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IT Job Seekers: Resume Liars

IT hiring managers report catching more instances of lying than the national average, making IT the third worst industry for dishonest resumes, according to a CareerBuilder report.

9 Job Hunt Tips For Older IT Pros
9 Job Hunt Tips For Older IT Pros
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

If you're in the market for a new job, a good first impression starts with your resume. But according to a new survey, many job candidates -- especially in IT -- tend not to tell the truth.

Harris Poll and CareerBuilder surveyed more than 2,188 hiring managers nationwide and found that lying on resumes is surprisingly common. More than half (58%) said they have spotted lies, while one-third said that fibbing has increased since the recession.

IT hiring managers, however, reported catching more instances of lying (63%) than the national average, which earns tech candidates the No. 3 spot as the most-dishonest job seekers. IT was trumped only by the leisure and hospitality industry (71%) and financial services (73%). The top five also included healthcare (63%) and retail (59%).

Matt Rivera, VP of marketing at IT staffing firm Yoh, said that one reason IT candidates may feel pressure to embellish the truth is to make it past a company's applicant tracking system (ATS). "There's this perception that their resumes will be vetted by a computer, so if they don't list the keywords and skills that the company is looking for, they may not get a call," he said in an interview.

[How does your job stack up? Read IT Salaries: 8 Cold Hard Facts.]

A candidate's skill set, in fact, was the most embellished part of a resume (57%), the report found. Responsibilities (55%), dates of employment (42%), job titles (34%), academic degrees (33%), the companies they worked for (26%), and accolades and awards (18%) were among the other top misrepresentations.

While these fibs might get you past an ATS -- which are most common at large companies, Rivera noted -- beware: Employers are taking more time to review individual resumes, the survey found. Forty-two percent of hiring managers said they spend more than two minutes reviewing each resume, up from 33% in December.

When employers do find the inevitable half-truth, they're split on how to handle it. Slightly more than half (51%) said they would automatically dismiss a candidate if they caught a lie on their resume, while 40% said it would depend on what that candidate lied about. Just 7% of employers said they would be willing to overlook a lie if they liked the candidate.

"You need to remember that you're starting a relationship with the employer and it's always good to start it off on honest footing," Rivera said. "Having any embellishments on your resume will put doubt in their mind from the very beginning. You don't want them thinking that there might be other things you're lying about or not telling them."

Rosemary Haefner, VP of HR at CareerBuilder, warned that lying on your resume compromises any trust you may have with a hiring manager. "Trust is very important in professional relationships, and by lying on your resume you breach that trust from the very outset," she said in a statement.

Instead, focus on tangible examples from your actual experiences, she advised. "Your resume doesn't necessarily have to be the perfect fit for an organization, but it needs to be relevant and accurate." 

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Kristin Burnham currently serves as InformationWeek.com's Senior Editor, covering social media, social business, IT leadership and IT careers. Prior to joining InformationWeek in July 2013, she served in a number of roles at CIO magazine and CIO.com, most recently as senior ... View Full Bio

