What To Do When You Have Lied on Your Resume

By Sky Ariella and Experts
Jul. 20, 2022

A resume is a simple piece of paper that can make a huge impact on whether you get hired by a company or not. The pressure of this can lead many candidates to pursue the unwise choice of lying on their resumes.

While job applicants may think that slipping a few lies or exaggerations into their resume will put them ahead of their competition, it can severely harm the chances of being a successful employee even if they manage to land the position.

Key Takeaways:

  • A lie on your resume can be either an active lie of commission or a lie of omission

  • If you submitted a resume with a lie you should revise and resend your resume, reach out and tell the truth, don’t do anything and hope for the best, or accept it and move on.

  • Some of the most common lies to put on your resume would be exaggerated skills, embellishing previous roles and titles, timeline of employment, and education.

What to do When You Have Lied on Your Resume

What Is Considered a Lie on Your Resume?

A lie on your resume can be:

  • An active lie of commission in which you provide false information knowingly.

    An example of an active lie is saying that you have five years of experience at a company you haven’t ever worked for.

  • A lie by omission which means that you give a half-truth or leave out specific information strategically to make your resume more impressive to a hiring manager.

    An example of an omission would be giving yourself a higher title for a position you actually did work in.

Lies of omission are much more common in applicants than those of commission – probably because they don’t involve telling as much of a blatant lie but instead embellishing real information. Even so, the omission isn’t any more innocent on a resume than active lying.

If a hiring manager catches you in a lie on your resume, no matter how minor, they won’t be calling you in for an interview.

What to Do if You’ve Submitted a Resume That’s Not True

You’ve already submitted a resume that contains information that’s exaggerated or simply untrue, and now you’re nervous about what will happen.

This can be stressful, especially if you’ve sent a fraudulent resume for a position you really want. Don’t freak out completely. You have some options.

  1. Revise and resend your resume. While there’s no way to know exactly how a hiring manager will react to you reaching out with a new resume right away, it’s probably your best bet for mending the situation. You don’t have to come right out and confess your lies to the potential employer, but you also don’t sit around and wait to be caught in the lies or hired under false pretenses.

  2. Reach out and tell the truth. Considering the possibility of telling a hiring manager that your resume contained lies can scare a lot of applicants. It’s the most straightforward approach but also fairly risky. Taking this course of action will almost surely eliminate you from receiving a job offer. Still, there’s always the possibility that they respect your integrity and give you a second chance.

  3. Don’t do anything and hope for the best. This is the least recommended option on this list, but it’s still an alternative nonetheless. You can always just let the chips fall where there may and hope that the employer never finds out about your lies. But, doing so will likely produce consequences for you, whether you end up getting hired or not.

  4. Accept it and move on. The final way you can handle submitting a resume that’s not true is by withdrawing your application, fixing your resume, and moving on to a new opportunity. While it’ll probably be disappointing to give up on getting this job, it can cause many more issues to do nothing at all or try to make attempts at fixing the situation.

    Learn for next time and revise your resume to eliminate any lies or exaggerations.

Most Common Resume Lies

Although lying on your resume in any fashion is strongly discouraged, that doesn’t make it any less common in the job market. Many applicants may not even be aware that some of the claims they’re making on their resumes are considered lies. Below are some of the most common resume lies.

  1. Exaggerated skills. Regardless of field, most job listings will have a certain number of skills that they require for the position they need to fill. This leads many applicants to fill in the blanks or exaggerate the skills they do have to meet these requirements.

    Why it won’t work.

    An experienced hiring manager will be able to decipher between real and dramatized abilities.

    Even if you give a convincing display of exaggerated skill on your resume, get an interview, and manage to land the job, these lies will come back to haunt you. As soon as you get to the first day on the job, it will become apparent that your skills aren’t at the level you said they were.

    Instead of exaggerating your skills to meet a position’s requirements, include a cover letter to make your application stand out despite lacking in hard and soft skills.

