10% of tech workers say they lied to get jobs

A new survey suggests that embellishing credentials isn’t uncommon among those desperate to land plum positions. How can you spot a liar?

Tech workers lying on resumes

Have you ever been tempted to fudge the truth on your résumé, in a job interview or on a LinkedIn profile?

Might you cite a degree you didn’t quite finish, list experience you don’t have, or spin that certificate of participation into a major award?

Of course not. Our fine Ragan readers are above that. Yet when Blind, an anonymous social network for professionals, posed the question in a survey to technology workers, 10% admitted they had embellished their résumé or profile to land a job.

Blind’s question was simple: “True or False: I have embellished or lied on my LinkedIn or résumé/CV to help land another job.”

Just 10% of the pool of 10,400 respondents blushed and said, in essence, “Um. Well. Yeah. But only a smidgeon.”

The finding may reveal lessons not only about human nature, but also about the highly competitive world of technology jobs and recruitment, with their onsite gyms and cafeteria espresso machines.

“People will risk lying to their future employer and getting caught in order to get into these tech companies,” says Blind Marketing Manager Curie Kim.

17 companies rated

For any HR recruiters wondering whether it’s worth their time to do a companywide résumé check, Blind ranked where the 17 corporations represented in the survey placed. Rated from the highest to the least number of admitted liars, the top 10 are (in rounded numbers):

  1. SAP, 13%
  2. Amazon, 12%
  3. Cisco, 11%
  4. PayPal, 11%
  5. eBay, 10%
  6. Microsoft, 10%
  7. Oracle, 9%
  8. Intel, just under 9%
  9. Uber, under 9%
  10. Google, 7%

(We emailed several of these companies’ PR shops and will include their responses if they get back to us.)

OfficeTeam, a professional staffing company under the Robert Half aegis, came up with a much higher percentage of alleged liars last fall by wording the survey question differently.

Almost half of workers polled by OfficeTeam said they know someone who included false information on a résumé, a 25-point jump from a 2011 survey, OfficeTeam reported. Job experience (76%) and duties (55%) were the areas that those who speak with forked tongues most frequently fabricated.

What to watch for

Here are some cues OfficeTeam suggests watching for:

  • Skills with vague descriptions. “Using ambiguous phrases like ‘familiar with’ or ‘involved in’ could mean the candidate is trying to cover up a lack of direct experience,” OfficeTeam reports.
  • Questionable or missing dates. Large gaps can be red flags. (OfficeTeam suggests asking references to verify dates.)
  • Fidgeting or lack of eye contact in interviews. These may suggest dishonesty, “but don’t eliminate a promising candidate by making a judgment based solely on body language,” OfficeTeam states.
  • Conflicting details from references. There’s no rule that you can’t ask initial contacts for additional people you can speak to about the prospective hire, if needed.
  • Online information that doesn’t jibe. That said, be careful with internet checks; multiple professionals might share a name.

Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Alphabet’s Google (known as FAANG in the industry) often are cited as desired employers in the tech industry.

On a Blind discussion page, one scofflaw Amazon employee writes: “There is no such thing as good or bad candidate. I’ve seen worst folks get hired in FAANG. Lies are great as long as you can back it up with a conversation. Nothing wrong with lying.”

A colleague retorts, “If you have to lie, you are probably not a good candidate. Please don’t waste your (and our) time.”

In another Blind forum, a Facebook employee adds: “I am proud to say I’ve never lied or exaggerated any qualifications. You’re just setting yourself up for failure if you do that.”

In interviews, people tend to tell lies about salaries, references and work history, Blind reports. Despite the risk of getting fired, significant numbers claim to do it.

One person who worked at the e-commerce company Wayfair ’fessed up to lying to land a job as a teen. “When I was 16 I lied on an application for a job at Panda Express,” the Wayfairer said. “Had never had a job before, but I put on the application I used to work at Target, and I made up names and phone numbers of references. Totally worked.”

Rather than padding their résumés, employees with extensive experience often cut theirs.

Karma for liars

One Credit Karma employee stated that “especially once you get enough experience and start taking on more challenging roles, you would actually want to keep some of the stuff out of your résumé.”

Asked if there is a lesson for communicators here, Kim kept a wide-angle focus.

“This is not specific to PR pros and corporate communicators, but applies to all professionals,” Kim says. “It is not worth it to lie to your future employers about your experience, because it will show once you start the job. But it is also easier to catch these lies with how connected people are online.”


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