Even Little White Lies Will Hurt Your Career

Job Interview FailYou find a job description that sounds awesome, only to realize the employer is looking for an intern with years of experience and a long list of skills.

But you want this internship. You need this internship! So what do you do in order to feel more qualified? More competitive?

You lie. A little white lie here and there won’t hurt, right?

But lying is a bad idea. If you’re caught in the lie, you could ruin your personal brand and lose out on opportunities for years to come. In fact, a new CareerBuilder survey of hiring and human resource managers conducted in May and June found that 56 percent of respondents have found resume lies.

Here are some of the most common little white resume lies and why you need to avoid them:

I Know HTML, Photoshop…

You found your dream internship. It’s with an awesome company, in the industry you want to work in, and the responsibilities of the job excite you. There’s just one little problem. The job description says that Photoshop skills are required.

Photoshop doesn’t have much to with the role, but you don’t think you can apply without that skill. You did take that photography class last semester where you did use Photoshop once or twice. You tack on Photoshop to your list of skills on your resume, not too worried about the little lie.

But what happens when you’re asked to work with Photoshop in the internship? When the truth comes out, the reputation you’ve worked hard to build with the employer will be tarnished.

Skills are the most common resume lies. In fact, 62 percent of hiring professionals surveyed by CareerBuilder said they commonly saw embellished skill sets on resumes. Although you may think that having every skill listed in the job description will get you the internship, that’s not always true.  The survey found that 42 percent of respondents would consider a candidate who only met three out of five qualifications for a job.

Telling the truth about your skills can set you up for success in your internship. You can still land the internship by being honest, and can gain valuable training and learning experiences on the job.

I Am the President of…

If you don’t have any relevant working experience when looking for an internship, and chance are you don’t, everything you do at school is important to your resume. You know employers are looking for students who are actively involved on campus and who have held leadership positions.

You’re in a few clubs but you’re not the most active participant. You attend a few meetings here and there and enjoy the free pizza. But the employer doesn’t know that. On your resume, you write that you’re the secretary of one club and the vice president of another. No big deal.

In the interview, the employer asks you about these clubs and your experience with them. Before you know it, you’re claiming you organized events you didn’t organize and are responsible for other events you know little about. You ramble on about them, but it’s clear to everyone in the room that you’re making it up as you go.

Employers know embellished responsibilities when they see them, and they see them often. According to the CareerBuilder survey, 54 percent of employers reported candidates commonly embellish their responsibilities in past positions on their resumes.

Don’t make up responsibilities to appear more fit for the internship. Instead, bolster your resume with things you’ve actually done. Projects, papers, courses, and on-campus jobs can all demonstrate relevant experience to employers.

I Interned With…

You’ve never had an internship before, but the internship you want requires experience. Although you’ve never interned before, you did do some work for your mom’s office in the summer.

On your resume, you change “office assistant” to “marketing intern.” It’s a tiny change that could get you the internship, you think. But when the internship coordinator calls the office to check your references, they learn the truth and you’re out of the running for the internship.

You didn’t lose the internship because you didn’t have the right experience — you lost it because you lied. Job titles were among the top three resume lies in the CareerBuilder survey.

Don’t lie to make your experience fit the internship. Instead, be honest about the experience you do have and show how it’s relevant to the internship. If you worked as an office assistant, indicate that the position  gave you experience working in a professional or fast-paced environment. Maybe you honed your communication and organizational skills or became familiar with a specific industry.

Internships are about learning, and employers don’t expect you to be perfect professionals. They do, however, expect you to be honest.


For this post, YouTern thanks our friend, Heather Huhman!


Heather Huhman logo


HeatherAbout The Author: Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies. She is also the instructor of Find Me A Job: How To Score A Job Before Your Friends, author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011) and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.



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