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Poker Face: The Pitfalls of Bluffing on Your Resume

Lying on your resume seems so easy: Just change this date, pump up that job title, and exaggerate those educational qualifications. Who’s going to find out? Turns out, a lot of prospective employers. And they’re not going to look kindly on those little resume embellishments, either.

If it seems like fudging the truth to get ahead is something everyone is doing, that’s because a lot of people are. Although a recent survey by CareerBuilder found that only 1 in 12.5 employed adults admit to lying on their resume, 1 in 2.04 employers polled had caught an applicant in the act.

Amazingly, a favorite resume lie is also one of the easiest to unmask: education. Many job seekers fail to mention that they didn’t actually graduate from the university where they once enrolled. Others have been known to list an institution they never attended at all. Among the other popular resume fibs are dates of employment, job title, and previous salary.

It’s easy to understand the temptation. A less than stellar academic record or an embarrassing period of joblessness can feel like an automatic deal breaker in your quest for employment. A higher salary at your last job can give you more bargaining power at your new one. And maybe you feel that you took on responsibilities that were above and beyond your job title, so you deserve the recognition on paper.

But all of these untruths are easily uncovered by prospective employers. With resume lying on the rise, human-resource professionals say they’re beefing up their background checks before offering jobs. And they don’t have a lot of sympathy. Among hiring managers who have caught an applicant lying, 1 in 1.75 (57 percent) immediately dumped the resume in the recycling bin. Even if they didn’t axe the candidate from the shortlist right away, only 1 in 16.67 hiring managers offered the lying applicant the job in the end.

Of course, other white lies are harder for potential employers to detect—and therefore all the more tempting to employ in a tough job market. Your eighth-grade Spanish might not be exactly fluent, but hey, you could find a bathroom in Buenos Aires. And that editing software you used once—that counts as proficient, right?

But what happens when your possible future boss starts firing questions at you in Español? It might be worth brushing up on your language skills before you’re invited to interview.

Otherwise, your resume may be headed for the shredder.

Originally published on Book of Odds