“Official Résumé Wrong”! That was the headline in the Sports section of a popular newspaper a few years ago, when it was discovered that the then manager of a major league baseball team had inaccuracies in his bio. He was not an “All-American basketball player” and he did not “play basketball at UCLA prior to signing with the Dodgers”. When asked by the sportswriter, the manager admitted the statements were incorrect, and said he should be judged by what he does on the field, not by what’s written about him.
Four years ago, it was widely reported in newspapers and on the Internet that an individual who was planning to purchase a football team had to revise his Fact Sheet because it contained numerous errors. He did not play in the NFL nor the CFL, neither did he play in the Little League World Series when he was 11 years old. And, he has a degree in social work, not “a degree in Business Administration with an emphasis on Finance,” as his original bio claimed.
These occurrences are not confined to sports. There have been incidents where individuals were caught misrepresenting themselves as doctors, lawyers or professors. There was the man who practiced medicine in the US and Canada for 10 years before it was found out he never had a medical degree. Then there was the politician who had to quit his caucus when it was revealed he never attended law school as he claimed on his résumé, and in 2008, the British-born chef with a once successful cooking show in the US, cooked up a lie that he had been a chef at Buckingham Palace, and was even knighted.
The offenders are not always men, if you are beginning to wonder. Some years ago, a former deputy minister of health in a Canadian Province resigned from her position because she inflated her academic and professional credentials when she claimed to have been “working as a visiting professor at Princeton”. The former Dean at MIT had to resign her position when it was discovered she lied about her academic credentials. These are not the regular Joe or Mary, but people in ‘high places’. The big question is why do people misrepresent themselves on their résumés? Is it because of increased competition in today’s job market, a desire to stand out from the crowd, or is it a longing for prestige? The answser could be all of the above.
A study conducted by a reference checking firm in Toronto some time ago, found that 27% of applicants embellished their educational backgrounds; 25% lacked job knowledge and 19% were dismissed or not eligible for rehire. The company randomly selected 1000 job applicants on whom they had conducted reference checks and education verifications, and found that 35% of these candidates presented “red flags”. These candidates were already successful in the interview process and their positions ranged from general office to senior executives.
“Résumé fraud takes the form of exaggerated skills or duties at a previous job or a concealed termination”, said the Company’s co-founder and Vice President. The company suggests that organizations “check before they hire” as a way of protecting themselves from unexpected court costs, liability concerns and tarnished brand identity.
In such a competitive marketplace, it is tempting to twist facts, but before you do, think of the consequences when the truth is known. If you are currently pursuing a program at college or university, don’t state that you already have the degree or diploma. If you worked on a project as part of a team, be clear about it. Don’t give the employer the impression you did it all alone. It’s fine to highlight, and sometimes brag, about your achievements, because employers want to know what you have done with your talents, but exaggerating the facts to gain an edge over other candidates, is not the right thing to do.