Career experts share what you should and shouldn't lie about on your resume.

When looking for a new job, you might have heard the only way to actually get noticed is to lie on your resume. But is it ever really a good idea? Isn’t it better to risk losing out on a role than to be caught out for potential fraud?

We’ve done the research on which lies are off limits, and which things you can stretch a little.

We’re not talking about the bartender who calls himself a “mixologist”, or the standard line about volunteering at a homeless shelter. This is about pretending you are qualified for a job you aren’t experienced enough to do.

What should I refrain from lying about?

Job titles are not as vague as they might seem. They are worded in a very specific way, so it’s not a good idea to tweak current job titles to suit a potential role—because employers will know. So, if you were a HR assistant, don’t say you were a HR manager.

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“It’s actually unusual for job titles to be grey,” Keith Rosser, head of screening at recruitment agency Reed, told The Guardian.

“Employers know the difference between a business development manager and a business development director and while you should be positive about your experience, the long-term damage to your career can be greater than any benefit you’d get from making something up.”

Clearly, you also shouldn’t lie about your education on your resume. It’s so easy to be caught out on this, and it would be such a shame to get to the final stages of the job process, only to fail the background check.

Another no-no is putting together a huge laundry list of (fabricated) technological skills. Sure, we all pretend to be highly proficient at Excel and Photoshop—but are you really an expert website coder? Too many “skills” will raise some red flags with employers.


Your past salaries, however, are a bit more of a grey area.

HR worker Liz Ryan writes for Forbes that she thinks it’s “horrendous to pry into someone’s personal finances”. She thinks it’s not a priority for recruiters to check how much you used to be paid.

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Ryan also mentioned she doesn’t care “if someone was a few months off on their starting date or ending date at a particular job,” mostly because people tend to forget dates.

It’s when someone invents an entirely new company they “worked” for, or can’t give any references from the past six or seven years, that employers become a bit more skeptical.

So how do I get a job without lying?

Tell it like it is. Recruiters appreciate honesty and see it as an asset. They’re not going to respect you for telling lies on your resume. You might be more qualified and in-demand than you think. Just be confident in your skills.

If you aren’t, consider enhancing your credentials. Look for more opportunities at your current job, or enroll in courses for the future. Look at resume examples from successful friends in your field to get an idea of what you may be missing.

Of course, your network is your greatest asset. Tap your connections and rehearse an awesome, succinct pitch about what you can offer to the company, so you’ll be ready when opportunities arise.

Lastly, build yourself an online profile. Whether that’s a creative portfolio or a personal website highlighting your expertise, it’s an easy way for recruiters to see you’re serious about your career and expand your opportunities through social networks.

This post was originally published on our sister site, Spring Street.