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Ten tall tales told on résumés

  • Story Highlights
  • Many job applicants get too creative on resumes, making false claims
  • Highest rate of resume dishonesty reported in hospitality industry
  • College attendance, graduation is easy to verify; don't claim degree not earned
  • Most companies disqualified candidates after discovering their dishonesty
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By Rosemary Haefner senior career adviser
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Hiring managers say some job applicants tell tall tales while trying to climb corporate ladder.

Hiring managers say some job applicants tell tall tales while trying to climb corporate ladder.

Résumés are a critical part of any job search. They are the most effective marketing tool any of us have about who we are and what we can do. And all of us want our résumé to be the best possible representation of our work.

But some workers turn their résumés into a work of fiction instead of a representation of fact. A survey of hiring managers and workers looked at the tall tales and bold lies used on résumés.

Here are the 10 most outrageous whoppers, as reported by hiring managers:

1. Candidate claimed to be a member of the Kennedy family

2. Applicant invented a school that did not exist

3. Job seeker submitted a résumé with someone else's photo inserted into the document

4. Candidate claimed to be a member of Mensa

5. Applicant claimed to have worked for the hiring manager before, but never had

6. Job seeker claimed to be the CEO of a company when he was an hourly employee

7. Candidate listed military experience dating back to before he was born

8. Job seeker included samples of work, which were actually those of the interviewer

9. Applicant claimed to be Hispanic when he was 100 percent Caucasian

10. Candidate claimed to have been a professional baseball player

Modifying your résumé is a lot like airbrushing a photo, and many of us may have made minor tweaks to our résumés. You may have revised a job title that sounded uninspiring or omitted a hellish work experience from your list.

But there's a line between bending the truth and outright deception. According to the survey, these were the most common falsehoods people admitted to using on a résumé:

• 38 percent of those surveyed indicated they had embellished their job responsibilities

• 18 percent admitted to lying about their skill set

• 12 percent indicated they had been dishonest about their start and end dates of employment

• 10 percent confessed to lying about an academic degree

• 7 percent said they had lied about the companies they had worked for

• 5 percent disclosed that they had been untruthful about their job title

Do these lies work? In most cases, no. Most companies disqualified candidates after discovering their dishonesty. Thirty-six percent still considered the candidate, but ultimately passed on hiring them. Six percent of hiring managers overlooked the "flawed résumé" and hired the applicant anyway.

The survey also found some industries seemed to be more likely to have incidences of résumé fabrication. The industry reporting the most deceit was hospitality, with 60 percent of employers reporting they found lies on résumés. Transportation/utilities field and information technology followed close behind with 59 percent and 57 percent of hiring managers respectively.

The industry with the fewest liars: government at 45 percent.

How do you make a résumé stand out without resorting to dishonesty? What can you do to be attention-getting for the right reasons? Here are some recommendations.

Be the first in line. One-in-five employers said they are receiving more résumés this year than last year. A good way to break out from the crowd is to be the first one in line. Sign up for e-mail alerts and perform daily searches for jobs in a specific field or industry.

Use keywords. Many hiring managers and HR departments are using new technology to review job candidates. Applicant tracking systems scan résumés and provide the managers with a ranking based on keywords in the document.

Among the terms employers searched for most often: "problem-solving and decision making skills," "oral and written communication," "customer service," "retention," "performance" and "productivity improvement," "leadership," "technology," "team-building," "project management" and "bilingual."

Stand out. Many of the hiring managers (43 percent) said that they spend a minute or less looking at résumés. Think of your résumé as a written audition. You have a limited window of opportunity to have the attention of the hiring manager, so make the most of it. Focus on specific accomplishments and tangible, positive results that you achieved at previous jobs.

Be honest. If you have a gap in employment periods, explain why. Mention any volunteer work you did or classes you took at these times to show that your skill set is still current and highlight what you have accomplished. People often forget to include volunteer work, part-time jobs and freelance work in a résumé, even though that work is often relevant to your career path.

If you did not complete a degree, do not claim that you did; college and university attendance is easy to verify. List graduation date, the time frame you attended any institutions and major.

Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority

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