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Would you believe that a whopping 53% of resumes and job applications have been embellished with false information? These embellishments cost employers approximately $600 million annually. What happens and what can be done.

Common Lies on Resumes1

  • Embellish skill set – 57%
  • Embellish responsibilities – 55%
  • Dates of employment – 42%
  • Job Title – 34%
  • Academic degree – 33%
  • Companies worked for – 26%
  • Accolades and awards – 18%

Men lie twice as often as women

What are the reactions from employers?2

  • Automatic termination – 51%
  • Depends on the lie – 40%
  • Overlook if they like the person – 7%

The Society for Human Resources Management says that 53% of resumes and job application contain falsifications and that 70% of college student would lie to get the job that they want.2 These statistics are staggering and depressing.

Prominent Resume Fraudsters3

  • Frank Abagnale – forged degrees from Harvard and Colombia Universities. Posed as a pediatrician and an airline pilot. Served three prison terms.
  • David Edmondson – former CEO of Radio Shack claimed to have dual degrees in psychology and theology from Pacific Coast Baptist in San Diego, but there is no record of him graduating from there.
  • Marilee Jones – former admissions dean at Massachusetts Institute of Technology claimed she had degrees in biology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the Albany Medical College and that she held a doctorate. She resigned after officials learned of the fabrications.
  • Ronald Zarrella – former CEO of Bausch Lomb asserted for 10 years that he had an MBA from New York University’s business school. He had enrolled in the program but never finished. He resigned and had to return a $1.1 million bonus in 2008.

What are the penalties for perpetrating resume fraud?4

Criminal Charges – According to the laws of several states, the cardinal sin of resume fraud is falsifying your educational record.

Under the Texas Penal Code, for example, it is illegal to use, or even to just claim to hold, a postsecondary degree you know to be fraudulent, substandard, or fictitious in order to obtain employment. This makes it illegal to either falsely claim you received a degree from an actual, accredited university, or to list a degree from a “diploma mill” (an unaccredited institution that for a flat fee in a short amount of time with little to no coursework).

Punishment for resume fraud of this variety varies from state to state. In New Jersey, the use of a fraudulent degree is subject to a civil penalty of $1,000 for each offense. Texas, on the other hand, classifies falsifying your educational record as a Class B misdemeanor (punishable by up to $2,000 in fines and 6 months in prison), and Kentucky raises it to a Class A misdemeanor (punishable by up to a year in prison).

Termination of Employment – If you lie on your resume, land the job, and your employer later discovers you can’t actually maneuver an Excel sheet or code in JavaScript, there is a good chance that they’ll be within their legal rights to terminate your employment. For at-will employees, whose employers are legally permitted to fire them for any reason (or no reason at all), lying on a resume could certainly provide compelling ammunition for an employer to exercise this unrestricted right.

While just-cause employees enjoy greater protections, as their employers may terminate them only for a set of valid reasons, they should also be careful about including inaccurate information on their resume. Resume fraud can constitute a just cause for termination as long as the falsified information meets the conditions for “materiality”:

  • It relates directly to the qualifications (i.e. Spanish proficiency) considered in evaluating candidates for employment.
  • The employer relied upon the falsified information in making their hiring decision (i.e. you got the job because you falsely listed a higher level of Spanish proficiency than your competitors).

What can be done?

In summary, the secret to help thwart resume fraud lies in the Human Resources Department of the business that is supported by Senior Management. All hiring should be subject to application and resume verification. Companies need to have robust background checks that include both criminal and civil checks along with educational verification and prior work experience. The prospective employee should acknowledge that all information that was provided will be verified.

There are some excellent vehicles that are cost effective to use. Then there is the best of all, independent verification. That’s where Result Quest, Inc. can be of service. We can quickly and efficiently verify a prospective employee’s background. Call us at 713-781-9040.


  1. Resume Fraud: The Top 10 Lies – By Christopher T. Marquet, CEO, Marquet International Ltd. and Lisa J.B. Peterson.
  2. How often do people tend to lie on resumes? By The Canadian Professional Sales Association 2013
  3. Ex-Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson and Seven Other Cases of Resume Fraud -Maureen Mackey The Fiscal Times 2012
  4. Lauren Kreps – The Legal Risks of Lying on Your Resume –