Exaggeration has become quite normal in advertising. Hyperbole in news reporting is mainstream. Doctoring a profile picture to look younger is an everyday event. So, what difference does a little lie on your resume make?
The answer, I hope, is obvious, but let’s consider why people are tempted to lie on their resumes in the first place.
One reason is that they are desperate… to exit a painful role, to find a job, to pay their bills, to change industries… genuinely desperate.
Another reason may be that they feel their experience will not be recognized as relevant if it remains unembellished.
A third option may be to “get noticed” by making possibly outrageous claims about their past performance… to stand out from the crowd.
We all understand these circumstances and may have been tempted to yield to them ourselves on occasion, but it is never ethical to lie on your resume. Nor is it smart. It is also not in the least necessary.
The ethics of the situation are self-evident. As Polonius famously said (according to Shakespeare) in Hamlet:
“…to thine own self be true.
And it must follow, as the night the day
Thou canst not then be false to any man…”
In other words, intellectual honesty requires that you neither lie to yourself nor to others; that you face facts squarely, and deal with them instead of trying to talk them around to being something they are not. This behavior may seem sadly antiquated in our current environment, yet it is the only route to sanity and civility, so practice it or suffer the consequences.
As I say, it is also not smart to lie about your professional history because these days your professional experience is an open book on LinkedIn, and anyone can see what you say about your history and achievements. To avoid embarrassment, either stick to the truth or say nothing at all.
Lastly, lying is not necessary. Even before I joined the Barrett Group, I used tried and true methods of translating achievements from one industry and role (and geography) to a completely different one… multiple times. For example, I moved from the amusement park industry based in Virginia, to the mayonnaise business based in Prague (then, Czechoslovakia), and from there to the hygienic paper business based in Vienna.
The “trick” is to focus on quantifying your achievements and rendering the impact transferrable. Most resumes read like a library list of titles and companies instead of highlighting the actual benefits you engendered for your employer. For example, let us say you were the VP of sales and you were responsible for merging two organizations and leading them to increased sales. You could say “merged two sales organizations and increased sales” or you could say “merged a French, Spanish and Italian sales team with a German one and grew the business twice as fast as the market for the next two years.”
The point is a) growing a business at twice the rate of the market means taking market share and that is clearly a transferrable skill. Additionally, b) the ability to take obviously different cultures (Italian and German, for example) and get them to cooperate so successfully that the business grows twice as fast as the market is also a highly transferrable skill. The detail in this case brings out not only “color” but also a demonstrable and transferable skill.
In any case, you probably cannot see your own history as clearly as an outside expert can, and that might be the best reason to hire the Barrett Group to help you reinvent yourself—without lying. We have helped thousands of executives to clarify their career objectives and then discover the position of their choice, mainly via the unpublished market—even now in these difficult days. See how successfully our clients are interviewing, receiving and negotiating offers, and landing jobs on our Hiring Line.
So, you do not need to exaggerate or embellish your experience to attract attention. You just need an expert to help you tell your story to the right audience. You need the Barrett Group.