Resumes are tricky documents. While you need to make your skills and experience sound impressive, there’s a fine line between fancy wordplay and misrepresentation. And it’s a line plenty of us cross, according to a new study by staffing service OfficeTeam: Of the more than 1,000 managers surveyed, 36 percent report that job applicants “somewhat often” include inaccurate information on their resumes.
While many candidates attempt to stretch the duration of a past job or misrepresent their levels of education, some of the other common inaccuracies aren’t intentionally deceitful, says OfficeTeam’s Wall Street market manager, Daryl Pigat. “A lot of times with software, they’ll think, I’ve worked in Photoshop a million years ago, so I can put that on. But it fact, they’re useless,” he says. “It’s easy to sit in your room, type up a document and send it out with this mis-truth on there. But in person, it’s a lot harder to defend.”
Managers who see a lot of resumes, like Pigat, can easily spot a suspicious entry, so it’s likely you’ll never have the chance to explain your Photoshop bluff in person. But if you do, it’s best to admit your shortcomings and hope the rest of your interview makes up for it. “It’s not a great first impression, but we’ve seen people recover,” says Pigat. “When the question does come up, you have to be truthful.”
Resume red flags
Whether you’re being dishonest or just sloppy, these common missteps will make your resume stand out in all the wrong ways:
1. Missing dates: If you leave off the months of employment at your previous jobs, hiring managers will wonder what you’re trying to hide. After all, 2009-2010 covers a wide range.
2. Not stating degrees: This, says Pigat, is a classic way to not lie about having a degree, but still include the name of the school and infer a diploma. It will immediately raise suspicions that you did not graduate.
3. Murky phrases such as “familiar with,” “involved in,” “had exposure to”: If this is the best way to describe a skill or experience, it’s not significant enough to include on your resume.
By the numbers
The survey asked managers, “In your opinion, how often do job applicants include dishonest or exaggerated information on their resumes?”
Very often: 7 percent
Somewhat often: 36 percent
Not very often: 48 percent
Never: 8 percent
Don’t know: 1 percent