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Top 5 resume lies
The truth is stretched thin in resumes and on interviews by a notable number of job seekers.
December 9, 2004: 11:04 AM EST
By Jeanne Sahadi, CNN/Money senior writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Everybody tells a white lie -- even a bald-faced one -- from time to time. But apparently a fair number do so on their job search.

Do you ever "exaggerate" items on your resume?

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There are no statistics, but experts estimate that 10 percent to 30 percent of job seekers shade the truth or flat-out lie on their resumes, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Citing a screening firm's review of 249,000 resumes last year, Challenger noted that 52 percent of them were found to have discrepancies.

Challenger offered a ranking of the most common lies job seekers tell on their resumes and in interviews. From most to least common, they are:

Education: Typically, the lie goes like this: The institution listed isn't one the applicant attended. Or the institution is correct, but the degree listed was never actually earned, because the candidate finished school a few credits short. "Ironically, the absence of a few credits probably would not make a difference to many companies, but lying on the resume certainly will," said Challenger CEO John Challenger in a statement.

Job title: Who ever said inflation is dead isn't checking resumes. Job seekers have been known to make up a title or boost the one they had by a notch or two.

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Compensation: It's so much easier to command more money and benefits when you start from a higher base. Lying about what one earns is the third most common fabrication, even though one's compensation is easy to verify with a former employer. Usually this fabrication is in conjunction with an inflated job title.

"Some job seekers may do this because they feel that they should be a vice president and earning six figures, but their employers have not acknowledged such capabilities. However, prospective employers ... only care about what position you actually held," Challenger said.

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Reason for leaving: Saying you were subject to a mass layoff seems plausible given how often companies have been cutting jobs, right? It sure beats saying that you were singled out for poor performance. Next on the list is saying you quit when, in fact, you were fired. And lastly, job applicants inclined to lie or distort the truth, will underplay or fail to mention a bad relationship with a boss.

Accomplishments: Inflating one's contributions to a project or segment of the business as well as to the company's bottom line is common.

Verifying one's reason for leaving and one's stated accomplishments, Challenger noted, "are probably the most difficult areas for employers to check since many companies today will only confirm the most basic information about a person's work history, such as dates of employment and positions held." Plus, he added, the truth of the matter can be "complex and abstract."

It's also unlikely other lies and exaggerations will be caught. Challenger estimates that only about 15 percent of resumes are given a thorough going-over, even if you're a serious candidate for a job.  Top of page

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