How One Lie Can Ruin Your Personal Brand

Personal Branding

Last week, Yahoo! CEO Scott Thompson resigned amid controversy that he had lied about his academic credentials on his resume. An activist Yahoo! investor exposed Thompson as having added a nonexistent computer science degree to his credentials.

Unfortunately, resume embellishment like this is not uncommon. A 2004 study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found 60 percent of HR professionals had found inaccuracies on resumes “often” or “sometimes.” And much more recently, a survey reports eight percent of Americans admit to embellishing or exaggerating information on their resume.

Lying and your personal brand

Job candidates might not always lie through extreme measures like adding an extra college degree, but many embellish their resumes in other ways. Some enhance their responsibilities at their past job to make it sound better. Others may change dates to fill gaps in their employment history.

Lying on a resume is never a good idea, and is grounds for termination at most companies. Many human resources professionals verify resume information with the job candidates’ past employers, run background checks, or scour the applicant’s Twitter and Facebook pages to make sure nothing seems fishy. An SHRM survey found nearly half of HR professionals Google search their applicants, and one in five of those who conduct searches have disqualified candidates because of what they found.

But when resume fraud slips by and is exposed later, it’s damaging to your company, and perhaps more importantly, your personal brand. Lying about just one aspect of your credentials can negate all of your experience and affect your future job prospects. So what if you have lied on your resume? You have a few options:

  1. Update it. Fix the errors on your resume. Tell the HR professional you noticed a few errors and would like to give them an updated copy.
  2. Tell the truth. Come clean and tell the HR manager the truth about your embellishments. This will probably disqualify you from the job, but it’s better than being hired knowing you’ve lied and having someone find out later.

Remember, lying on a resume, cover letter, or in an interview is never a good idea. If you think your credentials could be stronger, go out and improve them!