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TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
8/12/2014 | 12:37:51 PM
Whew!
Sure glad my company never checked on whether I invented the Internet or not....
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
8/12/2014 | 12:42:27 PM
Re: Whew!
Wait, are you Al Gore in disguise, Terry?
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
8/12/2014 | 12:53:58 PM
Re: Whew!
You found me out. I sure wasn't putting "failed Presidential candidate" on my resume, nobody hires a loser.  :-)
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
8/12/2014 | 12:41:41 PM
Catch 22
"There's this perception that their resumes will be vetted by a computer, so if they don't list the keywords and skills that the company is looking for, they may not get a call." Yes, we have heard this repeatedly from job seekers. Yet lying is not a good option, either. Vetting resumes by computer certainly has its downsides, doesn't it? My resume has the right keywords but doesn't tell you who I am. My recommendations do...
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
8/12/2014 | 4:25:38 PM
Re: Catch 22
Are most resume lies caught by careful research or automated flagging? If the latter, I'd expect some false positives. I wonder if that's an issue.
phillyrivera
IW Pick
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phillyrivera,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/12/2014 | 5:59:44 PM
Re: Catch 22
Good points from both of you. Automated vetting of candidates is not a fine science and companies who use this should be asking themselves: Are we letting in the right people, or excluding good people? Without some human intervention, analysis or ongoing optimization of the process, you could be thinking you are getting good results, but either missing good people or getting unqualified candidates, causing extra work for your recruiters.
Jeff Jerome
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Jeff Jerome,
User Rank: Ninja
8/12/2014 | 10:41:49 PM
Re: Catch 22 & Who do your really know?
Good point about the false positives but I also think that people are applying for jobs that they are not qualified at all or very unqualified.  So as a result they lie about meeting the criteria when in fact they don't.  The internet makes it very easy to find jobs, very easy to apply but the net result is that it makes potential employers struggle to the point the jobs never get filled.   Due to the overwhelming amount of resumes and just too many candidates to properly filter and qualify.  I think we will go back, if we are not already there, that it does not really matter what you know, but it really does, but rather who you know.
SKDEV
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SKDEV,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/17/2014 | 4:34:52 PM
Re: Catch 22 - its more than that.
You're likely to get less embellishment of the truth if the skills requirements are more targeted. For example, if you want someone with SQL Server, and you dont use Oracle or MySQL. Then dont list those 2 as a required skill, but do list SQL and mention that Oracle is acceptable if willing to take on SQLServer and you know SQL. 

If you list the kitchen sink, then dont expect the truth, those people dont exist. I ignore any posting that lists a kitchen sink of skills, to me they're simply fishing for people and hoping to get lucky and there is no actual job behind that posting.

i do look at the tech listed, For example, I'm working with SQL Server 2012, so I have little interest in working with SQL Server 2005 even though I know it, so if you're listing that as a skill, then it's likely you wont get experienced people, after all, which software engineer in their right mind would step backwards like that and effectively render themselves obsolete after a year or two.

This means that companies that fail to keep up with technology will have problems finding skilled people, and as a result invite lies on resumes from people that dont have skills in the listed tech, but want a foot in the door.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
8/13/2014 | 1:34:25 AM
Flawed Human Nature and The Resume
Thanks Kristin for addressing resume Liars. This has been going on since the very first resume and I don't see an end to it ever. With the competition for employment being what it is - lying or embellishment of skills was destine to become more commonplace.

Unfortunately, this speaks to a flaw in human nature which I have given up trying to figure out much less trying to rectify.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
8/13/2014 | 10:36:31 AM
Re: Flawed Human Nature and The Resume
Technorati & Kristin 

For some reason, this article immediately reminded me to this article on tricks to apear smart during meetings. It seems like the perfect complement to one of those resumes. 

Technorati, you say: "With the competition for employment being what it is - lying or embellishment of skills was destine to become more commonplace."

So, I wonder, who do you think is the one to blame here, the employees, or the employers, or unemployment? I am not saying resemes don't have to be honest. I am wondering if some people don't feel push to the edge and see the embellisment of their skills as the only way out to get a job. What do you think? 

"Unfortunately, this speaks to a flaw in human nature which I have given up trying to figure out much less trying to rectify."

I know what you mean. Yet, every time the topic of "human nature" is brought in onto the table I can't help but questioning about what human nature really is, or if this is just yet another invention of society to justify the unjustifiable, which is what I think "human nature" is. :/ You see? 

-Susan 

 

 
phillyrivera
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phillyrivera,
User Rank: Apprentice
8/13/2014 | 11:05:35 AM
Re: Flawed Human Nature and The Resume
Let's not forget another aspect of human nature - desperation. I think you can chalk some of this up to long-term unemployed candidates, especially post-recession, trying to find a way to make a living. What's the harm in a few embellishments if you feel it will get you to an interview or even just a return phone call? That doesn't make it right, but might explain some of what's going on here.

Another issue is that technology moves so fast. I remember when clients would ask for someone with 5 years of experience in a technology that had only been around for 2 years. I still see resumes with things like that. That's why I believe recruiting still needs to be personal - and done by humans. All this technology and we still see that referrals are the best source (even if some do come through social media). It's harder to lie to someone directly, or to lie when a friend referred you.
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
8/13/2014 | 4:35:00 PM
Re: Flawed Human Nature and The Resume
@ philyrivera. I completelly agree with you people as less likely to lie to somenone if they are refered by a friends becuase it can damage their relationship.  Also, due to the economic crisis people are more prone to lie in order to get a job, any job.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
8/14/2014 | 11:30:56 PM
Re: Flawed Human Nature and The Resume
What's the harm in a few embellishments if you feel it will get you to an interview or even just a return phone call?

