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

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.


  • Lie! Lie! Lie! Seriously, if you are unemployed just get a friend to give you a reference. Most employers don’t check more than 2 previous employers anyway. Sometimes you have to put you before anyone else – especially when you’re unemployed. These days employers don’t respect that you have ‘down time’ – ask any woman who goes into maternity leave. Jobs disappear and people get retrenched anyway. Most of us don’t work in high profile CEO jobs so there is hardly anything to worry about. If its you against the world – pick you.

  • Being honest and upfront is without question the best course of action. Speaking from experience I was let go due to a company merger sometime ago. My prospective employer at the time both knew this and understood these things happen.

    Of course should you be long term unemployed the best thing you can do is provide evidence of what you have been doing during that time. Like volunteering and/or schooling, this shows you’ve been actively involved with both your own personal development and maintaining a work like ethic. Something a potential employer would look favourably upon.

  • If it’s a normal every day job, just lie. It’s hard out there. If you just want a job at the local supermarket or just any kind of normal business get your mate to lie for you.

  • This article mentioned me by name. I am David Edmondson and my best advice is NEVER LIE. In my case I did not submit a resume to get my position at RadioShack. I was recruited for nearly a year before agreeing to join the Company and never even gave the Company a resume. I spent nearly 12 years rising through the ranks from V.P. of Marketing to C.E.O. I also had a theology degree. Never the less, when the time came for my enemies to try to destroy me, they looked for even the slightest imperfection in my bio to attack my integrity. In the end, the fact my bio said I received a B.S. degree, rather than the ThG. Degree I earned, was all the media needed to help destroy all I accomplished over an otherwise spectacular career. Bottom line, you never know the position you will end up in when entering a new job. You should attempt to be as truthful, accurate and forthcoming as humanly possible. Otherwise so called journalists (like Chris Jager), who don’t know you, have done absolutely no independent research and have no desire to find out the real facts, will simply repeat stories that were not even accurate when written 10 year ago to try to make a point. BTW the point of the article is a good one. DON’T LIE!!! PERIOD

  • I absolutely agree with Dave Edmondson: DON’T LIE!!! Integrity is doing the right thing, even if no one is looking. SOMEONE will discover the lie, a supervisor a coworker, someone. If doing the right thing isn’t reason enough for you at least avoid this trap.
    On a separate note, since this article pointed to Dave, as someone who worked in the headquarters of RadioShack at the time, I know his statement about being recruited and later tripped up on a minor bio error are true. Shame on you, Chris, for using that example. Dave performed exceptionally in his marketing roll with RS and during his tenure the stock soared. At about the same time this once iconic company did this it became nationally know for other HR Blunders like firing staff by email. Dave has enjoyed continued success after leaving RS. Can RadioShack make the same boast?

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