Lying on your resume can have life-altering consequences as one U.S. State Department official has discovered.

What happens when you lie on your resume?

It is distressingly common how often people lie on their resumes and CVs. According to a study conducted by TopResume, over 77 percent of surveyed recruiters, hiring managers, and HR professionals have spotted a candidate lying on their resume. When seemingly the only thing between you and your dream job is a job application, the temptation to do anything you can to make your application stand out is powerful — however, you shouldn't give in. Lying on your resume can get you rejected from a role and worse, destroy your professional reputation. 

Mina Chang, the U.S. State Department's deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, is learning this lesson the hard way. Her resume was a shining list of stellar credentials, even including a Harvard diploma. But when Harvard was asked if Chang had attended the university, a spokesperson told NBC News that Chang attended a seven-week course and never actually achieved a degree. 

All of her lies eventually came to light: The TIME magazine cover she claimed to be on was faked and the photos she posted on social media of her delivering humanitarian aid were staged. After being asked for comment on the discrepancies between her resume and reality, Chang resigned from her position at the State Department — her government career effectively over. 

You don't need to lie on your resume to get ahead

You don't need to lie to be an attractive candidate for a job you might not meet all the requirements for. Instead, you can earn new skills and credentials outside of a traditional university environment and lean on your friends and network for recommendations and help. 

Our career expert, Amanda Augustine, has the following tips to ensure you don't misrepresent yourself on your resume: 

  • Create a brag book. When you're ready to update your resume, your brag book will become one of your strongest assets. This simple tool is a document where you actively chronicle your work experience and professional successes, in detail. In addition to recording all your personal wins, it allows you to keep track of dates and other important numbers you might not remember or be able to access when you need to update your resume. When the information is recorded in real-time, it makes innocent mistakes on your resume less probable.

  • Avoid the temptation. While your lies may temporarily go under the radar without being caught, lying on your resume or other personal marketing materials will catch up with you, eventually. At the end of the day, it's simply not worth it.

  • Work with what you have. While some resume rules are standard, there are many guidelines that can be bent based on your work history, experiences, and job goals. Remember, a resume is a marketing document — its purpose is to position you in the most favorable way for your target position by highlighting your best selling points. If your current format isn't working for you, test small changes to see what will. 

  • Ask for help. The job search can be a lonely place, but it doesn't have to be. Seek services like TopResume to get a professional, objective, and free review of your resume.

Honesty is always the best policy

It's clear: Honesty is always the best policy when it comes to your resume and professional credentials. The advantages gained in the short term by misrepresenting yourself are far outweighed by the potential damages long term. Your career prospects and reputation may never recover if you get caught embellishing your credentials.  

If you are tempted to tell a few white lies in order to make your resume look more attractive, know that lying isn't the only way to accomplish the goal. Work with a TopResume professional resume writer instead. 

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