Do not lie on your resume

J. Nick Augustine J.D. is the principal of Law Publicist Communications, an ALR/PRA, Inc. agency.  Law Publicist Communications is a public relations agency also offering coaching and consulting.  Nick advises and assists attorneys in transition in public relations, marketing and practice management.  Nick shares recruiting and staffing experience and tips for legal job seekers.

Attorneys in transition must never print misleading content on their resume.  Some people say that everybody lies a little on their resume and people anticipate puffery.  A lawyer in Massachusetts was recently suspended from practice for six months for misrepresentations on his resume.  “Wade Jensen never earned an LLM degree in taxation from Boston University, although he was enrolled and attended classes there.  Nor did the 1997 Purdue University graduate earn a Bachelor of Science degree from Tufts University in 1997.” ABA Journal. News. Legal Ethics (2011, April 11). Mass. Lawyer Is Suspended for 6 Months Due to Multiple Misrepresentations on Resume, Retrieved April 8, 2011.

The truth is often avoided in resume review and during the recruiting process.  Recruiters do not have time to check every reference and credential reported on a candidate’s resume.  When it comes down to a decision among candidate finalists, the past employers and listed references are often contacted for their comment.  When the references don’t exist and things are not matching up, the candidate might anticipate the kiss of death.  In the case of Wade Jensen, credibility may suffer indefinitely.

The discovery of one misstatement on a resume usually prompts additional inquiry into the candidate’s actual credentials.  Outsourced candidate auditing firms verify candidate representations.  A few verification phone calls would have quickly led to the discovery that Wade Jensen did not “…letter in hockey and lacrosse or even earn a place on the “dean’s honor list,” among other purported academic awards, according to a Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers summary of a Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts opinion.” Id.  While this may be a more egregious example of credential fabrication, any discovery of a material representation could earn a bar inquiry.

Recruiting and staffing professionals process resumes quickly and can easily spot something that looks out of place.  Most people have career path that follows themes and rhythms.  Generalizing and profiling is often necessary in vetting candidates.  Savvy recruiters can often spot a fabricated resume; it makes one wonder why someone who looks like a perfect candidate has trouble finding or keeping a job, which begs the question, what is really going on with this person?

Why do candidates assume they know what really puts their resume on the top of the pile?  Do the career services offices always know best?  Career services can offer examples, templates and tips, but they cannot anticipate specific employer queries.  When it comes to the employer’s preference, anything could be possible.  Consider that some employers want to hire talented candidates who sound like interesting people, as opposed to “perfect” people.

As you accurately portray your credentials on your resume, do not sell yourself short.  Things often happen in life and a truthful resume paints a picture.  How you paint your picture depends on your creative writing skills.  Most resume line items can be phrased to put the candidate in their best light.  Just be yourself and remember that your resume represents a career in progress.

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One response to “Do not lie on your resume

  1. Only list the last 20 years of your work experience. Beyond that, how relative is that experience? If you worked somewhere for 20+ years, you won’t be able to get around this. Also, do not list your college graduation dates unless you are in your 20′s or 30′s. Keep prospective employers in the dark about your age.

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