Blunders, Puffery and Lies: Employers Report Cringe-Worthy Resumes

Applicant lies on his resume
HR managers frequently discover lies on resumes.
HR managers frequently discover lies on resumes.

In a recent CareerBuilder survey, 75 percent of HR managers reported finding a lie on a resume.

Given that nearly 40 percent of all HR managers spend less than a minute looking at a resume, according to the survey — and almost 1 in 5 spending less than 30 seconds — it’s clear that job applicants must stand out. But they should not stand out in a negative way!

“If crafted well, your resume is one of the most valuable marketing tools you have,” said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder, in a press release. “In a matter of seconds, it can make or break your chances of moving along the hiring journey with a company. That’s why it’s important to be proactive with your resume and avoid embellishments or mistakes.”

Memorable Blunders

Some hiring managers shared real-life examples of embarrassing gaffes they caught on resumes, including one applicant who claimed he worked for Microsoft but had no idea who Bill Gates was. A few more notable examples from the survey include:

  • An applicant who claimed to have written computer code the hiring manager had actually written. The applicant didn’t know that both had the same previous job.
  • An applicant who said he studied under Nietzsche.
  • An applicant who claimed to be an anti-terrorist spy for the CIA at the same time period he was in elementary school.
  • An applicant who falsely claimed to have a credential from the Project Management Institute (PMI) when applying for a job at PMI (the organization that grants that credential).
  • An applicant who stated that he tried and failed a certification exam three times, but was planning to try again.
  • An applicant who included a picture with all of his pets.

What Works

A truthful, accurate resume that highlights the applicant’s relevant skill set is always key. In addition, a proactive approach — setting out how your skills match the particular job — will always improve your chances.

HR managers claimed that the following resume attributes would cause them to take notice:

  • Resume has been customized to their open position: 60 percent
  • Cover letter is included with the resume: 38 percent
  • Skill sets are listed first on the resume: 37 percent
  • Application is addressed to the specific hiring manager: 23 percent
  • Resume includes a link to a candidate’s blog, portfolio or website: 14 percent

In addition, HR managers pointed to factors that would make them more likely to hire one candidate over the other, such as the candidate’s involvement in the community (35 percent), bilingual skills (25 percent), sense of humor (25 percent) and attire (24 percent).

Gail Cecchettini Whaley, CalChamber Employment Law Counsel/Content

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