Lies can haunt

On the Job

Falsifications on a job application could have very long-burning fuse

May 09, 2007|By Hanah Cho | Hanah Cho,Sun Columnist

If the recent resignation of a dean at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology over her falsified academic credentials teaches us anything, it's that you just don't lie on a resume, job application or to your boss and colleagues.

As simple as that sounds, the reality is that temptations exist to embellish or even lie either because we're lazy, we want to get ahead or, in a moment of pressure, we make a bad decision.

But consider this: Revelations about MIT's Marilee Jones came 28 years after she was hired by the college.

"Our position is to encourage job seekers that they should be truthful in all aspects of their resume," says Patrick W. Manzo, vice president of compliance and fraud prevention for Monster, an online employment site.

"There is a perception that employers expect some embellishment, but that's not the case. It's particularly harmful for someone who's early on in their career," he adds.

"A mistake can follow somebody for the rest of their career," Manzo says.

Yet, knowing all this hasn't deterred applicants from spinning the truth on resumes and applications, because every few months or so there seems to be a new, highly publicized case of an executive resigning over false academic or professional information.

ADP Screening and Selection Services, a Fort Collins, Colo., company that does background and other verification checks for clients, reported in its 2007 screening index that 41 percent of 445,217 employment, education or other reference checks found a difference between information provided by the applicant and what the firm discovered.

And a CareerBuilder.com survey from October found 57 percent of more than 1,000 hiring managers said they caught a lie on a candidate's application. But only 5 percent of 2,200 workers surveyed admitted to fibbing on their resumes.

Most commonly caught lies included stretching dates to cover employment gaps; past employers; academic degrees and institutions; technical skills and certifications; and accomplishments.

These days, human resources and workplace experts say it's standard practice for employers to verify information on resumes, applications and other work. With personal information widely available on the Web, recruiters even check social network sites such as Facebook and MySpace to find out more about a candidate, particularly any unsavory images that may be used, fairly or unfairly, to characterize a prospective employee.

Employers also conduct criminal background and credit checks. And more employers are adding a provision on job applications that asks candidates to sign and certify that credential information that comes up after employment is also accurate, says Christine Walters, an independent human resources and employment law consultant in Westminster.

Workplace tidbit: For the second straight year, American Idol is the most-talked-about television show in the workplace, according to a new survey by Spherion, a recruiting agency in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The survey conducted by Harris Interactive asked 2,792 respondents to name the top two television programs most often discussed at work. Thirty-seven percent of workers named the reality show, while 17 percent said Grey's Anatomy.

Other shows noted by survey respondents include 24, CSI, Lost, House and The Office.

What, no Ugly Betty?

Send your stories, tips and questions to working@baltsun.com. Please include your first name and your city. On the Job is published Monday at www.baltimoresun.com

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