Avoid pitfalls of exaggerating, lying in job search

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Exaggeration is human nature. We exaggerate about how happy we are to see a show, or how scared we are to encounter a minor traffic accident. Those exaggerations fill our life with drama and excitement, attracting more attention when we are in conversations. However, when it comes to recounting our own accomplishment on resume, we need to think twice about exaggerating. 

Brian Williams, the iconic NBC news anchor, was suspended for six months by the news organization after lying about riding in a military helicopter that was struck by a grenade during the Iraq war. Not only has Williams’ reputation plummeted, but NBC is also being viewed as an organization that violates the trust of its viewers. Once that trust is broken, it may never return. 

It is easy enough for us to fudge the facts on our resume, changing a grade from a “B” to an “A” in a marketing class, listing proficiency in Photoshop when we've only used the software once, saying we did more on a project than we actually did. Unfortunately, those seemingly small issues will work against us in the long term. 

“If an employer finds discrepancies on a resume … that’s pretty much grounds for termination,” Debbie Kubena said. Kubena is the director of communication career services in the Moody College of Communication and has worked in career advising for more than 20 years. 

Of course, not everyone will get caught. But those who do can suffer serious consequences. In 2014, Walmart’s top company spokesman, David Tovar, claimed he had a bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware, when in fact he did not. He was forced to resign after his lie was exposed. 

According to research conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, 53 percent of individuals lie about a “fact” on their resume. In the same study, it pointed out that more than 70 percent of college students lie on their resume just to land their dream job. 

Those numbers are staggering. For employers, it is not difficult to spot fuzzy numbers and fabrications. A recent grad’s resume with more experience than an internship should lead to questions. 

If you find yourself exaggerating on your resume, be sure to make an appointment with your college's Career Services, where professional staff can help you craft a strong resume that impressively and honestly trumpets your achievements. If it's a good fit, there's no need to stretch the truth and your qualifications will eventually speak for you. 

Liu is an associate editor.