Personal Finance
Airbrushing your resume
Does your resume show your true colors?
October 3, 2002: 3:13 PM EDT
By Annelena Lobb, CNN/Money Staff Writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - If you studied any Latin, you'll recall that Veritas -- the name of the software company that just gave Kenneth Lonchar the boot -- means truth.

Lonchar's firing wasn't because of corporate restructuring, layoffs or the economy. Veritas removed its former CFO because he lied on his resume, claiming a Stanford MBA he doesn't have.

Lonchar is the most recent in a long list of high-profile resume "padders." George O'Leary, hired as head coach for the Notre Dame football team in 2001, got the ax when it was discovered he never played football for his alma mater, the University of New Hampshire -- though his resume said he had. He later confessed his master's degree was also a sham. Ouch.

Resume padding, of course, isn't limited to bogus degrees.

Have you ever fudged your resume?

Joseph Ellis, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, has recently returned to Mount Holyoke College after a yearlong teaching suspension, punishment for lying about serving in the Vietnam War. Likewise, Tim Johnson, former manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, was fired in 1999 for fabricating a past that included getting scholarship opportunities to play basketball at UCLA, and also serving in Vietnam.

These may be extreme examples. But resume "embellishing" isn't as rare as you think. A recent survey by the New York Times Job Market research team found that 89 percent of job seekers and 49 percent of hiring managers do it.

Typical resume airbrushing tactics include exaggerating job responsibilities, falsifying employment dates, or covering up the reasons for leaving a former employer.

According to, a Web site designed to help people handle everyday legal matters, 9 percent of job seekers falsely claimed they had a higher degree, listed false employers, or identified jobs that didn't exist. Eleven percent misrepresented why they left a former employer, and nearly 33 percent listed employment dates that were off by more than 3 months.

"At the executive level, inflating responsibilities and falsifying degrees are two common resume lies," said Michael Kessler, an investigative consultant at international corporate investigation firm Kessler International. At lower levels, he said, changing work dates to fill gaps of unemployment and omitting criminal histories are more common.

Someone with a criminal record in Dallas, for example, might apply for a job in Chicago and omit any jobs or addresses on his resume that indicate he ever lived in Texas -- making it tough for prospective employers to track his past.

If you're thinking of trying it yourself, be forewarned.

Employers have always been free to fire employees who lie about a significant qualification. And increasingly, they're using the information to defend themselves against a wrongful termination or discrimination suit as well, according to  Top of page

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