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Resume FAQ

Is it Illegal to Lie on a Resume? The Legality of Resume Lies in 2023

It is never a good idea to lie on a resume because the false information remains permanently on your record, with your background credentials, and may resurface later in your career.  In many cases, when inaccurate information is discovered, a job seeker will not receive an offer or will be fired as a result of the discovery.  Lying on a resume can have both professional and legal consequences, such as:

  • Termination: if a lie is material to the specific job, the employee may be terminated for just cause.

  • Withdrawal or Rescinding an Offer: If false information is discovered during the interview or hiring process, it is likely that the employer will withdraw any offer that may have been extended.

  • Legal Action: a blatant falsehood on a resume, discovered after employment, can also result in fines or damages. In extreme cases, where certifications or documentation is misrepresented, the employer may even file criminal charges.

  • Loss of future job opportunities: Inaccurate information on a resume will remain in the permanent record, even if the candidate corrects the information on the document for future career endeavors.  It is very difficult to overcome misrepresenting one’s career history once it has been shared.

  • Professional repercussions: Repercussions from lying on a resume may extend beyond the current job and employer. Professional organizations may also impose disciplinary action which will ultimately impact the viability of the candidate working in his/her chosen field in the future.

  • Ethical concerns: Once it is known that a candidate or employee has lied on a resume, regardless of the level of information, there will always be some question about that individual’s ethics and have a permanent impact on the future career

Lying on a resume can be broadly defined, but generally involves the intentional misrepresentation of some aspect of one’s personal or professional background in order to gain employment.  Usually that information may include exaggeration of qualifications or suitability for a specific job:

  • Omitting information: If the intention to omit a specific job or experience on the resume is to elevate the resume, it may be regarded as unethical.  On the other hand, some early work experience may not be relevant.  Here, it depends on what experience is being omitted, why, and whether that information would be material to the hiring manager.

    **  One area where candidates tend to omit or lie on a resume has to do with individuals who have been arrested, incarcerated or convicted of a crime.  The tendency is to omit that information knowing that it will likely eliminate their chances of getting the job.  However, it is better to answer honestly on an application, and if necessary, on the resume.  A well-written Cover Letter may offer a sufficient explanation allowing the hiring manager to understand your unique circumstances and proceed with an offer.  And, the topic should always be addressed in a personal interview. 

  • Inaccurate personal information: this could include giving a false name, address or other personal details

  • Inventing false employment history: Exaggerating dates of employment; including inaccurate job titles or projects; inventing companies or work experience that do not exist, are just some examples of false employment history. This would also include changing dates to hide gaps in your work history to make it appear as if you had continuous employment

  • Fake references: Presenting names of individuals as references who do not exist will be discovered and result in withdrawal.  Including names of individuals who have not agreed to provide a reference or who are not familiar with the candidate are also considered unethical representations.

  • Embellishing or inventing academic credits or certifications. Degrees and certifications can easily be checked during the reference process.  If discovered the outcome will likely result in withdrawal of the offer or termination.

  • Misrepresenting professional memberships, licenses: Many jobs have relationships with outside professional organizations to support their line of business, and are important to the employer.  Falsifying memberships will also demonstrate a lack of ethics and will result in termination or no offer.

  • Invented publications: It is easy to discover whether publications or research articles actually exist.  Stating that you wrote an article or presented a paper, either written by someone else - or not at all, will be considered grounds for termination or rescinding an offer.

  • Lying about Awards or Achievements: While more difficult to verify, misrepresenting any awards or achievements will be viewed as unethical and may also impact the job search.

If discovered, lying on a resume or application may result in fines, and even lawsuits or criminal charges.  Many employers consider lies on a resume as fraud, and penalties vary from state to state.  In some jurisdictions, lying about academic credentials warrant specific penalties. 

If a candidate is hired based on false information regarding specific certifications, and is subsequently discovered, legal action will promptly ensue.  If an employee is found to have falsified information in order to either receive an offer or remain in the job, many companies will consider that a breach of contract, and the individual will not only be terminated but result in legal action, as well.

All inaccuracies on a resume are treated differently. There is a difference between slight exaggerations and false information.  For example if information on your resume is, at best, exaggerated or omitted, it may impact your ethical reputation but not result in legal action.  The legality of false information on a resume depends on the specific job, the nature of the business and how that information impacts your credentials and the reputation of the company.

In the end, employers value above all, integrity and accuracy when considering your qualifications on a resume.