The job market can be ultra-competitive for new graduates. With no experience besides internships or clinical rotations, it's tempting to embellish your résumé to beef it up and make yourself look more impressive. But is it worth it? Not at all, advise two career consultants. In fact, doing so could tarnish your reputation in the clinical laboratory field.
Facts and Embellishments
Drew Stevens, PhD, president of Stevens Consulting Group in St. Louis says embellishment and flat-out lying are similar, yet different. "There are several differences and this is where the résumé process gets quite hairy," he says. With the recession, many individuals are claiming they do things they do not do.
"With that in mind, clear lying is making statements about employers you have worked with and have not, credentials you have and do not and results you have produced and have not," Dr. Stevens explains.
He defines embellishment as taking one or a combination thereof and making claims slightly about "that which was produced." For example, he illustrates, you were part of a team saving more than $1 million in costs, but claim you did this individually.
Laurent Duperval, president of Duperval Consulting in Montréal, says a fact can be measured and verified (e.g., "I worked for 7 years at Acme Labs, Inc."). He explains an embellishment has a truthful component but adds false, self-aggrandizing information (e.g., "I was the top producer in my company, when in fact I was the top producer in my division, not my company."). These types of notations can be quite subtle, he says, and never revealed.
Finally, Duperval explains a flat-out lie is something the candidate adds, knowing there's no truth to it (e.g., "I earned a degree in Microbiology at the Laboratory Institute of Advanced Research.").
Stevens and Duperval agree: The more outrageous the lie, the more it will stand out in the résumé or in the conversation.
White Lies and Omissions
Duperval stresses job-seekers don't have to say everything in a résumé. "This is not a confession. If there are some things in your past you don't wish to say, you don't have to. But if it comes up (e.g., "Have you ever been arrested?"), don't lie about it." Instead, Duperval says, interviewees should take the time to prepare for such occasions so they won't be rattled when it happens.
"I don't advocate lying on a résumé, even if it's a white lie," he told ADVANCE. He cited some examples of lies catching up with interviewees.
"You never know when you will be found out. It could be a new project that calls for your so-called 'expertise' and you can't live up to your résumé; it could be a new hire who knew you and can undermine everything you said; or it could be dumb luck: the owner of the obscure company you worked for is the best friend of the person who is interviewing you," Duperval detailes.
Dr. Stevens says the only way around catching white lies and omissions is to truly check references. "Because of the influx of résumés, many companies are no longer checking references, doing background checks and checking credentials. It is vital this gets checked as résumés are only as good as the paper they are written on," he stresses.
Dr. Stevens says new graduates without experience shouldn't try to do anything they can to get into the door. "Employers today want honest information so good candidates can be placed. Lying will only get you the job and then your flaws will immediately come out if hired. It's best to be up front and lying can get you black balled.
Duperval adds being over-zealous is a sign of insecurity. "You need to be seen as someone who is interested and not as someone who is desperate," he says. "Practicing interviews with someone who has experience in this area can help because that person will be able to tell you quickly that you are going overboard."
The problem with any form of lying on a résumé is it can come back to bite you. Further, you have to remember all the lies you said in case it comes up in a conversation with your boss.
If the boss smells something fishy, he may decide to start investigating and if so, you have to be ready to face the consequences. There may be no consequences if the lie has no impact on your job or the repute of the company. It could also lead to termination because you were hired under false pretenses.
In any case, when you are found out, it undermines the trust that your employer has put in you and could be a poor decision that follows you for the rest of your career.
Matthew T. Patton (email@example.com) is a freelance writer based in Atlanta. Visit http://www.matthewtpatton.com/ for more information.
Why Are You Lying?
Laurent Duperval of Duperval Consulting in Montréal says he never advocates lying on a résumé. He gives examples of why people lie to try to snag a job coupled with reasons it's better to take the high road and tell the truth.
- Lack of self-esteem: "You lie because you don't feel good about yourself and you need to portray yourself as someone you are not. Get over it. You are who you are and if the person in the résumé is too different from who you are, you will be asked to do a job that doesn't fit your personality and your boss will be unhappy. So will you."
- Focus on tasks: "You tend to focus on the tasks you do and not on the impact of those tasks. For example, 'Producing reports' is a task; 'Building a positive image for the company' is the result. The result has more impact than the task."
- Lack of experience: "Some people have many years of experience but they are always doing the same thing. So they have little to show for their efforts, hence the need to lie or embellish. It's a sign that you need to start doing things differently and that you need to stretch out of your comfort zone."
- Desperation: "You lie because you've been hunting for a job for so long that you feel that lying is the only way to get through the door. Instead of lying, why not get help from a professional?"
--Matthew T. Patton
Top 5 Résumé Lies
According to background screening company AccuScreen, the top five résumé lies are:
- Job Title
- Criminal Record
- Dates of Employment