Liar Liar, You’re Still Hired

liarWe all know lying is wrong. But we’ve all done it. And those who say they’ve never told a lie—not even a tiny little white one—well, they’re probably not being truthful.

That goes for job seekers too. It’s not uncommon for hungry applicants to embellish their skills and experience a bit, in order to pump up their resumes and increase their odds of getting a foot in the door.

But what happens when a candidate gets caught trying to put one over on a hiring manager? That may depend on the severity of the lie, and the potential an employer sees in the person who told it, according to a recent CareerBuilder survey.

In a poll of 2,188 hiring managers and HR professionals, 51 percent of respondents said they would automatically dismiss a job candidate if they uncovered a lie on his or her resume. Interestingly though, 40 percent said their decision to move forward with an applicant who lied on a resume would depend on what the candidate lied about. Another 7 percent said they would be willing to overlook a lie if they liked the candidate.

Dave Ulrich, professor of business at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, was “surprised” at the number of hiring managers willing to look past an applicant’s stretching of the truth, however small the fabrication may be.

“I tend to be quite strongly in the 51 percent who believe that, if someone lies [about] little things, he or she might lie [about] bigger things.”

Some may contend that not all information on a resume—titles or job duties, for instance—is of equal importance, says Ulrich.

“But I would argue that even these less significant facts signify an attitude of integrity,” he says. “The messages on the resume signify the candidate’s style. Applicants would be better served demonstrating candor and transparency to build relationships of trust.”

Indeed, many hiring managers (more than half, according to the aforementioned survey) wouldn’t exactly rush to put their faith in would-be employees they saw as being dishonest right off the bat. And there are some fibs—or flat-out, obvious lies—they may not be so inclined to forgive. Enjoy this sampling of some of the most unusual lies employers reported catching on resumes:

• A candidate’s job history included a stint as the assistant to the prime minister of a foreign country. (Just one problem—the country in question does not have a prime minister.)

• One hopeful boasted on his resume that he was a high-school basketball free throw champion. (Not sure how Kevin Durant-like consistency from the charity stripe would even apply to the workplace, but he fessed up to his lie in the interview nonetheless.)

• A 32-year-old applicant indicated having 25 years of professional experience. (He or she must have been one smart, hard-working baby.)

• And, speaking of babies, one job seeker claimed to have worked for 20 years as a babysitter for celebrities such as Madonna and Tom Cruise.

I actually feel for the prospective employer in this last case. It’s too bad this candidate was lying, because I’d think an employee with that kind of experience could be a big help in dealing with divas and difficult bosses in the workplace.