A June 2016 survey by Pure Resume asked 1,518 Australians one simple question – ‘Have you ever lied about your credentials or work experience on your resume?’ The age of those surveyed were as follows:
- 18-24 – 21.6%
- 25-34 – 14.3%
- 35-44 – 12.1%
- 44-54 – 11.3%
- 55-64 – 7.8%
- 65+ - 7.5%
From the survey results, it would seem we’re quite an honest nation with 86.9% of respondents claiming never to have falsified details on their resume before, leaving just 13.1% admitting to lying at one point or another.
Other studies suggest the number of resumes with false information could be closer to 25-40%, although these studies also include respondents that have exaggerated the truth as well, which is slightly different to lying.
The low 13.1% finding could be influenced by one very obvious factor – LinkedIn. In Australia LinkedIn attracts 3.7 million unique visitors per month, with many having created their own profile featuring a copy of their resume. Given the public nature of LinkedIn, it would be difficult for someone to lie about their education or experience, such as inflating a previous job title or graduating from a different university, when former colleagues can call them out on it.
Categorisation by state
The breakdown of lies told by state and territory in Australia makes for some interesting reading. The order of the biggest liars to the most honest is:
Northern Territory – 16.7%
South Australia – 14.4%
Victoria – 13.8%
Tasmania – 12.9%
New South Wales – 12.7%
Queensland – 11.8%
Western Australia – 11.2%
Australian Capital Territory (ACT) – 10.3%
The Northern Territory is clearly Australia’s biggest resume lying state, while South Australia and Victoria are close together in second and third. The most honest state or territory is the ACT with just over 10% of their citizens fudging their resumes.
This could be due to the importance given to checking the claims of applicants in various states and territories. In the ACT, public administration and safety; professional, scientific and technical services; healthcare and social assistance; and education and training accounts for approximately 60% of all employees. All new employees in these industries would be required to undergo stringent background checks before being offered a job.
While Public Administration and safety; healthcare and social assistance; and education and training are the Northern Territory’s top three industry sectors, they only account for approximately 40% of all employees. Other industries in the top 10 include construction, retail, accommodation and food services, and manufacturing, which may not require the same background checks as other industries.
Categorisation by salary
Apart from the lowest earners in Australia, there is a distinct relationship between how much a person earns and if they are likely to lie on their resume.
$0 - $24,999 – 13.2%
$25,000 - $49,999 – 15.3%
$50,000 - $74,999 – 13.7%
$75,000 - $99,999 – 13.6%
$100,000 - $149,999 – 12.9%
$150,000+ - 11.2%
There could be two reasons for this:
The first is the correlation between the age of the respondents and how much they earn. Almost 36% of the respondents were 18-34 years of age (16 year span), and are unlikely to be in the higher wage brackets. Conversely approximately 19% of respondents were in the 44-64 year age brackets (20 year span), and are more likely to be in the higher wage brackets. Therefore it stands to reason that more respondents in the survey are in lower wage brackets.
The second is the likelihood of lower wage earners being caught lying on their resumes. Those earning less money are probably less likely to be working in industries where cross-checking of information and background checks are rigorously taking place. Conversely, high earners are more likely to be required to undergo background checks, and are more likely to be well known within the industry, thus making it more difficult to lie about their background, experience and qualifications.
What lies are ok, and which lies aren’t?
It’s common practice for some resume exaggeration to take place, and employers expect there to be some untruths when they sift through applications for a recently advertised job opening. But some lies are more serious than others, and resume cheating is illegal in Australia and can be prosecuted with large fines. So, to help you avoid getting in trouble, here is a list of common and unacceptable lies you should think about before submitting your resume:
- Current salary – It is not uncommon to exaggerate your current salary to a prospective new employer to get a better deal, that’s called negotiation, right?
Project participation – Don’t claim to be the project manager if your job was to get the tea and coffee, but certainly highlight your involvement in any successful project and the role you played.
Education – Claiming to have attended Harvard Business School when in fact your ‘degree’ is from a dodgy online provider is generally not acceptable - you'll get found out eventually.
Referees – If you make up referees that don’t exist, or put down the names of friends who will lie on your behalf, you will soon be found out and the consequences won’t be pretty.
The ability for recruiters and employers to find out your professional and personal history has never been easier. If you get caught lying on your resume during the application process, chances are you’ll be dismissed immediately.
LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media platforms, as well as cross-referencing information found in resumes and cover letters against the selection criteria, is a far quicker and simpler process than the days when we used to post our applications by mail to prospective employers. A quick Google search will often tell a recruiter or employer everything they need to know about an applicant.