Numerous surveys conducted in the last few years indicate that roughly 40% of all resumes contain intentional inaccuracies or fabrications of some sort (pre-recession data).
As the economy continues to deteriorate and competition for jobs becomes even more fierce, it's logical to expect this number to increase.
We're talking about everything from embellishment to outright falsehood – and it happens at all levels, all the way up to and including the executive suite.
While it's not uncommon for candidates to get away with some story telling (and even outright lying) and still get the job, it's also not unusual for them to be found out – sometimes many years later. I'm sure you've seen at least some of the stories of high profile senior executives who've run into trouble recently after resume inconsistencies came to light.
The President of Herbalife, the Chairman and CEO of the MGM Mirage (one of the most powerful figures in the gambling industry), and the Dean of Admissions at MIT all lost their jobs as a result of inconsistencies relating to claimed educational credentials. These are just a few examples.
Then there are those pesky exaggerations, such as the case of "James," a candidate I know whose work history I ran across recently. He worked at Company ABC, most of the time as an Account Director, and later as the VP of Sales. In recounting his background he tells the story a little differently, leading the reader to believe he held the VP level job the entire time.
You may be thinking everybody fakes something here or there. After all, your resume is a marketing piece, not a legal document. The tougher times get, the more a person needs to give himself an advantage any way he can. What's the big deal?
That's true … it is not a legal document. Still, that does not mean resume falsehoods can not get you into trouble (see examples above). Stretching the truth on your resume is never a good idea – and it's especially bad in a tight market.
Candidates are facing more scrutiny than before; because hiring managers are seeing more resume fraud, they're being more cautious. If you're caught in a lie, not only will you lose this opportunity, you'll be back pounding the pavement in a market that's slowing down more every day. And you'll have a black mark against you. Word has a way of getting around. Is it worth taking that chance?
Expect a careful vetting.
Assume the hiring manager will speak with references in addition to those on your list. It's not difficult to dig a little more deeply and find other people you've worked with who will be willing to talk about your viability as a candidate.
Assume your degree (s) will be verified.
Assume your name will be Googled.
Your resume can – and should – tell a persuasive story and paint a picture of a dynamic candidate. Polish your unique selling proposition, present your qualifications in the most favorable light possible, and show the manager why you're the best match for the position. Just do not play fast and loose with the facts.