Lying on resumes

Date: 2006
Author: Daniel A. Lublin
Publication: Metro
Wanting to get a step ahead, Jane, misled her new employer about her qualifications and prior work experiences. But when Jane’s employer got hold of the truth, her career was sent backwards.
Recently, one of my clients consulted me about its employee, Jane, who was found lying on her resume. The problem for my client was that Jane’s delinquency wasn’t discovered until after she was hired. As the story goes, Jane had stated on her resume that she was still working for a large computer company and wanting to avoid a relocation, she was looking for a new job. In fact, Jane had been fired months earlier. Jane also had stated that she had a diploma in animation but again, Jane had been less than honest. Jane’s luck eventually ran out when the company learned about her dishonesty. It fired her immediately for just cause.
Unfortunately for this company, Jane’s lies weren’t discovered until it was too late. If they had known the truth about Jane, she wouldn’t have got her foot in the door.
The story of Jane is not an unfamiliar one. Studies reveal that resume falsification is a common event. Statistics suggest that as many as 50 percent of all resumes contain some degree of distortion – from white lies to outright whoppers. While it is natural to expect that some form of embellishment on resumes will occur, there is a big difference between accentuating your strengths and creating new ones altogether. When it comes to full blown lying on your resume, the truth is that you can be fired.
When will lying on your resume leave you looking for new work? Here are three legal points that the courts will consider:
1. The lie must be connected to the knowledge and qualifications the employer had in mind when recruiting for the position. If the lie was about something completely unrelated to the position, you might be dishonest but chances are you won’t lose your job.
2. The content of the dishonest statements is important. Some resume lies are actually viewed as less serious than others. For example, exaggerating your fluency in French, in most circumstances, won’t be cause for termination. However, lying about having a specialized degree is usually viewed as a serious workplace offence.
3. The company’s reliance on the statements and lies must be reasonable. In other words, if your lie was entirely unbelievable to most people, yet the company chose to ignore or overlook the obvious facts, they usually will not then be able to fire you for that lie later on.
The law implies that not every act of dishonesty can lead to termination. Often, context can come before content and a mere error in judgment can be overlooked. When it comes to your resume however, it’s best to stick to the truth.