It’s tempting to lie on your resume or job application. I mean who’s really going to know about where you got your degree or how much education you have? Employers don’t actually check that kind of stuff … or do they?
Well, they most certainly do! Maybe at one time pretending to have a degree from a known university – or a school that you made up completely – could get you a job offer, but nowadays falsifying educational credentials is not something you want to take a chance on. So what can you do instead?
Do background checks include education?
A background check will almost definitely include a look into your education. Maybe at one time pretending to have a degree from a known university could get you a job offer, but nowadays falsifying educational credentials is not something you want to take a chance on.
Can you lie on your resume?
You can, though it’s strongly advised that you don’t. There have been many people – you’ll find some well-known names if you do a Google search – who decided to take the chance and embellish their resume with a few lies for a job search or to apply for a promotion. But it eventually came back to bite them.
Then again, I knew one woman with no college degree who made up a school she claims to have attended – and carried that fake school on her resume for many years. Getting away with it, at least back, was much easier to do. (But she did eventually get caught.)
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How lying can hurt your chances for a job
Nowadays – although there are exceptions – most employers do background checks, some of them extensive, relying on firms that specialize in this. They can sniff out a lie in minutes just by checking your name and identifying information against the right database.
So there you are, waiting for that job offer, with a big fat lie about to undo your chances. Now, some employers may still give you a chance to explain, but most will see a lie on a resume as evidence of your trustworthiness and character – and those are qualities they prefer not to take a risk on.
Sadly, I’ve seen job seekers within days of getting that “yes,” instead getting told that the company is going with someone who is a “better match”. If this has happened to you, and you do have a lie on your resume about your education or anything else, don’t assume it’s really just about the fit.
How lying can hurt your career later on
Maybe you got through with that lie, and were hired anyway. Phew! You’re home free now. You can just relax and show them how good you are, even without that degree they think is so important.
But not so fast!
People have been caught years later during a standard background check for a promotion (did you even know that happens?) – or when something they did became well known and people started snooping. And don’t assume some co-worker might not decide to snoop, especially if they don’t like you or simply want to get you out of the way of their own career climb.
After years of hard work and building a good reputation in your field, the last thing you want is to be discovered and branded a liar. Not only will you quite probably lose your job, but the taint will follow you for the rest of your career.
Is it a crime to lie on a job application?
Sometimes. If you are lying on an application for a state or federal employer, it could be considered a crime since it is illegal to lie to a federal or state government agent. In most cases, however, a lie on a resume that is discovered after the person is hired is grounds for termination.
Depending on your profession, doing so could also cost you your professional license, which could be career-ending.
Why you still may choose to lie
I know what I said might seem a bit sanitized and removed from your reality, especially if times are tough. You may be thinking that you’d be happy not to lie, if anyone would hire you as you are, without a degree. I get that.
And you and I both know that a degree alone doesn’t make a great worker. Many successful people – Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg to name two – have made it to the top without a college degree.
But you’re still risking a lot, so I just want you to be fully informed before you make a choice. If you choose to go with a lie, there’s a good chance you’ll be caught in this day of background checks and readily available personal data.
What should you do instead of lying on your resume?
Look … I can’t really tell you what you should do – that’s your decision. But when you build on a shaky foundation, you get a shaky future. So I hope you will at least consider these alternatives:
- Now is as good a time as any to go back to school. I know school is ridiculously expensive now, but it won’t get any cheaper. Talk to local colleges or investigate quality online programs. Ask about scholarships (libraries or local employment programs are good places to ask for help with this) or other means of financial help. Do your homework and beware of high-cost loans!
- If you can’t afford to go back to school full-time, there may be part-time programs that would work. Some employers even help pay for this. I went to grad school part-time and managed to work while doing it. On your resume, you can list that you’re doing this; it can be a big plus for someone with no degree! And many schools have placement offices that may connect you with employers who see your potential, despite the lack of a degree at present. Provides a new source of job referrals!
- Even taking one course in the direction you want to go can add some zing to your resume – and to your interview stories. And it can help open up doors, again through connections the school might provide. (Check out state schools and community colleges for lower tuition.)
- If you absolutely can’t go back to school and find doors closed because of your lack of education credentials, more than ever you need to rely on networking through volunteer work, organizations in the field you want to find work in, job search support groups, and anyone you know or have ever known (or will soon know) who might help. Networking is a great way to get through closed doors. This is not the time to be shy!
Some final thoughts
Whatever you decide, I wish you luck. But please remember that you have many years of work – and more job hunting – ahead of you. And a choice that seems so simple and maybe harmless now, especially if you are still young, can come back to haunt you many times.
So please think twice before you sugar your resume with some of those lie sweeteners. They may one day turn very sour.