What if you can't prove your skills?
Published on January 6, 2006 By just john In Ethics
I have been bothered by a particular Joe User for a while and one of my recent discoveries brought an interesting question to light. Is it wrong to embellish your resume?

This particular person says he was webmaster of a site (writersjournal.com) from 2002-2004 and that it was closed due to a conflict with his schedule. I know this person a little better than an HR person might but is obvious to me that this person doesn't possess the skills to be a webmaster. So I checked (Isn't that what a good HR person would do?).

Domain Name: WRITERSJOURNAL.COM
Registrar: REGISTER.COM, INC.
Whois Server: whois.register.com
Referral URL: http://www.register.com
Name Server: DNS2.LAKESPLUS.COM
Name Server: DNS1.LAKESPLUS.COM
Status: REGISTRAR-LOCK
Updated Date: 07-sep-2005
Creation Date: 23-mar-1999
Expiration Date: 23-mar-2008

A simple whois search turned these results. I already knew this guy was a habitual liar though.

To the point... If you are a dishwasher and call yourself a Hobart Specialist or you dig ditches and you call yourself a Drainage Control Technician, is that a lie?

I know my first example is of a blatant lie. It is easy to see that this site has been owned by the same person since 1999. When you inflate something that you did into a more prestigious sounding title you're not really being dishonest, but you are not being totally honest either.

Labor laws prevent former employers from releasing information about your work history other than a few pieces of non telling information. Of course you can ask if they are rehire able, but a yes doesn't mean they would. I worked for a retail outlet. I had a problem with one of the mangers there. According to the company standards, I was able to be rehired. However, the manager there would never allow me to come back to work for him because he and I didn't like each other.

Those little pearls you add to your resume, as long as they are not easily verifiable, could make you seem to be more than you are but eventually you will have to back up the listed skill with the actual. I think embellishing your resume is wrong, but it seems to be more of a little white lie instead of a big whopper.

So... Do you do it?

Comments
on Jan 06, 2006
Well, obviously you're selling yourself with a resume.

Big wordy titles aren't so impressive (imo) as demonstrating your abilities and how you would be an asset to the company through your previous duties and accomplishments.

I think there's a *very* fine line between selling yourself and lying, but I don't think it's one that's hard to differentiate.

If you want to relabel your title with impressive synonyms, you aren't really lying. If you want to relabel your title with a one that implies duties that you have never actually attempted, then you're lying.

But it will all eventually come out. You can fake it til you make it to some extent, but the blatant lies will become clear when your boss and coworkers see how inept you are at tasks you implied that you had mastered.
on Jan 07, 2006
I agree with Tex on this to Jon.

I think synonyms are fine as long as they describe your actual skills.

When I was in the military, you wouldn't believe all the jargon they used when evaluating someone. They make a person sound like the military, their branch, will just fall down and die without them.

I loved it.....My head was this big ~holds hands out as far as possible from each other~ when I read my evals. Pfft...but I wasn't doing anything special...there were thousands doing the same thing...

on Jan 08, 2006
Working on a conversion project, and then putting on your resume "Upgraded Windows NT domain to Windows 2000" is accurate, if somewhat inflated.  And I dont mind that stuff.  However, saying "Expert in Unix" when your expertise is from a Community College is lying.  I do the former (albeit not in the stated instance), but if they say "unix Required" (again just an example), I simply stated "Worked on Sun Unix and took Unix class".  I dont lie, but I dont always detail my involvement with a project.  But I never over state my involvement, just may leave out that I was one of 2 or 3, instead of the lone ranger.
on Jan 08, 2006
Double post cookie
on Jan 09, 2006
Labor laws prevent former employers from releasing information about your work history other than a few pieces of non telling information


there's no law preventing anyone from saying anything they want about a former employee. defamation laws and the threat of potentially expensive legal action (saying something is true and proving it are two different things) combined with a lil common sense may prevent former employers from being totally candid when asked for a reference.

with that outta the way, why not ask yourself if salting a mining claim in order to sell it is really dishonest.
on Jan 09, 2006
The whole hiring process is an interesting animal. An employer is basing a huge investment decision on a piece of paper and a few minutes of interview.

Of course applicants are not completely forthcoming with any negative aspects of their work history and experience. Resumes are advertisements and embellished about as much. Buzzwords and titles grow as they go, with little to know opportunity to prove, or disprove the varacity of the claims.

Lying and have become acceptable in our society. In fact, it has become so accpeptable that the person who refuses to go along with the lying or cheating is the one who is the outcast.

Of course it's lying (and cheating) to embellish a resume beyond your true abilities, skills and experience. The fact we are even asking the question says a lot more about our society than the question itself.
on Jan 09, 2006
Everyone seems to be missing the point that this was a bit of Lucas Bailey bashing ...er... revealing.

