Lying on resume often backfires

Temptation to lie increases in bad economy.

A Kent State University dropout lied about having a college degree and teaching license to get a job as a substitute teacher.

A toxicologist in central Ohio for years embellished his academic record to boost his qualifications.

Local employers said they have caught numerous area residents who have tried to conceal past their criminal records by being dishonest on job applications.

Job-seekers sometimes pad their resumes in the hopes to improve the odds of being hired.

But most hiring managers say they have discovered misrepresentations on job applications, and fabricated credentials can doom any chances of receiving a job offer. Workers who are hired based on false pretenses can face disciplinary or sometimes even legal consequences down the road.

Job-seekers should be truthful in their resumes because employers are more likely to tolerate past transgressions or gaps in work history than they are dishonesty, experts said.

“Be upfront with companies,” said Steven Gall, president of the Dayton-based Gall & Gall Company, which provides national employment law, human resources consulting and employment screening services. “If you are upfront and honest, that separates you from other applicants, and employers are more apt to look at you.”

In 2008, a Kent State University dropout was hired by Sylvania City Schools in northwest Ohio based on the strength of his resume, which claimed he taught for five months at a high school and held a college degree and a state teaching license. But school officials eventually learned his credentials and experience were fabrications.

Padding resume to impress

His employment was terminated and later he was criminally convicted of forgery and tampering after he produced a bogus teaching license.

The Sylvania case is an extreme example of a fairly common occurrence: resume padding.

About two-thirds of human resource professionals have discovered lies on resumes, according to the 2013 “Employment Screening Benchmarking Report” by HireRight, a provider of employment-screening services that is based in Irvine, Calif.

Last year, the CEO of Yahoo was fired after lying on his resume that he had a computer science degree. In 2010, the chief toxicologist with the Franklin County Coroner’s Office was fired and criminally charged after falsely claiming for years that he graduated college 16 years before he actually did.

In the hopes of impressing employers, some job-seekers try to tailor-fit their resumes to the job descriptions contained in “help wanted” ads, even if the information they provide may be misleading or untruthful, experts said.

The temptation to embellish academic and work achievements may be harder to resist in these tough economic times when employers routinely receive stacks of resumes for open positions, employers said.

“It is not uncommon for applicants to ‘enhance their resumes’ by stretching the truth,” said Gene Rhodes, human resources director for the Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority. “It is not as common to outright lie.”

A common way people stretch the truth is by claiming they worked at a previous job for longer than they actually did. Lying about the duration of employment often is an attempt to conceal a period of joblessness. Sometimes, it is a way to hide a period of incarceration.

A few years ago, an Ashtabula maintenance worker was fired after applying for a promotion because a background check found he falsified information on his initial application.

The worker answered “no” on his original job application when asked whether he was convicted of any crimes. In reality, he had previously been convicted of burglary and drug charges.

Companies more thorough

Earlier this year, the Ohio State Board of Education sent a letter of admonishment to a Dayton educational aide after she failed to indicate on her application for an educator permit that she had been convicted of misdemeanor charges of attempted assault and possession of marijuana, state records show.

The board has admonished or taken action against dozens of educators across southwest Ohio for failing to disclose past criminal records on their applications for work permits.

Other common types of resume fibs include misrepresenting job titles and responsibilities, omitting past employment and inventing reasons for leaving past jobs.

Job-seekers will be more tempted to lie or falsify credentials if they believe the information they provide will not be closely scrutinized, Gall said.

“Companies need to let applicants know — either through a sign in their HR departments or on their websites or in their ads – that they thoroughly background their applicants,” he said.

Workers may be able to explain to employers why they did not finish school or why they were unemployed for a period or why they have a criminal record, Gall said. Taking responsibility for past mistakes may impress hiring managers.

But employers are far less likely to forgive liars and applicants who omit information on their resumes.

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