NEW YORK (MainStreet) — While a few resume lies may require a background check to prove, others show obvious inconsistencies that can get your resume rejected as soon as it’s received. Here’s a look at some of the most common lies to avoid and why they’re spotted so quickly:
Exaggerated dates of jobs to cover gaps
One of the first checks a human resources professional will make is to ensure you were employed where you said you were employed, during the dates reflected on your resume.
“When people adjust dates, it’s a red flag,” says Tracy Cashman, senior vice president and partner of information technology at recruitment firm WinterWyman. “Sometimes we’ll also see people using years instead of months in order to cover gaps, but that always creates more questions than it answers.”
For example, if someone had a four-month stint on their resume at a job that didn’t work out, they will simply cover it up by fudging their other jobs by two months in either direction.
“This is easily verifiable,” Cashman says. “People tend to keep their fingers crossed that companies won’t check, but this is something you can find out with no trouble.”
If you do have a short stint on your resume and no references to show for it, you have to weigh the pros and cons of including that position. Whatever you decide, however, fudging dates on either side isn’t an option.
“It’s not considered bad to leave that job off as long as you aren’t making up a lie to cover the time,” Cashman explains. “If you’re honest about your dates and you’d rather just have that gap on there, there’s nothing wrong with that.”
The truth is, job-seekers always view gaps on their resume more harshly than hiring managers, says Jason Hanold, managing partner at executive search firm Hanold Associates.
“Recruiters are constantly looking at people who have gaps. They know that companies downsize, people might not click with a particular boss, people move or their spouses move and they have to follow,” Hanold says. “We understand that things happen. The worst thing you can do is lie about it.”
Embellishing job title
“HR professionals will look at your age and your experience level, and if your job title is way off from the norm, that’s a sign you are lying rather than you are that outstanding,” says Janet Elkin, CEO of staffing company Supplemental Healthcare.
Some of the more common lies with regard to title include adding words such as “managing” or “senior” to a title.
Sometimes, not having your actual title on your resume is done with good intention, Cashman says.
“It may be done to more accurately reflect what someone’s role is. For example, if a person’s job title is ‘analyst’ that tells me very little about the actual duties performed. The person may be tempted to list their job title as ‘SharePoint systems analyst’ to more accurately convey their job,” Cashman says.
Unfortunately, that’s a lie.
“With one phone call we can find out that’s not your title at all. If it gets found out after you’re hired, this is the kind of thing that can get you fired, just like anything else that makes you appear to be dishonest or unethical.”
If you feel like your title is not reflective of your duties, keep your title on your resume but put a backslash beside it with a more descriptive moniker, Cashman suggests. So your resume might say: Analyst/Share Point systems analyst.
“This way you’re not being dishonest, you’re just being more descriptive,” she says.
Experience level with a particular type of technology
If you have a “huge laundry list” of tech certifications or know-how, it’s going to raise red flags, Cashman explains.
“Some people will put several complicated technologies on their resume in list format. If you have too many technologies listed, that will immediately draw suspicion. No one can possibly have that much exposure.”
Hiring managers will instantly wonder, “Do you really know them all, or are you just throwing out the buzzwords to get hired?” Cashman says. “It’s really going to put them off if you have something on there you don’t know.”
Another red flag is when someone mentions a technology in tandem with another that’s completely different.
“When they list one program alongside another that it doesn’t run with, that’s a sign that they don’t know what they are talking about,” she says.
Many times, candidates are asked to prove their tech knowledge in an interview.
“There will usually be some technical aspect in an interview, some problem solving. It’s not worth it to list those technologies and then not be able to perform when the time comes.”
As for certifications, those are easy enough to check with a quick phone call.
“If you have six certifications listed, they’re either going to call and verify every one of them, or they’re going to call to check the one you lied about,” Cashman warns.
Unsubstantiated claims or meaningless words
One of the worst things to put on a resume is a claim that can’t be verified and may seem “too good to be true,” Hanold says.
“When someone says, ‘I drove 10% year-over-year growth and grew revenue by $1.2 million,” that’s almost impossible to verify. Also, it’s a sign that the candidate may be taking credit for something that an entire team or company helped execute,” he says.
A good resume will be more specific about how growth was measured and whether the job candidate led the team responsible or was part of a team responsible.
“There are so many ways you can be more specific and offer proof of your accomplishments,” he says.
Specifics are important, and that’s why words like “driven,” “hard working,” “engaged,” and “action-oriented” are “completely meaningless,” Hanold says.
“I need to see that you have relevant experience, that you had an impact on the organization, not just a title. I don’t want to see a narrative around who you think you are. A resume should always stick to the facts: Here is what I my team and I accomplished, and here is how I went about doing it.”
— By Kathryn Tuggle for MainStreet