 

@Phillyrivera     Excellent point regarding the role desperation plays in all of this and I do agree that "desperate times call for desperate measures" in a very real sense.

And ironically it leads back to businesses with their uninformed and often unrealistic expectations.   I love your recount of the needed five years experience for a technology and/or skill that has only been out a couple of years.   Come on really ?  Someone was actually paid to list such foolishness ?   You bet.

H.R.      Two letters that make many loose sleep for one reason or another.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
8/14/2014 | 4:20:37 AM
Re: Flawed Human Nature and The Resume
@Susan, I think, lying is another form of "a resource grab". For example, if a distribution center says that they have already shipped an order to a store but in reality they are going to begin processing an order the next day, over time, the store waiting for the delivery is just going to think that deliveries normally takes 10 days, when in reality the logistics could work out in 5 days.

Or, an employer could be looking for X years of experience/education onto which they would be willing to allocate training resources, to bring the new hire up to a desired level, for the current job. Lying in the years of experience/education by a prospective might get them into the door, but again, it would be a resources grab on their part and overall, resources would be wasted.   
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
8/14/2014 | 10:55:39 PM
Re: Flawed Human Nature and The Resume
Hi Susan ! I certainly appreciate your brilliant perspective on "human nauture" and thinking about it I see the validity of your argument. I must be working under the old philosophy of the individual dermines their destiny - maybe it is just my own personal philosphy but it really does not apply in the world we live in today.  

Society does determine what is considered "human nature" because it certainly out weights the individual in most cases. This is an unfortunate outgrowth of the World we have created for better of worse.

And when I say, "we" I use the term loosely because the insightful among us understand that society and for a major part reality is determined by a small percentage.

I had not thought of "human nature" to this extent, so I thank you for enlighting me to a truth most of us miss. You are right and I couldn't agree more.   I see and thank you ! ; ) 
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
8/14/2014 | 11:13:39 PM
Re: Flawed Human Nature and The Resume
 So, I wonder, who do you think is the one to blame here, the employees, or the employers, or unemployment?

 

That is an interesting question Susan and thank you for asking .....

IMO this issue of embellishment is a combination of all three factors, many employees have learned dubious traits in school and these traits carry over into the work lives. People who have lied and cheated throughout their formative years simply continue to do so into adulthood. So there is that built in percentage of embellishment in resumes that will always be there because there are many people who have lied and cheated their way to where they are.

But then you add another aspect to it, the recent Great Depression ( and yes that is what it really was) that most Americans experienced as our economy burned to the ground taking the international community with us for the most part added a element of desperation to the equation.

So it was analogous to offering a drink to someone who has a drinking problem when it comes to the increase in resume embellishment.   And of course businesses have always for the most part not performed their due diligence when it come to verifying skills listed unless of course you are in a group they want to keep out anyway in which case they have some test for you to pass. It really is ludicrous.


So they (business) are not without blame going from one extreme to the other - as usual.


So as you can see the issue is interwoven between the three and there are probably more than just three - but for the sake of discussion, those are good enough.
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
8/13/2014 | 8:41:50 PM
Re: Flawed Human Nature and The Resume
Your resume may get you in the door, but your interview will determine how far you get. As others have mentioned, though, ensuring the good candidates get in the door is a possible flaw in using applicant tracking systems.
zerox203
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zerox203,
User Rank: Ninja
8/13/2014 | 9:53:53 AM
Re: Resume Liars
I'm not sure how I feel about this topic. The results of the survey are interesting, but they immediately raise a few questions, and leave me a little skeptical. Employment history is simple enough, but how do these managers supposedly know someone is lying about their skills? That seems more or less impossible to do without seeing the person in action, doesn't it? Aren't previous employers restricted by law to only discuss start and end dates and a few select other topic (or am I mistaken about that?) - so that puts 'responsibilities' in a grey area as well.

