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Home > Business > Special

Lying your way into a job

Ted O'Callahan, | March 09, 2006

While much attention has been focused on performance-enhancing drugs in the sports world over the past few years, a new study shows that the business world may be suffering from even more cheating -- at least when it comes to résumés.

Résumé, a South Burlington, Vt.-based résumé-counseling company, spent six months verifying dates of employment, job titles, and educational background on more than 1,000 résumés, and found that 42.7% had one or more significant errors. The study, which was the company's first, looked a résumés for positions ranging from entry level to executive.

"I was shocked at how many people include a major misrepresentation in their résumé," said Mike Worthington, co-founder of RésuméDoctor.

There is certainly no shortage of high-profile résumé flaps. Just last week, RadioShack CEO Dave Edmonson resigned after admitting misstatements on his résumé. Michael Brown, the embattled former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, faced scathing criticism after Hurricane Katrina over the thinness of his résumé. And George O'Leary lost his job as Notre Dame's head football coach four years ago for inventing a master's degree on his résumé.

But, Worthington said, such fabrication is not exclusive to just high-level executives, and impacts companies of all sizes.

Linda Brandenberger of Oklahoma City-based Partners Human Resources said that many résumés take a "most poetic license" with the truth. "Inaccuracies are a huge problem," she added.

Brandenberger said she believes that people exaggerate because they want to cast themselves in the most positive light, even though "just giving an honest picture" may actually do more to get a job.

Brandenberger, who has been an HR director for 20 years, said the trend continues to grow, citing many examples she has seen of certifications, degrees, and jobs that were completely fabricated. "You have to verify everything now," she said.

Todd Springer, a managing partner at Footbridge, an Andover, Mass.-based engineering and IT staffing firm, said he has seen many instances of title inaccuracies and date discrepancies. "A résumé is designed to be a selling tool," he said, noting that it is an employer's obligation to then verify that sales pitch. Interviews, he has found, are an essential part of the vetting process.

At the same time, contacting references is key, Springer said, recalling a résumé he once came across where the candidate was actually covering up prison time with bogus information. He suggests cold-calling references, especially if the employer has pre-existing relationships with someone in a company listed on an applicants résumé.

RésuméDoctor's Worthington said that the fear of lawsuits makes many companies reluctant to do thorough résumé checks.

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