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The number one rule for job seekers

If you want to look for it, you can find all kinds of good (and bad) advice for how to go about a job search. Go ahead and Google “job search advice.” The last time I did, I got 293,000,000 hits. That’s right, 293 MILLION hits. Truth be told, if you really want advice on your job search, all you really need to do is follow a couple of amazing bloggers who will tell you all you need to know in this area. So to help you out, I would advise that you follow Sabrina Baker at Acacia HR Solutions and Chris Fields at The Resume Crusade. You will find their advice invaluable for your job search.

LyingIn Sabrina and Chris’s blog posts they will arm you with all kinds of great information on how to conduct your job search, how to prepare, what to put in (and leave off) your resume etc. Here is the thing, none of that will matter if you don’t follow the number one rule when you are searching for a new job. The amazing thing is that during my 20 years of working in recruiting and HR, I have seen this rule broken on far too many occasions, by all levels of job seekers. The rule is a simple one – Never, EVER, lie on your resume. You would think that this would be obvious, but based on what I see and hear it is still far too common an occurrence. As mentioned above, I have seen the lies come from entry level candidates applying for minimum wage jobs, all the way up to executives of large Fortune 100 companies. Heck, former Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson was fired after 4 months on the job for lying about having a double major in his degree.

So you see, it is very simple, never lie about what is on your resume. This applies to each and every element you represent about yourself on your resume. When it comes to your years of work experience you put down, never pad them from any company you worked for. Always be truthful and specific. If you have a lot of years of (overall) work experience, you might not want to break each job down by month, so it is ok to list year(s) you were at a company, but if/when asked during an interview about specific months, you need to tell the truth.

When it comes to your education, make sure you are accurate and truthful about when you graduated with your certificate, diploma, degree, etc. If in doubt about the exact date/year, go look at the actual document. Whatever date is on it, is the date you use on your resume. Secondly, and this may be obvious to some, is that you should never misrepresent the educational experience that you have. Per the Scott Thompson example above, if your major was in finance, put that down. Don’t put finance AND accounting if that isn’t in fact accurate and truthful. As well, and you would think this goes without saying, never put a credential down that you don’t have. If you don’t have an accounting designation, don’t put down that you are a CGA. If you don’t have an MBA, don’t put down that you do. If you have started a degree or diploma but aren’t quite finished, or perhaps you are a credit short or there is some glitch with the academic institution in terms of accepting a transfer credit which makes you one credit short and it is under appeal, put down that it is “in progress.” If you get an interview, speak to the specifics in terms of what is happening.

There are other areas you should never lie about on your resume like anything pertaining to volunteer experience, organizations you are a part of, etc. However, work experience and education are the two big ones. Here is the thing, any company that does even a bit of due diligence during the interview and assessment process will uncover these lies. Proper reference checks will uncover lies in work experience. Formal education checks will find out about lies and discrepancies with educational credentials. Checking with licensing institutions will quickly uncover deceit as it pertains to professional credentials. So, do yourself a favour – get the interview and the job on your own merit. Maintain your personal credibility and represent yourself honestly and factually. Never break the number one rule for seekers – you will either NOT get the job, or will be terminated shortly after getting it.

image courtesy of jesadaphorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net


3 Responses

  1. Scott, it seems sophomoric to say this is good advice when we consider it should be obvious advice. It is amazing that such dishonesty occurs especially since it’s so much easier to check on these things.

    What I am more curious about is your advice to candidates on selling themselves to the max without lying? As context, I find many candidates disqualify themselves for a job or help the interviewer disqualify themselves. For example, let’s take something simple, “Do you know how to use Excel?”

    There’s a difference between opening up an existing spreadsheet and populating it and creating a spreadsheet. Yet, some who only know how to do the first will answer, “No,” or say something such as, “I do but I only inputted information.” What would you advise? Should people just answer the question as posed and say, “Yes,” and leave it to the interviewer to dive deeper? Or should they qualify the answer upfront themselves?

    The examples you give about lying are pretty clear cut, but what is your advice in answering questions like these where the definitions of terms such as “use” in my example are very much a matter of interpretation?


    • Mike – thanks for the comments and questions. Unfortunately, with the competitiveness for jobs, lying is still very prevalent on resumes.

      In terms of your question, as a candidate, I would indicate that yes, I have experience in Excel and then ask, “what specifically does this job require me to do in Excel, that way I can give you a more informed answer.” Something to that effect then puts the onus on the interviewer to actually know the job, provide more info to the interviewee….in this way, the interviewee then is not disqualifying themselves by being too vague, or perhaps misrepresenting themselves. There is nothing wrong with interviewees asking questions during the interview to get a better feel for the job so that they can provide more specific and targeted responses. Hope this clarifies. If not, happy to elaborate if it helps the readership out more!


  2. […] week I wrote a blog post called “The Number One Rule for Job Seekers.” The thrust of the post was to impress upon job seekers that they should never, ever, lie on their […]

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