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People Tell Us All the Lies They’ve Put on Their Résumés

You need a job to build a résumé, but you need a résumé to get a job.

You need experience to get experience. That's the catch-22 many people face when they first attempt to enter the workforce—it's like needing a pair of scissors to open a package of scissors. A study from CareerBuilder last year found that 56 percent of hiring managers caught job applicants lying about something on their résumés.

Wondering what kinds of lies those might be, VICE reached out to young people to find out what they're bullshitting about on their résumés and how it worked out for them professionally.


Kayla, 28

Lie: I lied about past experience, taking computer program courses, graduating high school, and my references.

Can you tell me a bit more detail about what exactly lied about?
Depending on the job I'm applying for, I will absolutely tailor my past experience in places that I have worked to make it seem like I've done exactly what the same job description is that I'm applying for. I've lied about places I've worked at in the past. Usually it wasn't far-fetched—it's not like I lied about being a pilot or something and applied to Air Canada.

I would totally fudge up my references and ask people who were friends or family members to pretend to be people who worked for those companies. Any kind of computer program I really had no experience in, I would say I had taken courses and I was at the intermediate level, like Microsoft Access, but really I didn't even know what the freaking program looked like if I was asked to find it on a computer. Educational stuff I've definitely lied about (I didn't graduate high school).

But here's how I justified it in my mind: Technically speaking, I think every year of your life past high school age, you gain like three credits, and it's just considered life experience. I figured I gained whatever credits I hadn't earned in high school through actual life.

Would you do it again at this point in your career?
I probably wouldn't do it again at this point simply because I lied on my résumé for entry-level positions, but now that I actually achieved those jobs and have the actual experience, I no longer need to do so. I work in post-secondary education at a college doing student services and administration.


Did anyone find out about any of the lies on your résumé?
No. I've been working in this industry for about five years.

Do you have any tips for people who are thinking about lying on their résumé being someone who's done it successfully?
Basically when you're going to lie on your résumé, you need to make sure that you can immediately make it seem like you do actually have all of that experience. So if I lied on my résumé about a particular computer program, if I actually receive the position, I would be enrolled in courses the day of the offer of employment. You kind of have to live up to what the lie on your résumé is. You can't just lie and expect to get away with it forever because eventually your cover is going to be totally blown.

When you need experience to get a job but you need a job for experience — Nerd (@SmartInsults)February 24, 2016

Jon, 31

I said I had a year experience working in a kitchen at a restaurant in Germany.

How did that work out for you?
Well I got hired at a Moxie's and still work in the restaurant industry, so I guess it was worth it. No one ever found out or anything. Everything on my résumé after that was true, but if I didn't use that lie, I don't know if I would have the job I have now. After that first real job, though, I took the restaurant in Germany off [my résumé], but I would usually exaggerate about how long I worked at other restaurants I actually worked at.


Why in Germany specifically?
Well saying it was in another country meant that whoever was doing the hiring probably wasn't going to go to the trouble of calling a restaurant in Germany. I mean, they'd also probably have to know German too, so that seemed pretty unlikely.

Gabriella, 24

I said I graduated high school, but I actually dropped out.

How did that work for you professionally?
Once I turned eighteen, I got my ECE [early childhood education certification] from a career institute, which under education I put: currently enrolled in. Or once I got that certificate, I wrote that I had that certificate, and it was assumed I had high school. I noticed it was questioned when high school was listed on my résumé. They'd ask what year I graduated. After that, I stopped putting it in altogether, and they never asked. It's assumed I had my high school [degree] because I was up until this month technically still enrolled in York University. And having that [I study] early childhood education sounds like a big deal because most people don't understand what a career institute is [laughs]. It's kind of tricky actually.

Was it worth it?
Definitely worth it. As somebody who manages a store now, I don't care what your education was when you were a teenager. That's not who I'm hiring. I'm hiring the adult you are now, but no degree is necessary for the positions I hire for, so that's my bias. I don't believe in high school. I had to drop out to make money. And to me, that's because I was a hard worker. No one is too "stupid" to complete high school. Look at most stories, and they had life get in the way.


Personally, as a manager, I see résumés more of a way to see your professionalism. The way you write it, how much effort you put into editing, and format. If someone is good at his or her job, I wouldn't care if he or she lied on a résumé. That mentality you can't get experience without experience really bothers me, and I believe it holds less privileged people back. If someone lies to me about handling cash at a job and then can't wrap his or head head around closing the cash at night, that's when I have a problem.

Related: Watch 'Permanently Temporary: The Truth About Temp Labor'

Anna, 24

I said I worked as a bartender at Guvernment nightclub once it shut down.

Why did you do that?
They can't prove it, and everyone knows of Guvernment and how it got busy, a.k.a. I'm that good of a bartender [laughs]. I'd also say small shit like I had experience as a server when I didn't because that's the only way to get any serving job now is with experience. It's such a dumb system.

How did it work out for you?
It got me a job at a really nice restaurant in Toronto shortly after I embellished my experience on my résumé, so I would say that it helped. No one found out as far as I'm aware, but I did end up leaving that restaurant pretty quickly. I still work at a different restaurant now, though as a server.

Would you ever put a lie on your résumé again?
Yes. I've been working on my résumé this week actually and have already added some extra little things to spice it up!


Photo via Flickr user Glenn Fleishman

Chris, 23

I said I worked at Starbucks for a year when I never worked as a barista a day in my life.

Why did you say that?
Basically it was when I had just graduated high school and needed a job. The only experience I had was a shitty paper route and some bullshit volunteering I had to do through school, so my résumé was empty. There was a Second Cup close to my house, so for whatever reason, I lied about working at a Starbucks for like a year to, uh, get my foot in the door? I didn't get hired, by the way [laughs].

Have you ever told a lie on a résumé since?
No, that was it. Every job I've ever gotten since is from knowing someone.

What do you think would have happened if you did get hired at that Second Cup?
I would've been fucked probably, pretending like I knew how to use the coffee makers and shit.

Lilly, 25

I used my friends as professional references.

What do you mean by that exactly?
Well, I would say they were co-workers, instead of putting my real co-workers down since some jobs I've had haven't ended very well. It's just for like food service jobs, that's it.

Did any of your friends get called by hiring managers?
Not that I know of actually. You'd be surprised how infrequently people check up on references.

How did that work out for you?
Well, I work in that kind of job now. I don't think I'd do it for like a place that would actually know me, or besides being a nameless girl passing through [laughs]. That's just food service life.

Names have been changed to protect anonymity.

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