I hate to be cynical, but I’m not exactly sure that Yahoo!® hotjobs® really wants you to find a job. Sure, the company goes to great lengths to provide job-hunting information, but let’s face it — if we were all happily employed, who would need a job-search web site?
Frankly, I don’t know how else to explain site-sponsored articles like Charles Purdy’s “The Truth About Resume Lies. Why you shouldn’t fudge facts — and how to make the truth sound better.”
According to a HireRight.com survey quoted in the article, about 34% of all job applicants lie like rugs, which probably explains why the other 56% of applicants have to tell even bigger lies, just to stay even.
Take away the moral and ethical objections and you’re left with only one reason why you shouldn’t lie — you could get caught. “Background checks are much easier now,” says Dennis Nason, CEO of a recruiting firm, quoted in the article. “It’s all pretty open on the Internet.”
Not a pretty picture, is it? While millions of liars are trying to outdo each other in shaping the best phony resumes, a handful of distrustful, paranoid managers are scouring the Internet to catch the malefactors. You would think that forward-thinking companies would put a premium on the guts, imagination and desire it takes to fudge a resume and go out of their way to hire the most magnificent liars, but no! Stick-in-the-mud HR professionals are carrying on an electronic witch-hunt, hoping to prove that you really didn’t win the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2009, which is totally unfair, because you definitely would have won were it not for the fact that your parents were too mean to buy you a chemistry set when you were a kid, so now you spend all your spare time watching the mad scientists on The Food Network.
But is the issue truly so black and white, or is there what author Purdy calls “a gray area between fact and fiction?” According to Tim McIntryre, another search expert interviewed, it’s a matter of definition. “The dictionary says that ‘embellish’ means ‘to make beautiful,’ which is when a candidate is great at self-promotion. The difference between that and a damaging lie varies by industry and profession.”
In my hood, this is what we call ‘situational ethics.’ Do you really think that claiming a degree from McDonald’s University in advanced french-frying is worse than claiming a degree from the Harvard School of Medicine? I don’t think so, and it may explain why, when you woke from your heart transplant, the first words you heard was the doctor shouting, “order’s up!”
If you believe Forbes.com, the most common resume lies are indeed about education, or the lack thereof. Another rich area for fabrication comes from reinventing your past self based on the lofty job titles you didn’t have at businesses that are no longer in existence. “People think they can make up and embellish details about companies that have been sold or gone out of business,” says career expert Liz Ryan.
While there are certainly plenty of companies that have gone kablooie, sites like LinkedIn and Facebook can keep the memories alive, making it easy for the resume snoops to find fellow survivors who can rat you out. On the other hand, it might be to your credit for a potential employer to find out that you were a lowly janitor at a recently imploded investment bank, rather than the CEO, who ran the company into the ground before running off with employee’s 401k money. Especially if you are the CEO who ran the company into the ground before running off with the employees 401k money.
This brings up a whole new area of resume lies that the article never imagines — people who lie on their resumes to make their qualifications seem worse!
The career experts do suggest that you can ethically put lipstick on your pig of resume if you play by the rules. “Just because you weren’t get paid for something doesn’t mean you weren’t being productive and gaining skills,” author Purdy points out when addressing the embarrassing issue of gaps in your work history. So what if you’ve been unemployed since Vanilla Ice toped the Billboard charts? It’s perfectly ethical to tell your future employer the truth — you’ve spent the last 10 years watching Dancing with the Stars and gaining the useful skill of mastering the pasodoble.