What is Resume Fraud?


When you’re applying for jobs, you may think there’s no harm in embellishing a bit. You could believe that everyone lies on their resume to an extent. In reality, resume fraud can be problematic for you, as an applicant, and for employers as well.

There are a host of issues that can arise as the result of fraudulent information you provide on your resume.

If you provide false information, it could be discovered during the application process when the company is verifying your background. In some cases, it might not come out until later when you’re already an employee of the company.

The following are things to know about resume fraud and the implications for anyone involved.

Is It Illegal?

Lying on a resume isn’t in and of itself illegal, but it can lead to legal problems for an applicant or an employee.

For example, a company can sue a former employee if they misled them, and it costs them money.

If you’re completing a resume that requires you to make a sworn statement, then lying is illegal.

If you falsify information to get access to records or sensitive information, this can also be illegal.

Resume fraud is a term that can refer to any situation where someone puts information on their resume that’s false, with the hope it will make them more likely to get the job. The term application fraud is similar but more comprehensive because it covers fraud that occurs at any time in the application process.

Some of the many examples of resume fraud can include:

  • Listing a credential you never got. This could be a degree, a certification, or some other type of professional credential.
  • You might say you completed a program, and while you were enrolled in it, you didn’t finish it.
  • If you lie about how you did in a program, such as inflating your GPA, this is an example of resume fraud.
  • Inflating the responsibilities you had in your current or previous position is fraudulent. You’re indicating that you have more experience than you actually do.
  • Giving fake references, like a friend’s contact information, and having them act like they were your boss is fraudulent.
  • You might try to cover gaps in your employment history by extending the years you worked somewhere.

Because of how much it can cost them, employers do take steps to prevent resume fraud.

One of the best things an employer does is have a policy for consistently checking the background of applicants and taking the process seriously. Many times employers will hire a third-party service to check credentials.

Employers can be specific when they ask an applicant questions about their background.

When calling references, an organization can call the actual business and get in touch with the person that way, instead of calling the provided cell phone number.

To go back to the issue of legality, a resume is not an official, legal document, so it’s technically not illegal to lie on one. If you lie on a resume, though, you usually have no legal recourse against a former employer, even if their action was illegal.

This is a legal theory known as after-acquired evidence. If the employment relationship was discovered to be based on fraudulent information from the start, illegal acts occurring during the relationship might not be actionable under the law.

Your Lies Can Get Out of Hand

If you’re an employee who lies on a resume, it can quickly snowball into a bigger and more difficult situation for you. You might have to create more and more lies to cover the initial embellishment on your resume.

That can make you uncomfortable in the workplace, and it can create stress and strained relationships.

You May Be Unable to Fulfill the Duties of Your Position

Probably one of the most common ramifications of lying on a resume is that you might not be able to meet the duties of a position. You could struggle to fulfill expectations, and that could lead your employer to dig into your past.

Even if an employer doesn’t discover something when they’re initially screening and hiring you, that doesn’t mean they can’t do more research later on and seek out more information if you aren’t meeting their expectations.

Depending on the rule and the duties, it can be unsafe and dangerous to lie on your resume. You could put yourself and others at risk as a result.

Reputational Damage

If you lie on your resume and someone finds out, you’re not going to have much of a chance of getting a good employment reference. You might also work in a fairly small industry where most everyone talks and knows one another, so even if you don’t want a reference, people could still hear about what happened.

Outside of a professional environment, lying on a resume can cause you personal embarrassment and damage to your reputation as well.

Diminished Trust

Maybe your lie on your resume wasn’t so relevant that your employer decided to fire you over it. Even so, knowing that you got the job based on information that wasn’t completely true is going to mean that your boss and coworkers trust you less.

Even if you aren’t fired, your future opportunities within the company could be seriously diminished or nonexistent.

More Serious Situations

While above, we talk mostly about lying on your resume in general, there are situations that can rise to an illegal scenario.

For example, if you lie about professional licensing in a field like nursing, therapy, or medicine, you could find yourself facing serious trouble any stretching of the truth.

From a business perspective, if an employer hires an unlicensed professional to practice and someone is hurt, they could face serious liability.

While there might be situations when it can feel tempting to stretch the truth just a bit on your resume, it’s best not to. It’s much better to explain why you have a gap in your employment or didn’t complete college than it is to lie and have to deal with the more serious ramifications of doing so.

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