Don’t Lie In Your Résumé… But Don’t Tell the Truth, Either

The other day, I was talking to a recruiting friend of mine who is especially known for his candor about talent acquisition issues, and we were comparing notes about our résumé frustrations.

never lie on your resumeAs a career industry professional, I advise clients to NEVER lie on a résumé. Yet many people abandon the truth and move into uncharted areas of creative fiction when it comes to discussing their career background. And believe me, they come up with some incredible whoppers.

But as a résumé writer, I am not there to act as a judge/jury to my client’s work history.  My work does require asking in-depth questions to clarify what the client is telling me, but it’s not my place (since they hired me) to act as the police officer investigating the truth to their claims.

But you know what?

I can TOTALLY tell when a client is lying to me about their accomplishments in the consultation. They won’t make eye contact, and can’t get as specific as they need to, and will do anything to change the subject.  It’s that clear.

If I can spot these stinkers a mile away, you can only imagine what it must be like for human resource folks.

Given the fact that it’s their job to separate fact from fiction, they absolutely specialize in reading through the clouds of smoke to find out where the real BS lies.

They won’t explain to you why they aren’t calling you in for an interview. They simply move on to the next candidate versus telling you what you are doing wrong.

So you should NEVER (ever) lie on your résumé simply because you WILL probably be found out sooner… rather than later. And this could have long-reaching repercussions on your reputation and career brand, as borne out by the recent media flurry over the inaccuracies included in a certain large web company executive.

But the flip side of this sword is that you can’t ever tell the truth in your résumé, either. 

Consider this:

As much as we have to not lie about ANYTHING in our résumé, we also can’t tell the truth about what really happened at a previous job:

  •  That you had the worst boss in the world that created such a toxic environment that you were sick in your stomach every morning going into work.
  •  That a spiteful and  co-worker sabotaged you.
  •  That you did your job right, but due to an idiot co-worker’s incompetence, they bungled a major project that had you as the project manager.
  •  That you were mislead about what the job involved and didn’t know it wasn’t a fit until you got in there, and hated it so much that you had to leave.
  •  That the company wasn’t exactly forthright about the state of their finances and went belly up.

There are a million stories out there that many workers wish they had the opportunity to explain themselves, but résumés, being the inflexible documents that they are, force all of us to walk down a narrow road that provides no space whatsoever to explain what REALLY happened, or at least have an opportunity to provide your version.

Wouldn’t it be great if the résumé could evolve into a 100% ACCURATE document that reflects the truth without creating a need to lie?

What do you think? Should the résumé be made into a completely honest document?


Pinocchio Picture by André Koehne