  2. Embellishing responsibilities in a former role. Another common lie that job applicants will embed into their resume is embellishing the responsibilities in a former role to make themselves sound more experienced. This can be minor, like adding extra tasks that you didn’t really do. Or, it can be extreme, such as stating that you had a role you never did.

    Why It won’t work.

    This resume lie is likely to get figured out before the candidate ever makes it to the interview stage. The company you’re hoping to work for will likely reach out to your past employer if they’re listed as a reference to cross-reference your resume’s details. If your former employer says you didn’t have as much responsibility as you claimed to on your resume, the hiring manager will move onto the next applicant.

  3. The timeline of employment. Many applicants are under the impression that having gaps in your resume for any reason can look negative to a potential employer. To combat this, they extend the dates when they worked at their former job to cover up an unemployment gap.

    Why it won’t work.

    Like a candidate who embellishes their responsibilities, modifying your career timeline will probably be figured out by a recruiter before needing you to come in for an interview. It’s not difficult to call your former employer and ask them the dates for when you were employed.

    While this lie may not be as harmful as lying about experience or skills, it can still put off a hiring manager to find misinformation on your resume at all.

  4. Job title. Certain positions require the specified level of experience that comes with a particular job title to be considered for the job. Some employers try to skate past this prerequisite by lying about their job title in a former role.

    Why it won’t work.

    Finding out what your job title was at a former company is an easy task for a recruiter. It’ll probably be one of the first pieces of information that they look into. Once they discover that you gave a false job title when describing your last position, they’ll toss your resume to the side.

  5. Education. Earning a college degree is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive.

    Some applicants think they can work around getting a degree by lying about it on their resume to get a job. Lying about your education doesn’t have to mean outright saying you went to college at a campus you’ve never even stepped foot on. It’s often people who started school but never finished who claim to have earned a full degree from the university.

    Why it won’t work.

    Figuring out if you’ve earned a degree from a particular university can be accomplished with little more than an internet search or an inquisition with the school. While this might not be done with every application a company receives, they’ll definitely be checking this information before welcoming you on board. Lying in this department absolutely will not be tolerated.

What Can Happen if You Lie on Your Resume

While lying on your resume isn’t illegal, it can have equally dire consequences for your professional life as breaking the law.

Consider the following possible negative outcomes that lying on your resume can create:

  1. Not getting a job. One of the most gleamingly obvious consequences of lying on your resume is not getting jobs because employers figured out you weren’t truthful. Usually, when an employer discovers that an applicant has lied on their resume during the hiring phase, they won’t tell them they caught them lying and just won’t call them. If you’ve been noticing poor luck in the job search, it may be because potential employers are detecting lies in your resume.

  2. Losing your job. A situation where an employer discovers that an employee has lied on their resume after hiring them can be even more challenging to deal with. At the bare minimum, you’ll be faced with the strong possibility of losing your job and becoming unemployed. Additionally, you will never be able to use the employer as a reference because all they’ll have to say is that they had to fire you for lying.

  3. Harming your professional reputation. Reputation is critical in most industries. If other professionals in your field find out that you’ve been caught lying on your resume, it will make you look untrustworthy and damage your professional reputation. This can make it difficult to find an employer who will hire you or clients who want to work with you in the future.

  4. Possible legal action. If you got a job with lying and something happens in that position, you could face legal action from your employers if someone gets hurt or something worse happening.

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Sky Ariella

Sky Ariella is a professional freelance writer, originally from New York. She has been featured on websites and online magazines covering topics in career, travel, and lifestyle. She received her BA in psychology from Hunter College.


Don Pippin, MHRM, CPRW, CDCS

Don Pippin is an executive and HR leader for Fortune 50 and 500 companies and startups. In 2008, Don launched area|Talent with a focus on helping clients identify their brand. As a Certified Professional Resume Writer, Certified Digital Career Strategist, and Certified Personal Branding Strategist, Don guides clients through career transitions.

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