Labor and Employment

Reasons Not to Pad Your Resume

Updated by Lisa Guerin, ​J.D., Boalt Hall at the University of California at Berkeley
Exaggerating or lying on your resume can cost you your job and more.

Job applicants sometimes exaggerate or even lie on their resumes or job applications in order to get a job. This is a risky gamble, however. If you get caught, your potential employer might withdraw a job offer—or your employer might even fire you, if you were hired on the basis of a falsified resume.

False or exaggerated job applications can have other negative impacts as well. If you are fired for illegal reasons—for example, because you filed an OSHA complaint or asked for a reasonable accommodation for a disability—your employer can defend itself by pointing to your padded resume as evidence that you never should have been hired in the first place.

How Employees Pad Their Resumes

Typically, an employee lies or exaggerates on a resume in order to impress prospective employers or hide negative information. Common resume falsehoods include:

  • claiming to have attended a prestigious school you did not attend
  • claiming to hold an advanced degree if you never completed your studies
  • changing dates of employment to cover up job gaps and periods of unemployment
  • lying about reasons for leaving a job (for example, to cover up the fact that you were fired)
  • hiding your criminal record (if your employer is entitled to ask about it; some states place limits on inquiries about criminal history)
  • exaggerating job duties, job titles, or salary, and
  • claiming to have particular licenses, awards, publications, or certifications that you don’t really have.

Consequences of Padding Your Resume

From a practical perspective, there are many potential traps waiting for an employee who lies on a resume. For example, if you claim to have job skills or training you don’t have, you might get thrown into work situations you can’t handle. You might also be anxious about continuing to hide the truth about being fired from your last job or never completing college, for example. Living in constant fear that your employer will learn the truth and fire you can create a lot of stress.

If you get caught in a lie, you may lose out on a job opportunity or have a job offer rescinded. You could even get fired, if your employer later learns of your false statements—no matter how well you are performing at your job.

Your resume padding could even come back to haunt you in a wrongful termination lawsuit. For example, suppose you were illegally fired by your employer for complaining of workplace discrimination or harassment. If you lied during the hiring process, including on your resume, your employer can use the “after-acquired evidence” rule to defend against your wrongful termination claim. This defense allows your employer to argue that, regardless of its illegal actions, it had a legitimate reason to fire you. The court could limit your damages for wrongful termination or even throw out your case entirely.

If you are fired for lying on your resume, you can’t do much about it. As long as the employer can show that you would not have been hired had it known the truth, or that it consistently fires employees who lie on their application materials, you won’t be able to prove wrongful termination. Many employers have a policy allowing them to fire employees who lie on their applications. This will give your employer a strong defense against your wrongful termination claim.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • I was fired from my job for having exaggerated my skills. Is there anything I can do to get my job back?
  • Can I get unemployment if I was fired for exaggerating on my resume?
  • Can I be fired for padding my resume if I’ve been doing an excellent job at work and received top performance ratings from my manager?
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