I agree, he clearly lacks the linguistic ability to run such a site, despite claiming it as his own.


As for the practically irrelevant to the point of the article question of whether embellishing is lying, my definition of lying is "communicating with the intent to deceive." If the prospective employee's intent is to deceive the prospective employer about some aspect of his past or his abilities, then yes he is lying.

(Does this mean Lucas has been caught in yet another lie? Probably.)
on Jan 09, 2006
I guarantee you that if a potential employee puts false credentials or abilities in a resume, it will be found out eventually. I have a friend in Salt Lake City whose job it is, 40 hours a week, to verify the degrees of potential doctors for a SLC-based HMO. Her job is to call the schools listed on the physician's resume/CV and talk to the registrar of each school, verifying degrees and dates. She also calls previous employers, verifying claims of work, responsibilities, etc. Her job is to detect false claims of education or work experience so the HMO doesn't get burned.

She says the most phonied degree is from Yale University, followed by Duke.

If one single HMO is doing it, don't you think the business world as a whole is doing it, too?

As for abilities, it's easy to glorify yourself on paper, especially in an anonymous environment like a resume. Abilities are intangible. Hypothetically speaking, I could probably claim a degree in communications, based on my perceptions of my own ability to write and speak publicly. And I could probably pull it off in the employment world, too. But any check of my background would turn up squat.

False credentials in a resume is like placing a ticking time bomb. You never know when it will go off, or how much damage it will do.
on Jan 09, 2006
a bit of Lucas Bailey bashing


i woulda happily joined in if only i'd known.
Does this mean Lucas has been caught in yet another lie? Probably


i dunno why he feels it's necessary to keep embellishing his image...if i were in charge of either political party, he'd be hard at work for me right now. on the other hand, perhaps he should escape to egypt before rove orders the execution of all male children between the ages of 17 and 20 who aspire to be novelists and nfl players.
on Jan 09, 2006
i woulda happily joined in if only i'd known.


I must have missed where he claimed to a site webmaster. Anyone got a link?
on Jan 10, 2006
If you want to relabel your title with impressive synonyms, you aren't really lying. If you want to relabel your title with a one that implies duties that you have never actually attempted, then you're lying.


That seems to be such a fine line sometimes. I have given a few careful creative words to my resume in the past.

.....My head was this big ~holds hands out as far as possible from each other~ when I read my evals. Pfft...but I wasn't doing anything special...there were thousands doing the same thing...


I guess this is why I have such a problem with getting too creative. There are so many people out there doing what I do. It just seems that it would be too easy to get caught.

but if they say "unix Required" (again just an example), I simply stated "Worked on Sun Unix and took Unix class". I dont lie, but I dont always detail my involvement with a project.


That is a-ok in my book. You are simply stating some experience. The job interview should be the place where they find out what they really want to know.

defamation laws and the threat of potentially expensive legal action (saying something is true and proving it are two different things)


You are correct. I should have been clearer.

Lying and have become acceptable in our society. In fact, it has become so accpeptable that the person who refuses to go along with the lying or cheating is the one who is the outcast.


Unfortunately, I have seen this far too often. I will take the high road, as long as the cheaters don't block the path.

As for the practically irrelevant to the point of the article question of whether embellishing is lying


This really wasn't meant to be that way. I didn't mention his name. He just brought the question out of me. He does prove to be an interesting muse from time to time.

If one single HMO is doing it, don't you think the business world as a whole is doing it, too?


We hire folks to run multi-million dollar drilling operations with a simple background check and a drug screen. It doesn't sound smart but I would guess that most small companies like us really can't afford to do a huge search. We have to do as much research as the money will allow. Sometimes, when we take on a new project we have to conditionally hire people just to stay in the game.

I must have missed where he claimed to a site webmaster. Anyone got a link?


I really didn't want this to be about him. He was just the inspiration. However, you asked for it.Link
on Jan 10, 2006


I guarantee you that if a potential employee puts false credentials or abilities in a resume, it will be found out eventually.

This is true on most cases.  If you state you can do things on your resume, and you can't, it's reason for immediate termination at most companies.  Employers expect resumes to be a true reflection of a persons skills.  If they hire that person and are paying for a skill set, then find out that the person lied about the skills, why should they be paying that person for those skills?

on Jan 10, 2006
That is a-ok in my book. You are simply stating some experience. The job interview should be the place where they find out what they really want to know.


It usually does, but sometimes it is hard to tell book sense from experience, so I figure let them sort it out. SO far, I have not been bounced for my Unix (in)experience (I know the dirty stuff, just live in a Windoze world!).
on Jan 11, 2006
Unix (in)experience (I know the dirty stuff


My Unix/Linux experience is confined to Red Hat and Nessus. God I love Nessus!
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