Most people embellish their resumes. In fact, there’s quite an art to wording accomplishments so that they appear better than they actually were.

But if you’re not exactly forthright about your education or dates of employment at previous companies-facts that are easy to check–you could be cutting your own throat.

Is it fudging or is it fraud? surveyed a group of hiring managers and found that 57 percent said they have found a lie on a candidate’s application, even though only 5 percent of workers admitted to falsifying information. Ninety-three percent of managers who caught an applicant lying did not hire that person.

So what is harmless “padding” and what is out and out dishonesty? A recent article in The Christian Science Monitor warns that you should never assume that a hiring manager or an HR person is not going to check your facts, and that they won’t make judgments about your character based on those misquoted “facts.” You may even be hired on the basis of the information you give, but there’s no statute of limitations on when you can be subsequently canned if the info is proven to be false.

I was once asked by a hiring manager about a person whose resume mentioned that he used to work at a company I used to work for. Since the company is now defunct there was no way to verify the employment. But I’d been there for ten years, knew everyone there, and also knew that this guy had never been employed there. Freakish coincidence, but it can happen.

Resume fraud can happen at all levels too, it seems. The Christian Science Monitor article cites two high-profile cases of resume fraud:

  • Marilee Jones, dean of admissions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, resigned after an investigation revealed that she did not hold the academic degrees she had claimed.
  • David Edmonson, CEO of Radio Shack, resigned after a Texas newspaper reported that his résumé listed a college degree he did not have.

I’m not sure why someone in a relatively high-profile position would think they could get away with stuff like that, especially in a day and age where someone’s personal information is so readily available. But of course, presidential hopefuls do it all the time.