We are living in uncertainty times and no one knows what the new normal is going to look like after this pandemic. No where is there more angst than in the job market. Many people have been laid-off or furloughed, and some of those who are still employed are nervous about their future. And with the unemployment rate at an all-time high, it is tempting to fudge credentials when applying for jobs. BUT, lying on your resume can hurt your professional reputation.
In a blog post titled Resume Fraud and the Law, the writer from Zelikman Law, states, “It is not uncommon to embellish one’s credentials in the course of an interview or through a resume in order to “get one’s foot in the door.” To a certain degree, most people are guilty of some form of self-aggrandizement when employment is within reach.”
It has become a common practice over the years for some job seekers to do exactly that – deliberately lie on their resume – and it runs the gamut from entry level candidates to executives.
Some of these individuals have been caught fabricating their accomplishments and churning out information that is incorrect. Some have been rewarded with job opportunities by misrepresenting facts. A former Blue Jays manager also lied on his resume and had to resign. Here’s a list of more recent ones:
A former deputy assistant secretary in the US State Department had to resign from her job for allegedly lying on her resume. It appears she had built a career out of faking her accomplishments and inflating her educational achievements. She even created a fake Times Magazine cover. Why would she do that? To gain a competitive advantage!
A former admissions director at MIT was forced to resign after 28 years because it was discovered she lied on her resume when she applied for the job. She claimed she had had three degrees when she only had one. Why did she do that? To gain a competitive advantage!
An article by Business Insider lists several successful executives who also lied on their resumes. It includes the former CEO of Yahoo, Herbalife, MGM Mirage, Bausch & Lamb, and others. Why did these CEOs do that? To gain a competitive advantage!
In some countries you can get jail time for lying on your resume.
One Australian woman pretended to be actress Kate Upton, and got a government job as Chief Information Officer (CIO). She is serving a 25-month sentence in jail for this act. Why did she do that? To gain a competitive advantage!
Back in 2002, the former CEO of a television station in New Zealand, Canadian John Davy, was sentenced to eight months in jail after pleading guilty to one charge of using a document — his resume — “to obtain a benefit or privilege”. He stated he had an MBA from Denver State University, but the degree was a counterfeit credential sold online. He said he had worked with the BC Securities Commission in Canada. That wasn’t true either. The Commission didn’t have any record of him working there. Why did he do that? To gain a competitive advantage!
HireRight’s 2019 Employment Screening Benchmark reported 87% of survey respondents believe that some percentage of candidates misrepresent themselves on applications and or resumes.
The Georgetown Professor Who Falsely Claimed She was Black
The biggest lie of them all is what Jessica Krug did. For years she pretended to be Black when she knew otherwise. She also created a new identity as Jess La Bombalera an AfroLatina activist from the Bronx. The twist here is that Jessica Krug aka Jess La Bombalera is an associate professor at Georgetown University.
In Krug’s own words on Medium, “To an escalating degree over my adult life, I have eschewed my lived experience as a white Jewish child in suburban Kansas City under various assumed identities within a Blackness that I had no right to claim: first North African Blackness, then US rooted Blackness, then Caribbean rooted Bronx Blackness. I have not only claimed these identities as my own when I had absolutely no right to do so — when doing so is the very epitome of violence, of thievery and appropriation, of the myriad ways in which non-Black people continue to use and abuse Black identities and cultures — but I have formed intimate relationships with loving, compassionate people who have trusted and cared for me when I have deserved neither trust nor caring. People have fought together with me and have fought for me, and my continued appropriation of a Black Caribbean identity is not only, in the starkest terms, wrong — unethical, immoral, anti-Black, colonial — but it means that every step I’ve taken has gaslighted those whom I love.”
Krug, as mentioned above, is a Professor at George Washington University where she has taught African history and African diaspora courses since 2012. Her book, Fugitive Modernities, about slavery, was published in 2018 by Duke University Press, and was a finalist for the Frederick Douglass Book Prize and the Harriet Tubman Prize, named after two Black American icons.
Why do people lie on their resumes and embellish their credentials? To gain a competitive advantage! But what would drive someone to pass herself off as Black and assume an added identity, as an Afro Latina? She has said it’s because of mental health issues she has battled since childhood. I am not going to second-guess her; that’s for the medical experts to do. Did she receive grants, fellowships, scholarships? If so, then it would appear she benefited from spaces and resources that could possibly have gone to Black and Latino professionals. This could be considered cultural appropriation.
Lying on your resume is bad; seriously lying for years about your identity and misrepresenting your lived experience is worse. Whether you are looking for a job or a position in academia, do not embellish the truth. If you do, your integrity and reputation will be adversely affected. Your deception will be uncovered, and the consequences could be severe. You will either have to repay your employer or spend some time in jail. As for Ms. Krug, Georgetown University is investigating, and no one knows what the penalty, if any, will be.
As a job seeker, you may be quite desperate to find a job, but now is not the time to participate in such unethical job search practices. The responsibility is on you to carefully consider what you list on your resume. As the Zelikman blog post states “…when applying for a job, the best advice is the simplest: be honest.”