As we are now living in an era of fake news and alternative facts, we thought we’d ask the question: is everything on your resume 100% accurate?

Most employers don’t think so. They are becoming increasingly skeptical of what candidates claim about their skills and work history. In fact, a survey by the recruitment firm Employment Office found that over 80 per cent of employers believe that candidates are lying on their LinkedIn profiles.

Sixty-seven per cent of the 300 hiring managers and business owners surveyed said that candidates are most likely to lie about their past job titles and responsibilities. The other major areas where they feel people are most likely to fudge the truth are about the exact dates of previous employment, their education, and their qualifications.

So we asked Workopolis recruiters and members of the HR community where they find the most common resume half-truths, exaggerations, and lies. Here’s what they said were the most widespread falsehoods in Canadian resumes:

  • Education – HR managers surveyed said that many people claim to have obtained a degree, even before they have completed the program. If you’re in school, it’s important to say so.
  • Employment dates – People often fudge the dates of their previous employment to exaggerate their tenure in a role (or mask periods of unemployment in between jobs).
  • Second language proficiency – Candidates with a conversational knowledge of a second language often claim to have native fluency.
  • Job titles – People will often tweak job titles. They do this to match the role they’re applying to, or because they think their actual title undersells their contributions.
  • Technical skills – This is the most insidious lie as it is the least likely to be caught in the screening process. A hiring manager, after all, will most likely not ask a reference if you actually do know HTML5. However if you get hired for a role that requires that skill, you’re going to land in hot water when you’re expected to actually use it on the job.

This last point brings up an interesting question:

How do people get caught lying on their resumes?

The funny thing about lying on your resume is just how easy it is to be discovered. All the hiring manager has to do is ask your references the right questions, and the jig is up. Sure, many companies have policies on providing information about past employees. However, most HR departments will corroborate your job title, how long you worked there, and what your salary was.

So, despite the temptation to make yourself look better and give yourself an edge over the competition, lying about your skills and experience on a resume (or LinkedIn profile) just isn’t worth it. Even a quick phone call to past employer can blow your cover. And exaggerated technical skill or language proficiency will quickly come to light on the job.

There may, however, be some “white lies” you can use while job searching that can actually help you get the job.

Omitting bad work experiences. If you’ve worked at a job that ended in a way that can hurt your future chances (fired for cause, extremely short tenure, etc.), leave it off your resume altogether. While tailoring your resume to the application, list only the most relevant jobs (where your skills or achievements can help future employers). Remember, your resume is a document marketing your credentials;  it doesn’t have to be a comprehensive list of everything you’re ever done.

“I got along well with my boss and my co-workers.”  Nobody likes everyone, and there are some truly terrible bosses out there. However, even if your co-workers were a bunch of jerks, saying so during a job interview will sink your chances of getting hired. It is essential that employers see you as friendly, positive team player. Slamming your old boss will only make you look like a complainer, and have them wondering what you’ll be saying about them next.

“My greatest weakness is…” This is not the time to say, “I’m a perfectionist who works too hard.” That’s not a lie, it’s a cliché that will only annoy your interviewer. If you’re out of ideas, invent an innocuous weakness that sounds plausible but doesn’t impact your ability to do the job at hand. Then explain how you’re working on improving the situation. This shows that you are proactive, self-aware, and willing to learn.