There’s a lot of pressure to embellish your resume but lying about your qualifications could be disastrous. You may be confused about where to draw the line, especially if you’re new to the job market or returning after some time off.
If so, you have plenty of company. About 46% of adults know someone who has included false information on a resume, according to a survey by the staffing firm OfficeTeam.
It’s a disturbing situation because the risks and consequences of getting caught are so high. Hiring managers may notice inconsistencies between your online profile and your application or your new boss may have a conversation with one of your former coworkers. As a result, you could lose a job offer or even be fired.
You can avoid exaggerating on your resume and still present yourself as an outstanding candidate. Try these alternative strategies for making your experience and education sound as impressive as possible without stretching the truth.
- Seek professional help. If you’re having trouble attracting job offers or feel like you need to market yourself more effectively, consider working with a job coach or a resume service. Someone with expertise in human resources can help you deal with weaknesses and showcase your strengths.
- List correct dates. Gaps in employment history are common these days. Explain how you used your downtime productively with contract work or volunteering.
- State your job title. What if you operated at a higher level than your job title suggests, or few employers would understand what it even means? Put the official label on your resume, but back it up with additional details about what you actually did.
- Describe your role. You’ve probably been advised to focus on your impact and quantify your achievements. Use your judgement and ask others for feedback if you think you may be getting too creative. Persuading one customer to order a $20 entree instead of a $10 dish is different from doubling sales.
- Assess your skills. Is there a long list of software programs and foreign languages at the bottom of your resume? Be sure to describe your level of proficiency and fluency accurately. You may be tested during the hiring process or on the job.
- Consider your hobbies. Unless your pastimes are relevant to the position, you can usually leave them off. If you do mention them, pick activities you really participate in.
- Do volunteer work. Supporting worthy causes is a great way to make your resume stand out. If you’ve been neglecting your charitable side, it’s easy to catch up. Call a volunteer hotline or ask your neighbors about local nonprofits they like.
- Disclose your salary. You can get a raise without inflating your last salary. Many employers rely more on market value and their own budget in determining compensation. Practicing your negotiation skills will help too.
- Forget about grades. Outside of academia, few employers will want to hear about your GPA. On the other hand, you might want to brag about graduating summa cum laude if the facts bear it out.
- Declare your major. Cheer up even if the job ad specifies a different major than yours. Most companies are flexible about such matters.
- Complete your degree. Claiming fictitious degrees can be hazardous to your career. If you need additional credentials to advance, consider going back to school or taking additional courses at a local university or online.
Honesty is the safer policy when it comes to applying for a job. Design a resume that will help you sell yourself and double check the contents to ensure you’re painting an accurate picture of your background and potential.