If they're saying they suspected someone was lying, that opens up way too much room for bias and subjectivity for my taste. For example, only 7% of the people surveyed said they would look past a lie if they liked a candidate... but that might be because they chose to believe a candidate they liked wasn't lying (when he was) and falsely believed a candidate they didn't like was lying. Like Thomas, I feel like the very presence of computers in this process throws a wrench into these numbers, too. Too much room for false positives (or false negatives) or simply skewing the hiring manager's expectations. It was worth the read just to discover the higher incidence of these problems in IT jobs, though.
Brian.Dean
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Brian.Dean,
User Rank: Ninja
8/14/2014 | 4:38:33 AM
Re: Resume Liars
@zerox203, interesting points, the trade-off is very real, if an individual has devoted a greater proportion of their time towards education, work and growth, then this has left them with a lower level of people-skills and a smaller social network. If computers are left out of the equation, and individuals with better people-skills are the only ones that get into the door then, the forecast for long-term growth and innovation would not look good.
majenkins
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majenkins,
User Rank: Ninja
8/13/2014 | 11:51:26 AM
How About the "Other Side"
I wonder about employers that lie in their ads or job listings. Someone should do a survey on that.
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
8/15/2014 | 8:36:53 AM
Character and Competence
According Stephen M. R. Covey in The Speed of Trust, trust is based on two factors, character and competence. Misrepresentation on a resume is a sign of weakness in both areas. It is one thing for a newcomer to the job market to over-estimate his or her skillset. With time and maturity, self-awareness grows. It is another thing for a candidate to willfully misrepresent themselves. For me as a hiring manager, that is a clear signal to end the interview and look for a better candidate.

You can teach competence. Character is a different matter.
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
8/15/2014 | 9:16:05 AM
Re: Character and Competence
@jagibbons you make a good point -- the difference between an embellishment you can overlook and one you can't ignore could boil down to a candidate's experience. Someone inexperienced might not yet have a good understanding of the demands of the job, while embellishments in a more experienced candidate's resume could be a reflection of poor character.
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
8/15/2014 | 9:19:05 AM
Re: Character and Competence
Unfortunately, character is much harder to screen for in the limited time available for an interview.
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
8/15/2014 | 12:51:57 PM
Re: Flawed Human Nature and The Resume
@rrdonovan  I ran into that same thing on an interview. I'm talking to a very nice 20-something HR person on this interview but I remember thinking "How in the heck is this person even qualified to interview me?". I knew the interview was going nowhere when she asked "How do you feel about testing?". The look on my face must have said "Huh? Are you serious?". I think I actually answered that testing was exercise in risk mgmt, what you do depends on what application is you need to test. She had this blank look showing she had no idea what I was talking about.

Turned out the job was to lead some 25 person team with one of those testing methodologies in use today, which wasn't a match for me anyway. But I remembered leaving wondering what the point was of talking to her in first place. Other than verifying I was breathing, not exactly sure what she was qualified to vet. She hadn't even been alive long enough to even understand people yet, that isn't a skill taught in school.

 
Laurianne
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Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
8/15/2014 | 1:54:47 PM
Re: Flawed Human Nature and The Resume
I'm not sure this is about age. I have interviewed with 20-something recruiters who asked the right questions and 20-something recruiters who asked the wrong questions. The best HR people I have worked with vary in age from 20's to 50's -- skill shows up in each age group. The larger question is whether the initial screen process and then the first round interview processes are on the money or not, right? You could have an older HR person carrying out a bad process and it would still frustrate job seekers.
MDMConsult14
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MDMConsult14,
User Rank: Moderator
8/18/2014 | 4:38:56 AM
Re: Flawed Human Nature and The Resume
The skillset is vital. Both interpersonally and technically. Especially with IT or technical related careers. There are recruiters who may be too young in the field to understand even technical terms. Or their may be senior level recruiters who may not be up to date with the models of today. Either way, the best recruiters are those that care and understand the candidate. Without the right training, skills this is where problems occur.
Research: 2014 US IT Salary Survey
Research: 2014 US IT Salary Survey
Our survey of nearly 12,000 respondents shows IT pays well -- staffers rack up a median total compensation of $92,000, and managers hit $120,000. Industry matters. And the gender pay gap is real and getting wider.
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