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Please don’t fake it

Q. You need to update your r'sum'. To what degree is it acceptable to embellish your skills and experience'

A. A r'sum' is your best shot at persuading prospective employers to meet you in person and learn more about you, but if you veer from the truth, you’re out of line. “A r'sum' can be attention-grabbing, startling, interesting, intriguing, provocative, entertaining, wry, amusing or funny,” said Barry A. Liebling, president of Liebling Associates, a management consulting firm in New York. “But all of that means nothing if the content isn't real.”

Q. How often do people falsify r'sum's'

A.Evidently, fairly often. Nick Fishman, executive vice president of Background Information Services, a pre-employment screening company in Cleveland, said his organisation found that 56 per cent of r'sum's contained falsehoods of some kind. “When you consider these numbers,” Fishman said, “if you’re not the one who's falsifying something, your neighbour probably is.”

Even high-level employees sometimes engage in false advertising. Last month, for example, David J. Edmondson, the former chief executive of RadioShack, the electronics retail chain based in Fort Worth, resigned after acknowledging that he had claimed to have two college degrees, but actually had none.

Q. Why do people lie on their r'sum's'

A.Most applicants do it because they are insecure about their experiences and want to seem more qualified, said Robert S. Feldman, professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. “When we want to try to be likeable, we shade things to put them in the best possible light,” Feldman said. “Unless people are pretty sure that r'sum' is going to be checked, it’s tempting to shade reality and make one’s prior experiences more flowery.”

Q. Which facts are commonly misrepresented'

A.You name it, people have made it up. A 2003 survey by the Society of Human Resource Management, a trade association in Alexandria, Va., found that 44 per cent of 2.6 million respondents said they had misstated their work experience on their r'sum's. And a 2004 report by the FBI estimated, based on a sampling, that 500,000 people in the US had listed false college degrees on their r'sum's and work applications.

Donna Flagg, a principal of the Krysalis Group, a human resources consulting firm in New York, said grade point averages were often liberally rounded upward, turning a 3.6 into a 4.0. Then there’s the nebulous timeline, which Michelle Roccia, vice president of Human Resources at Authoria, a staffing company in Waltham, Mass., described as stretching the duration of employment to eliminate gaps. “A candidate might say they worked at a company ‘from 2004-5,’ but in fact, that person only worked at the company from November 2004 to January 2005, which is hardly a full year,” Roccia said.

Q. What precautions should you expect an employer to take against fraud'

A.The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act allows employers to verify everything on an applicant’s r'sum'. Many managers run simple background checks on the Internet before the hiring process concludes. On rare occasions, a company will retain a screening company to verify a r'sum' after an employee has been hired.

Vance, an investigation and security firm in Oakton, Va., requires its new hires to sign documents indicating that everything on their r'sum' and job application is true. Drew McKay, senior vice president and deputy general counsel, said that a later discovery that an employee had violated this contract was clear grounds for termination.

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