Exaggerating on a Résumé

Exaggerating on a Résumé
By Elizabeth Garone

Q: I recently received a call to set up an interview for a job for which I applied a while back. This should be great news, but I’m starting to get nervous because I exaggerated a couple of my responsibilities on my résumé. What if questions about them get raised during the interview? Should I say something right at the beginning or just wait and see if they come up?

A: You aren’t alone when it comes to lying or exaggerating on a résumé. According to national payroll provider Automatic Data Processing’s 2009 Screening Index, 46% of employment, education and reference checks showed discrepancies with information provided by job candidates. However, experts say exaggerating or lying on a résumé is a dangerous move and one that can have lasting consequences.

Even if you think you can get away with it, you shouldn’t try, says Ken Springer, president of Corporate Resolutions, an international business intelligence firm headquartered in Manhattan and a former FBI agent. “If you ignore the exaggerations now, you may end up skating dangerously close to fraud later,” he says. “It is better to set the record straight now.” Plus, there is a good chance that this employer or a subsequent one will conduct a background check and your exaggerations will be exposed. “At that point, it may be too late,” says Mr. Springer. “Be upfront and honest at the outset. It will be more rewarding and beneficial to you down the road.”

Davia Temin, a Manhattan-based reputation and crisis manager, recommends bringing a corrected résumé to the interview and handing it to the interviewer, letting him or her know that you have prepared a more-updated résumé since you applied for the position or since the last time you spoke. “Simply say that this résumé is updated and clearer,” says Ms. Temin. “Then, hopefully, the interview can be conducted from that new résumé.”

If questions do come up about the discrepancies, let the interviewer know that you prepared the new résumé because you wanted to clarify what your responsibilities were, says Ms. Temin. “I would neither dwell on it, over-explain or apologize.”

You don’t want to wait until the end of the interview to address the differences, says Jeff Wizceb, vice president of business development at HR Plus, a Chicago-based screening-solutions firm. “If you wait and they are discovered during a background-screening process, it will only exacerbate the issue as well as discredit your entire interview process to that point,” he says.

Even if you end up losing out on this particular position, you’ve learned an important lesson, says Ms. Temin. “Your reputation for trustworthiness is your greatest asset,” she says. “No matter how expedient it would be to play fast and loose with the facts, don’t. Long-term reputation trumps expediency every time.”