Don’t Fake It to Make It: How to Enhance Your Resume and Look Great to Potential Employers Without Lying

Looking for a job in this economy can be incredibly frustrating, especially if you are sending out application after application without ever receiving a single request for an interview. It may be tempting to think about lying on your resume — just ‘fudging’ the truth a bit, you tell yourself — in the hope that this improves your chances.

If you think ‘no harm done,’ think again! Telling lies on your resume will seriously harm your reputation and career. Your lies will come out sometime, whether during the interview or after you’ve been employed, in which case you’re likely to get fired. In both cases, you’ll have damaged your reputation.

Yes, This Would Be Lying

So you don’t have a degree but claim you do? Maybe you didn’t go to college at all, or dropped out before graduation? Writing on your resume that you completed your degree is not only false, but it can cause a lot of havoc if the employer does background checks (which most major corporations do these days). Even if they don’t, you might be asked questions about your degree or your time at school. What if a coworker, or worse, your boss, went to the same school and expects you to have inside knowledge?

Similarly, don’t lie about your work history. Maybe you didn’t work for the employer you listed, you didn’t have the responsibilities you claim or you tweaked your years of employment to close a gap in your resume. Bad idea. In the interview, you might discover the recruiter knows someone at the aforementioned company – it can be a small world, especially if you are moving within a specific industry – or worked there themselves.

Just Tell the Truth

Everyone has situations that might not look great on their resume. Some are easier than others to fix. If you didn’t work for 18 months because you decided to trek across Europe, that gap in employment is easily explained in your cover letter. Maybe you “almost” finished college, lacking only a few classes before you went into the job market full time. Explain that! It’s a much better idea to explain your situation and take your chances than to lie on your resume and lose your credibility. If you believe your education is not sufficient, address it and convey in your cover letter that your hands-on experience is an outstanding substitution for book learning.

When relating your work experience, embellishing the truth is not a good way to get into your prospective employer’s good graces. Instead, give your resume a facelift without challenging your integrity. Want to spice up your resume and attract more attention? It’s easy:

Make it about action and impact: Don’t take up more than 10-15% of your resume describing job responsibilities. Employers don’t care what you were supposed to do, they care what impact you made. Use action words, and make sure your accomplishments stand out.

Replace the objective with a value summary: Don’t tell employers what you want out of your next job, tell them what you’ll do for them. Start with a headline like ‘I will add value to your organization by…”

If you’re worried about dates, put years and not months on the resume to help cover employment gaps. If you didn’t complete a degree, don’t put it on the resume. Instead put “Studies In” whatever your major is.

What you want to convey to the employer is, what is in the past is not nearly as important as what you can do in the future.

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