Ask LH: Should I Lie About ‘Employment Status’ On My Resume?

Dear Lifehacker, I’m currently looking for work after a stint of unemployment. Is it better to lie and say that I am currently employed, or should I fess up and say that I’m not? I wonder whether it looks better to a prospective employer to say that I am already employed. Thanks, Great Job Hunter

Job interview picture from Shutterstock

Dear GJH,

It’s not unusual for job applicants to embellish their previous achievements; but outright lying is best avoided. Apart from being morally unscrupulous, it’s the sort of thing that can come back to bite you in the butt.

As part of the application process, you’ll need to submit a resume that lists your work history – current employer included. Even if you use a friend for your referee and the lie manages to slip through the nets, it will still be on your file, waiting to be discovered at a later date.

This is a fate that has befallen various high-profile executives, including Ex-Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson and Ex-RadioShack CEO David Edmondson. Both were forced to resign for fibbing on their resumes years beforehand. If these little white lies can destroy the careers of industry leaders, you can best believe that entry-level employees will be given swift marching orders too. In short, the risk just isn’t worth it.

In any event, unless they’re actively head-hunting, most prospective employers aren’t going to place a huge amount of emphasis on your employment status. They’re more interested in your qualifications, achievements and work experience. As long as you tick those boxes your current day job shouldn’t really matter.

Instead of spinning a web of deceit that could eventually entangle you, try to craft an honest resume that shows off your skills to maximum effect. If it’s been a while since you’ve worked in a relevant field, you can also beef up your credentials with detailed accomplishments and volunteer work.

Naturally, it helps if you haven’t been out of work for ages (long stretches of unemployment suggests a motivational problem.) It’s also better if you left your old job on reasonably good terms. But initially, it all comes down to the relevancy of your resume. For plenty of tips on resume creation, head to our Resumes tag and click on the relevant links. Good luck!


This story has been updated since its original publication.

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