The pressure’s on. You’re looking for a new CIO position, and it’s time to update your resume. But that’s easier said than done; resume writing can be a challenge for people who have been fired, who have employment gaps, educational deficits, and more. Would it hurt to enhance your resume a little? Who would know if you out-and-out lied on it? Prospective employers, that’s who. Fudging on your resume might seem appealing when the perfect CIO job is on your radar screen, but those lies will get you nowhere—fast. Let’s look at what the experts say about deceptive resumes.

The role of the CIO is changing rapidly: Not only do CIOs need to have a thorough understanding of network infrastructure, they are expected to help spearhead their company’s vision towards the future. Some have even higher aspirations. According to Giant Step’s president and COO AdamHeneghan : “You’ll be seeing a lot of CIOs become COOs. The CIOs who have a vision will be the ones who end up running their organizations. They are in a very good position to move into the operating officer role versus the information officer role. I think that’s happening right now in both large and small organizations.”

This promotion potential makes the CIO position that much more valuable and difficult to procure. Many CIOs who examine their resumes will realize that they need to add a few skill sets to their current credentials to pursue career advancement. However, even though the stakes are high, your resume is not the place to add skills, titles, accomplishments, or degrees—unless you’ve earned them.

Keep it honest
Your resume should be a positive statement about yourself, your experience, goals and expectations, and upper management skills. Since CIOs are so high on the IT food chain, it’s imperative that your resume reflect the integrity that you have personally. That’s the first reason to not lie. The second is that your prospective employer will thoroughly check out your resume after the interview, and your lies will be discovered.
Writer Sally Richards reports that prospective employees habitually lie on their resumes. In an online article, she cites a study by resume checker HireRight that shows: “Eighty percent of all resumes are misleading, 20 percent state fraudulent degrees, 30 percent show altered employment dates, 40 percent have inflated salary claims, 30 percent have inaccurate job descriptions, 25 percent list companies that no longer exist, and 27 percent give falsified references.” These statistics give rise to more background checks than ever before. Another reported survey by AccounTemps of 150 executives of Fortune 1000 firms, estimates that a more conservative 33 percent of all resumes may be fraudulent or “lacking in vital information.”

Reported problems with resumes
Misleading information 80 percent
Fraudulent degrees 20 percent
Altered employment dates 30 percent
Inflated salary claims 40 percent
Inaccurate job descriptions 30 percent
Companies no longer exist 25 percent
Falsified references 27 percent

Resume checks and balances
Chances are, your next resume will be checked and cross-checked against:

  • Social Security records (which give your former addresses, employers, exact dates worked, aliases, etc.)
  • Police records
  • Credit history (including monthly payments)
  • Job references (making sure your references actually have the job titles you claim, for instance)
  • Educational institutions records (for dates of enrollment, degrees earned, classes taken, etc.)
  • Motor vehicle records
  • Past employers’ records

Remember that whatever you put down on paper can come back to haunt you. Recently, when a large tobacco company wanted to discredit an internal whistle-blower’s integrity during a national scandal, it gave the Wall Street Journal a list of “lies” on its former employee’s resume, which included some incorrect dates and some exaggerated claims and misstatements. Don’t give anyone ammunition from your resume to use against you.

Resume NEVER-land
According to the staffing firm The Affiliates , there’s a long list of things to never do on your resume. The first is, “Never put in writing the reasons for termination or leaving a job. In almost all cases, the reader can find negative connotations to even the best explanation.” The last item, which summarizes the list, is: “Never lie.” Other suggestions for what you should avoid doing on your resume include:

  • Don’t write down anything you can’t defend, justify, or explain, or that previous employers may contest.
  • Don’t fudge past job titles. However, author Kate Wendleton offers this advice in her book, Through the Brick Wall: “You must be honest in stating your job title, and sometimes that means not using the title your company gave you. Use a title that accurately reflects the job you held.” Be sure both the actual title and the descriptive title are identified.
  • Don’t make up degrees or other academic credentials. This is one of the most common lies—appearing on an estimated 30 percent of all resumes, according to HireRight .
  • Don’t exaggerate your abilities.
  • Don’t take credit that you don’t deserve.
  • Don’t list a fictitious award or recognition.
  • Don’t say you were a freelancer or consultant. (If you can’t quantify consulting activities for specific clients, don’t call yourself a consultant.)
  • Don’t be vague by accident. (In The Overnight Resume, author Donald Asher writes, “Never be vague by accident; be vague on purpose.”)
  • Don’t hide work gaps. (Although you can diminish their visibility in the way you organize the information.)
  • Don’t make mistakes. Beware of mathematical errors that misrepresent your achievements. Have someone double-check and triple-check any figures you use. And be sure to both carefully proofread and spell-check.

The time gap
Though time gaps aren’t the same problem they once were, nontraditional time off and nonsequential dates on your resume may still raise a red flag to prospective employers.

  • Employment outside your career: Did you once take a detour in your career into something totally unrelated? Or have a dual career path? Perhaps you can find values that these jobs have brought to your current CIO skill set, (e.g., the ability to see the big picture, to better understand finance or strategic planning and marketing, or to better relate to people).
  • Temporary or contract employment.
  • Short-term jobs in succession.
  • Entire work history: If you’re on the graying side of 40 and fear age discrimination, you don’t need to put your entire work history on your resume. Instead you can use headings such as Relevant Work History and include only the last 10 years or so of your work experience.

Have you faced the firing squad?
If you’ve been fired or downsized, you don’t have to say it on the resume. BridgeGate headhunter Kevin Rosenberg says that, whatever you choose to put on the resume, “Put only the truth on paper. At all times be in full disclosure, and hope they respect you for your honesty.” However, delicate topics such as firings and layoffs are best handled in the subsequent interview where, Rosenberg says, “There is no substitute for the truth. If the answer is bad—say you were caught red-handed extorting funds—I don’t think there is a good answer. But if you were fired because you lied to your boss about going to a doctor’s appointment when you really spent the afternoon with your son, you could say, ‘I had a reasonable and customary attendance issue, but it wasn’t in line with my bosses’ expectations. When I said I was ill, but really took the day off to be with my son, and my boss ultimately found out, I was fired. I learned my lesson.'” Rosenberg said, “I would respect someone for giving me that answer because it’s full disclosure. And, if you’re going to be judged by it, and not get the job because of it, it’s still better than risking being fired again for not disclosing information.”
If you have a story to tell about making misstatements or lying on a resume, send it to us via e-mail .
For more information
“How to Fill Gaps In Employment History” by Vivian Belen

“Resume Fraud: Don’t LietoGet That Job!” by Sally Richards

“Here Are Five Resume Mistakes That Will Kill Your Candidacy” by Kim Korvach

“Change Your Resume To Fit Your Goals” by Donna Peerce and Chuck Cochran

“5-Star Worksearch Books: The books to read to sell yourself to employers” by Gary Will

“Resume Fraud” Personnel Journal tips on how to detect lies on resumes and during interviews.