Common Resume Lies and How to Spot Them

According to one survey, 46% of workers know someone who’s lied on a resume. This means many of the candidates that you’re recruiting might be dishonest on their resumes, too.

If you don’t catch lies on resumes, you might face embarrassment and lost clients. You could send bad candidates to clients. And if your clients hire those bad candidates, they might have problems at their businesses.

Because lying on resumes is so prevalent, it’s imperative that you know and can uncover common lies.

Common lies on resumes

Resumes are often structured in similar ways. As a result, people use common lies to build a fake resume.

Adjusted employment dates

Some people will adjust or make up employment dates on their resume. People do this to hide employment gaps or to make their employment seem longer.

Some job seekers might blatantly make up information. For example, let’s say an applicant has an employment gap between July and February.

Accountant, XYZ Company, March 2015 – July 2016

Accountant, ABC Company, February 2017 – Present

To hide the gap, the applicant might change their dates of employment.

Accountant, XYZ Company, March 2015 – January 2017

Accountant, ABC Company, February 2017 – Present

Or, the applicant might remove the months and only use years to mask the gap.

Accountant, XYZ Company, 2015 – 2016

Accountant, ABC Company, 2017 – Present

Fake degrees and certifications

People lie about their academic degrees and certifications. They try to make their education look better than it is. And, some people list education they never received.

An applicant might list a more prestigious degree or school. The degree or school might be accurate while the other is fake, or both might be falsified.

For example, a candidate might say they earned a computer science degree from Harvard when they really earned a computer science degree from a small, local college.

Some applicants might omit the type of degree or certification they earned. Let’s say a candidate lists that they earned a degree in business administration. The candidate seems great because you’re looking for someone with an MBA. But really, the candidate earned an associate’s degree in business administration. You might inappropriately place this candidate because they omitted the type of degree they earned.

Still, some people will say they earned a degree when they didn’t finish the degree requirements. For example, someone might say they earned an accounting degree when they were 15 credits shy of graduating. Or, someone might say they have a certificate in culinary arts when they only took a cooking class at their community library.

Made up employers

Sometimes people try to look better by listing that they worked at more glamorous businesses. They might completely list a business they’ve never had contact with.

Some people will list businesses where they have done contract work, but were never actually employed. For example, a candidate worked for a cleaning company that was contracted by a large printing company. The candidate lists that they worked at the printing company even though they were only a contracted cleaner there, not an employee.

Jumps in job titles

If an applicant has big job jumps on their resume, you should look further into their job history. The job jump might be at one company or between two companies.

Let’s say the applicant was an administrative assistant at one business. Then, the applicant’s resume says they became the director of marketing at another business. The quick increase in job title without a natural progression of promotions could be a red flag.

Vague job descriptions

Check out what the candidate wrote about their duties and skills at each previous job. If the job descriptions aren’t specific, the candidate might not have done the tasks.

Also, read the job duties to see if they are consistent with similar jobs. As a recruiter, you have experience looking at a variety of resumes and job descriptions, so you should have an idea of the tasks the candidate would have done at previous jobs.

Focus on self

It might be a concern if the candidate claims sole responsibility for achievements. Of course, the candidate might really be singularly accomplished. But, they might also be taking credit for achievements that were a team effort.

If there is no mention of teamwork on the resume, the candidate might be embellishing themself, or they just aren’t good at working on teams. Neither are great.

Stretched skills

People might say they have more experience in something than they actually do to increase their chances of getting the job. For example, an applicant might say they are an expert in a computer program when they have only opened it one time. Or, they might say they are fluent in Spanish when they only took one class back in high school.

How to spot lying on resumes

Now that you know the common ways people are lying on resumes, you need to know how to make sure you spot the lies.


You should do a successful phone interview or initial in-person interview. During these interviews, ask questions to strategically uncover inconsistencies on the resume. Often if someone lies on their resume, they won’t remember what they wrote.

If you do multiple interviews with a candidate, you can probe further into their resume details. And, you can catch any changes in the candidate’s responses.

Social media research

Use social media research on your candidates. People often include their work history and education on their social media accounts. LinkedIn is a good place to check candidate information. But, people might have information on other social media accounts.

If people lie on their resumes, they might lie on their social media accounts, too. But, people often include information on several accounts and sometimes forget to update their accounts with the fake details.

Check your database

Your recruiting system might be able to help you find lies on candidate resumes. If you’ve worked with a candidate before, you probably have an old resume on file. Compare the resume on file to the current resume. If there are substantial changes, one or both resumes might contain lies.

Reference checks

Doing reference checks can help you find candidates who are lying about work experiences. Talk to past employers and coworkers to check employment dates, job duties, and skills. If references contradict a resume, the resume might be fake.

Ask for proof

Ask candidates for proof of their degrees and certificates. This is especially important in specialized fields that require specific certifications or licenses to work.

You might ask candidates to show you transcripts, unopened graduation confirmations sent from the schools, or certified copies of licenses.