How many Americans lie on their resumes? The surprising answer: Not that many. In an online survey of 1,003 people conducted for the personal finance site GOBankingRates, only 5 percent of respondents reported that they'd ever lied on a résumé. 

But apparently, the younger you are, the likelier you are to be untruthful, at least when applying for a job. Eleven percent of Millennials said they had lied on their résumés, and 14 percent of Gen Z respondents said they'd done it. Only 2 percent of Baby Boomers said they'd ever lied on a résumé. 

And they don't feel bad about it. While 54 percent of men and 42 percent of women who lied in all age groups felt guilty about doing so, only 27 percent of Millennials did. The difference may be changing attitudes about employment and employers. Based on this scathing piece from George Takei's site ComicSands, about what older generations don't get about today's job market, changing employment practices and attitudes about employers may be to blame.

Here are a few other findings:

1. Most people think they're more honest than everyone else.

The low percentage of people who lie on résumés would come as a shock to the people who took the survey. Twenty-eight percent of respondents said they thought more than half the population lies on their résumés, and another 40 percent believe some people lie on their résumés but less than half the population. 

2. When people lie, they lie about work experience and/or dates.

Of those who admitted to lying on their résumés, 38 percent said they'd lied about their work experience and 31 percent said they'd lied about employment dates, usually to conceal a gap in their work history. Another 16 percent said they'd lied about their job title, and 15 percent said they'd lied about their references. Maybe they were assuming their prospective employer wouldn't check.

3. Most Millennials and Gen Z respondents say they'd do it again.

It would seem that most young people, who've lied on their résumés suffered no ill consequences. Fifty-five percent of Millennials who admitted to lying said they'd do it again. And 63 percent of Gen Z respondents said they'd lie again.

What exactly is a lie, anyway?

For the 31 percent of résumé liars who lied about their employment dates and the 16 percent who lied about their job title, there's not much ambiguity. If you say you left a job in the fall of 2018, and it was really the spring of 2017, that's a pretty clear falsehood. It's also clearly a lie if you say your job title was VP of sales when it was really account executive. 

But when it comes to job skills, the most frequently lied-about element of a résumé, it can be a bit more difficult to draw the line between a lie and an exaggeration. If you claim to be "fluent in French" because you did really well in your high school French class, is that a lie or not?

HR experts say that an out-and-out untruth, such as claiming you worked at a company where you never did, is pretty rare. Whereas exaggerating job skills or making titles sound better than they are is fairly common. That makes sense when you consider that many people think they're competing with other job applicants who are very likely to lie. They may figure that if everyone else is a liar, telling the truth would put them at an unfair disadvantage.

Published on: Aug 8, 2019
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