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Resume padding may be tempting, but it rarely works

Good interviewers root out those who have lied

Knight Ridder Newspapers

The young man was applying for a job in video production at an advertising agency. During his interview with Loyd Boldman, one of the firm's partners, the applicant offered to show some of his work on a demo tape he had brought with him.

After Boldman popped in the videotape and pressed play, the abstract, animated images that unspooled stunned him.

"The reel contained about 75 percent work that I had actually done myself at a facility I worked at years before," Boldman said. "I let the guy hang himself, asking him questions about how he created the stuff. He answered with a load of total gibberish -- it was obvious he didn't have a clue."

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It may sound like an extreme example of someone lying to get a job, but Boldman and other employers say they see applicants misrepresenting themselves all the time.

Resume padding probably has been around since the days of stone tablets. The issue came to the forefront again when George O'Leary stepped down as Notre Dame's football coach in December after admitting he falsified his academic and athletic credentials.

In today's job market, the temptation to lie on one's resume may be stronger than ever. These are insecure times. But lying is the career equivalent of the balding, middle-aged guy coating his pate with spray-on hair to try to get a date.

"Bottom line: Padding a resume doesn't work," said Jim Ferruzzi, vice president of professional services with Right Management Consultants in Maitland, Fla.

A doctored-up resume may help someone snare an interview, but a good interviewer can dig out the real story of the applicant's background and experience.

"Any person going on an interview needs to be able to discuss every item on their resume thoroughly and comfortably, using specific information and details," Ferruzzi said. "You might on occasion be able to get by one interviewer with a padded resume, but in today's interview process, a candidate will be meeting with several interviewers."

"(It's) highly unlikely you will be able to get by everyone. And even if you do, eventually the truth will come out, as in the case of George O'Leary, and the damage you do to your career will in most cases be irrevocable."

Yet, truth-challenged job applicants abound. One executive search firm that did a recent random check of 500 resumes in its database found that nearly a quarter of the applicants misrepresented their accomplishments.

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The most common lie was about number of years on the job, Christian &; Timbers found. Other lies included exaggerated accomplishments, company size, salary, education and job title.

Here's the sniff test, experts say: Would you be able to talk to an interviewer freely about what you claim on your resume, without feeling nervous?

"If people misrepresent themselves, they may set themselves up for failure," said Gina Hall, a managing consultant. "They may get a position they are truly not the best candidate for, or if the misrepresentation is discovered, the next thought from the employer is 'What else is not true?"'

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