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Is It Illegal To Lie On A Resume? Legal and Ethical Implications Explained

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Have you ever wondered if people get away with lying on their resumes?

It’s no secret that people do this, but is it illegal to lie on a resume, and can they get in trouble for doing it?

You’re not the only one pondering the answers to these questions.

While there might not be extensive legal issues with lying, there are quite a few ethical reasons to think about.

If you’re wondering what to put on a resume, lying is never the answer.

Let’s take a look at the possible consequences of lying on a resume.

Is It Illegal To Lie on a Resume?

Research shows that people lie about two times per day.

People primarily lie because they have low self-esteem and feel the need to impress others to get a sense of gratification.

Sometimes low self-esteem carries over into job endeavors and causes people to lie on their resumes to make themselves seem more qualified.

While lying on your resume in the United States isn’t against the law, it can have some consequences if your employer finds out, and it can take a toll on your mental health due to guilt.

A resume doesn’t fall into the category of a legal document, which is why lying on it is technically legal.

However, if you sign an agreement stating that your resume is all true information when it isn’t, then legal action is possible.

Is Lying About Qualifications Illegal?

Lying about qualifications can get a little foggy in the legal category.

Technically it isn’t against the law unless you are applying for a government job or something that requires extensive education and high-level degrees.

Lying on a government application is grounds for misrepresentation and possibly fraud.

Do Employers Verify Your Resume?

While employers should be verifying resumes for every applicant, it doesn’t always happen.

However, if the employer does decide to verify your resume, they’ll call your references to confirm the information on your resume.

What Happens If You Lie on Your Resume?

Most of the consequences that come along with lying on your resume are personal problems like losing your job and losing the trust you had with others.

Legal action is usually rare, but here are some things you can expect if you lie.

You Can Lose the Job

When you’re applying for a job, and your potential employer sees that you lied, they will probably reject your application or retract their acceptance of it if they offered you the job already.

Knowingly hiring a liar can create a bad reputation for the company, so they’ll try to avoid issues at all costs.

You Can Get Fired

If your employer finds out you lied on your resume, their first action will probably be to fire you.

They’ll feel like they cannot believe anything you say, so having you leave is the safest option for your boss and the company you work for.

You Can Lose Trust

Lying to the people around you will always make them feel they can no longer trust you.

It’s hard for them to believe anything you say afterward because they cannot decipher what’s true.

Your Reputation May Get Damaged

Resume lies can follow you throughout the rest of your career, as future employers will not want to hire a liar.

Information about your lies can easily spread to other people, essentially lowering your integrity.

What Counts as Lying on Your Resume?

Lying can come in multiple forms ranging from omitting information to misrepresenting your age to employers.

Any time you are being untruthful will count as lying.

Here are some examples of lying on your resume.

Omission of the Truth

Refusing to include information falls into the category of lying because you’re not being upfront with your potential employer.

Don’t exclude information regarding your personal information, schooling, or experience.

Embellished Education

If you say you have a degree but don’t, it can be an education embellishment.

Trying to upscale your degree, like saying you have a Harvard degree rather than a community college degree, you’re also embellishing your education.

Exaggerated Titles or Job Duties

Making your previous job positions and duties look more involved or better than they were is lying.

If you’re a fry cook at a fast food chain, don’t say you were a chef.

Altered Dates of Employment

Some people prolong their employment dates in an attempt to hide job hopping, which can show employers that you get fired often.

Exaggerating your stay at a job is lying.

False References

Lying on your resume can also include references.

Using false references is a lie and won’t help you get the job.

Many employers check your references, so if your references don’t know who you are, that’s a red flag to employers.

Lies about Reason for Leaving the Company

If you get fired from a job, you need to be upfront and say that.

Employers have every right to call your previous bosses to ask about your work ethic and ask about why you left.

Be ready to explain why you left any of your jobs.

Is Inconsistency the Same as a Lie?

Inconsistencies are incoherent and incompatible pieces of information.

You’re essentially contradicting yourself.

Inconsistencies aren’t the same as lies, but having them on your resume can suggest to employers that you’re making up information.

What Is the Misrepresentation of Age?

Misrepresentation of age is essentially lying about your birthday or age on your resume in an attempt to gain a job.

If the job requires you to be 18, but you’re 16 and say you’re 18, this is a misrepresentation of age.

Why Not To Lie on Your Resume

Lying on your resume typically doesn’t have criminal charges, but it can cause local problems and mental turmoil because you know it’s morally wrong.

Here are some issues you can face if you lie on your resume.

It Can Be Grounds for Termination in the Future

Employers might decide to terminate you if they find out you lied, as lying is bad for their business.

Employers need truthful people and upfront so their business can thrive.

You May Get Work You Can’t Handle

If you embellish your education and work experience, your employer might give you difficult work that you have no idea how to handle.

They typically do this because they assume you know what you’re doing based on the incorrect information you provided.

It’s Wrong

If you lie, you know what you did is immoral and wrong, which can put a toll on your mental health.

You’ll feel on edge all the time and can start to exhibit symptoms of stress and anxiety.

When you lie, you activate your limbic system, which controls your fight or flight response.

You’ll Probably Get Caught

All your employer has to do is call your references and do some simple research to find out if you’re lying.

So, it is likely that you’ll get caught.

You Might Be Anxious About Getting Caught

Lying on your resume can give you the constant fear of getting caught or fired.

Symptoms you can experience include the following:

  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach issues, general pain, and headaches
  • Concentration issues
  • Sleep issues
  • Irritability
  • Constant worrying

The Lies Will Continue

You might find yourself stuck in a loop of lies as you try to be consistent with what you submitted on your resume.

It’s an endless cycle until you come clean.

Is It Ever Okay To Lie on Your Resume?

It’s never okay to lie on your resume.

Honesty is an important quality to employers, and untruthfulness shows them they cannot trust you.

Always be honest and upfront with employers no matter what the information is.

How To Avoid Lying on Your Resume?

You should always think of the consequences before lying.

Doing this should help you talk yourself out of doing it, but if you need some help, use these resume tips to ensure you prevent yourself from lying.

Tell the Truth

Simply tell the truth about your life on your resume, as employers will value your honesty over some embellished lies.

Explain Any Problems Areas in Your Cover Letter

If you have some questionable information on your resume, like unemployment gaps, truthfully explain why this happened in your cover letter.

Doing it will cover any questions the employer has.

Double Check For Accuracy

Always proofread before submitting your resume to ensure everything is consistent, truthful, and mistake-free.

Represent the Truth in a Positive Light

If you have some unsavory information on your resume, like losing your job, talk about it in a positive light.

Explain how these things helped you become a better person and employee to show employers it wasn’t all negative.

What To Do After You Submit a Resume with Lies

After you submit a resume with lies, you have a few options, including:

  • Talk to the employer, tell the truth, and apologize
  • Withdraw your application
  • Re-do your resume and send it to the employer with a truthful explanation

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions people have on resume lying.

Is it a crime to lie about a degree?

It can be a misdemeanor in some states, but oftentimes, it is not a crime.

Consequences depend on how the employer wants to handle the situation.

Termination and future reputation damage are the most common consequences.

What happens if I lied on a resume and got the job?

If you got the job after lying on your resume, it would be best if you talk to your new employer about what you did.

Be truthful, and they might give you a second chance.

Wrapping Up

So, is it illegal to lie on a resume?

Technically no, because your resume isn’t a legal or government document, and there isn’t specific legislation saying you cannot do this.

However, lying on your resume is ethically and morally wrong, creating some not-so-nice repercussions, such as losing your job and constant anxiety.

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