How Padding Your Resume Can Destroy Your Career

Last Updated May 21, 2010 1:24 PM EDT

Padding your resume. Everyone does it and you're an idiot if you don't, especially in this horrendous job market, right? I mean, it's just like driving 5 or 10 miles over the speed limit, expensing a few lunches that weren't exactly company business, or rewriting history of a failed relationship, just a little.

We all tell little white lies, occasionally cross that little white line, so what? Padding your resume is no big deal, right? I mean, it won't land you in jail, get you fired, or get your name plastered all over the internet as a fraud. Or will it?

Your resume is as critical to finding a job today as it's ever been. What has changed, however, is how effortless it's become to verify what you typed in that seemingly innocuous Word file is. It's never been easier to run extensive background checks, verify all kinds of information on the Internet, or get hold of ad-hoc references that you didn't exactly cough up on your own.

And more and more, especially in a "buyer's" job market, employers are doing exactly that.
I'm no boy scout, and I'm guessing that most of us have done a little resume padding somewhere along the line. It might even be so automatic, so second nature that you're not even aware you're padding. There are loads of ways to do it:
  • Creative title inflation
  • Extending tenure to cover employment gaps
  • Exaggerating responsibilities
  • Hiding ugly terminations
  • Inventing degrees
  • Embellishing accolades
  • Lying by omission
  • Enhancing competencies
  • Augmenting accomplishments
  • Up-leveling reporting
But here's the problem. Take the case of former Broadcom senior vice president Vahid Manian who was apparently caught fudging his resume a couple of years ago. Here are just a few of the headlines that pop up when you Google his name:
"Broadcom Executive Wasn't Awarded His Degrees, University Says --" - Bloomberg
"Broadcom COO fired over questions about academic degrees" - Mercury News Silicon Beat
"Broadcom Fires Senior Executive Amid Questions About Degrees" - Huffington Post
But that can't happen to you, right? You're just a worker, an employee, a low-level manager. Nobody cares. Wrong. Do you think Manian expected to become a top executive when he first lied (assuming he did) about having a degree? Nope. I'm sure it started innocently enough, early in his career. But then he was stuck. Once it was there, he couldn't remove it or he'd have to face the music. So it became fact. And once he became successful, somebody decided to check. Now his career is over.

The same thing happened to Microsemi CEO James Peterson. It also happened to somebody I know, believe it or not. And once you're caught, Google's search results will follow you forever. Moreover, every employer's job application has fine print at the end with all kinds of nasty repercussions, including termination, if they find out you weren't truthful on the form. And you sign it, whether you're a working stiff or a CEO.

Look, if you're going to amount to anything in your career, you'll do it on your merits, not on what you type on a resume. If you're good, you'll do well. If not, well, you need to actually figure out why and fix it, not fake it. Trust me; those embellishments won't make a difference, one way or another. So, when it comes to padding or embellishing your resume, resist the temptation, don't do it. These days, if you get caught, and it's getting more likely that you will every day, it will follow you forever.

Also check out: How to Do a Killer Resume

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