Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson lied on his resume, claiming he had a degree in computer science when he didn’t. Dan Lyons, a blogger, wrote this:
“The ultimate irony is that the lie you told was so needless. Yahoo didn’t hire you because it thought you had a computer-science degree from Stonehill College. Good grief!
“By the time you got recruited into Yahoo you’d been CEO of PayPal, and before that held top jobs at Inovant, a subsidiary of Visa, and at Barclay’s Global Investors. Even if you had studied computer science at Stonehill College in the 1970s, whatever you learned there would have been obsolete by about, um, the moment you left school.”
Lying on resumes has reached an all-time peak from little fibs about job titles to exaggerations regarding responsibilities to fictitious claims of advanced degrees. With reports of resume padding proliferating in the press, employers are becoming more vigilant about background checking and are stepping up efforts to weed out fakers.
There’s no reason to lie. The slightest inaccuracy on your resume can come back to bite you in the face and disqualify you for a position you have the skills and experience to win honestly. To distinguish yourself from the competition and make your resume stand out from the crowd, you need to highlight and reposition your accomplishments so they accurately reflect what you are capable of doing. Remember, your resume has two purposes: it’s a sales tool designed to get you the interview, and it’s a road map to guide the interviewer.
Here are some research-based suggestions for writing a truthful resume that stands out:
- Brainstorm and rank your accomplishments. Think about and rank the tasks you’ve enjoyed doing and have also done well in your career. Be sure appropriate accomplishments are clearly visible on your resume. List them as bullets in the summary section at the top of your resume. Leave off the responsibilities that are not important, even if they took up a disproportionate amount of your time (such as answering phones) if it’s something you don’t want the reader to focus on.
- Don’t lie about a degree. If you attended college, but did not graduate, list the name of the school, the years you attended and your major area of concentration. If your resume is well written, people might overlook the fact that you don’t have a degree.
- Use a descriptive job title. Often the title a company assigns to a job is not a true indicator of the responsibilities the position includes. An administrative assistant, for example, can do secretarial work, account research or sophisticated power point presentations. Make sure your title accurately reflects the scope of your duties.
- Don’t give each job equal prominence. Highlight or underline the jobs you want the hiring manager to notice. The position or experience you want to emphasize should stand-out visually on the page.
- Position yourself at the right level. You won’t need to lie about salary if you position yourself at the right level. Is it easy for the reader to guess in 10 seconds what your level is? Don’t say you “install computer systems” because you could be making anywhere from $15,000 a year to $200,000 a year. Use specific language to signal your experience and the level you are seeking.
- Use a Summary at the Top. What are the first words at the top of your resume? Without a summary statement you are positioned by your most recent job. Is that what you want? Use a summary to make sure the very first line positions you for the kind of job you want next. For example, if you are looking for a job as an accounting manager and you have that kind of experience, the first words on your resume should be, “Accounting Manager.” This should be followed by statements that prove how good you are or that differentiate you from your likely competitors.
- Reason for Leaving. Don’t lie about your reason for leaving a job if it was not voluntary. In today’s economy — with plant closings, outsourcing, downsizing, mergers and acquisitions — it’s not unusual to lose a job through no fault of your own. Human resource managers understand this and should not judge you unfairly for it. You simply got caught in a downsizing just like everyone else.