be surprised if the interviewer tries to trip you up by interrupting you, or asking you to start at the end of a story and work backwards. “Our recruiters take notes during the phone screen and pass them along to the hiring manager to make sure that a candidate’s stories match up throughout the hiring process,” Druzynski added.
Informal Reference Checks
Recruiters and hiring managers aren’t limited to the references you provide. They will often tap their networks to see if anyone they know has worked with you. With 70 percent of employers checking out candidates online before they extend an offer, there's a good chance that someone will be able to verify or refute the information in your résumé. A single discrepancy could cause a hiring manager to walk away—or question everything you say. Keep that in mind when shaping your application materials.