We all stretch the truth from time to time but adding a few little white lies to your resume is very risky.
No matter how many anecdotes you've heard from people who claim to have gotten away with inventing their professional or academic past, there is a strong chance you'll get caught.
We all know people who have extended the date of when they actually left an employer to cover up the fact he or she bummed around for a couple of months. And in a job interview, many of us have bumped up our pay rate when asked: 'What's your current salary?
Yes, privacy laws make it more difficult than ever for a hiring manager to probe a job candidate's work history. It's also true that many line managers and even junior HR people are often lax when checking out a resume. On the other hand, recruitment firms leave no stone unturned in checking candidates out thoroughly - they're reputations depend on it.
Playing with the facts when it comes to job title, responsibilities and key achievements is playing with fire and you could get burnt - very badly.
Just last week a senior Sydney executive with a proven work track record was exposed for making up a string of academic qualifications on his resume, including a PhD.
The fiasco cost Glen Oakley a $237,000 a year job and made him a public figure for all the wrong reasons. Interestingly, it was a recruitment firm that uncovered the ruse.
In many cases, the lying is unnecessary. Extended holidays or even leaving a job because it was not right for you should not be the end of the world and can be explained. Getting caught out in a lie cannot be explained, particularly to a hiring manager or recruitment consultant who hardly knows you.
I remember interviewing an impressive young candidate who told me he was a graduate of a training program run by a well-known media company. He provided a referee who was on leave when I called. It transpired the referee was actually a former colleague so I was put through to the manager who ran the department.
I was told my interviewee had actually been turned down for a place on the training program but bugged the manager so much that he was finally given a chance to do some work experience and then casual paid work.
While he wasn't offered a permanent paid role - as there were none to offer - he had gained valuable experience and proved himself. What a shame he didn't just tell me that. I did consider hiring him anyway but I was worried about his penchant for lying.
Kathryn Westall, business manager for leading call centre recruiters Hallis, says her team of consultants do everything possible to verify a candidate's credentials and work experience.
"We do check out the whole resume thoroughly," says Kathryn. "With academic qualifications, we ask to view transcripts and all references supplied must be verbal with referees contactable on a landline. We do not accept written references.
Savvy recruitment consultants and hiring managers prefer landline numbers instead of mobile phone numbers when contacting referees.
This follows a case in Brisbane last year when a council found a candidate's referee was not a CEO but a former cellmate in a maximum security prison. The council had contacted the "CEO" by mobile phone and eventually hired the candiate only to fire him later when he stole public money.
Kathryn says that recruitment consultants are not only interested in finding the right candidate to land a job but in keeping their clients happy but finding people who will last in the role.
"We are interested in helping our clients achieve the best staff retention rates so we want someone who is not only honest but who is passionate about taking on the role," she says.
Kathryn advises candidates to be completely honest with their recruitment consultant so they can work with them to tackle problems such as work experience or training gaps.
"It is really important not to lie because it will come back to bite you," she warns.
- Kate Southam, editor of CareerOne, April 4, 2003
Article with thanks to careerone.com.au