So you’ve just graduated, or are about to graduate (or maybe you’re a long way from graduating or graduated a long time ago) but you don’t think you have the required work experience to land your dream job. Well the good news is that lying (in my opinion) lies (ha!) on a spectrum.
I in no way support any serious misconduct, fraud or otherwise illegal or immoral behaviour – I am not responsible for any misinterpretations or for your behaviour or actions.
If you look at my awesomely handcrafted and totally academic visual representation of what I like to call the ‘Axis of Lies’, you’ll see two primary axes. Each lie that a person makes is directly (or indirectly) tied to some sort of consequence. I’ve made the graph deliberately vague because I feel there are too many variables to take into account for a simple blog post. However, generally speaking the ‘lie type’ can be seen as a spectrum between the truth and outright lie and the ‘lie consequence’ can be seen as, well the extent of what may happen as a consequence of the lie. An example of a lie in the far bottom left corner might be something along the lines of, “I’ll be there in 5 minutes” when approaching a bar for a drink with your best mate, but you arrive in 6 minutes instead. However, a lie placed in the upper right most quadrant might be in response to something like, “Is anyone here a doctor? This person needs CPR!” - where you reply, “yes” and proceed to aimlessly pound the person’s chest in some kind of animalistic fury. The person dies. Good job. With that out of the way, let’s talk about the morality of lying about work experience on your resume – a far cry from the last example, I know.
There are a few instances where it is definitely not okay to lie on your resume (or in interviews), they are as follows:
• Serious misconduct or anything that can be proven false through a background check, for example:
◦ Any charges or jail time;
◦ You have a degree when you actually don’t;
◦ When you graduated;
◦ Licenses or certifications
◦ Outright falsification of employment history
◦ You claim to have been CEO of a company when you were in reality an intern
◦ Employment gaps
• Claim you have skills that you can’t actually prove
◦ You’ll look pretty silly in a technical interview or when you can’t pass the skill / competency test
• Anything that can be proven false with a quick Google search
Though there will no doubt be some disagreement from the morality police or truth ‘puritans’, the following examples can be grey areas. One thing to also keep in mind if you believe morality is strictly black and white – how many times has an employer lied to you during the recruitment process or in an interview? Maybe you didn’t realise they were lying or you brushed it off. Employers are under no obligation to tell prospective employees the complete truth. Employers may exaggerate how good the working environment is, or how many times have you heard a place of employment referred to as a ‘family’? Many codewords and phrases are used in the recruitment industry to mislead potential employees about a range of topics. So if these unwritten tactics are good enough for recruiters, then it’s only fair game job seekers can use them!
These are examples of resume entries where it’s not completely immoral to stretch the truth:
• Your skill-set does not meet the job requirements 100%
◦ You may find yourself applying for IT roles in the cybersecurity field for example, and the employer has listed a number of firewall brands you need to be familiar with in order to be successful. However, you don’t have practical experience in those specific brands. As long as you have the underlying knowledge in the domain the employers requires I wouldn’t feel too guilty about stretching your level of experience to match. If you do feel an unquenchable molten rock of guilt burning a hole in your chest cavity, visit the firewall manufacturer's website support page and download a PDF of their firewall documentation, viola! You have now familiarised yourself with their product and have (at least some of) the required work experience for that cybersecurity role.
• Be discrete and realistic when stretching out some of your work experience, obviously I don’t condone outright lies on your resume – have some decorum!
◦ You should be doing research before an interview – we all know that when applying for jobs, not every single job or employer will be your dream position. However, read up about the company and note down the company’s principles that align with your own.
Getting a job in IT can be tough, especially if you don’t fit the exact mould for that job. At the same time I believe that being 100% honest on your resume and during the interview process can be detrimental to you, unless you are the cream of the crop. If you found this post even a little helpful, share it! If not, don’t. Check out this video by Joshua Fluke about the topic.