Faking it vs. fraud: Navigating the thin line in today’s hyper-competitive job market

Mar 20, 2024

5 mins

Faking it vs. fraud: Navigating the thin line in today’s hyper-competitive job market

Today’s job market feels tougher than ever before and for some job hunters, it seems like little white lies are the only way to land a role. Finding a new job can be incredibly stressful, especially for those not currently employed. It can be hard to stay hopeful about your candidate profile in the face of rejection. Fear of a looming recession is making many companies hesitate to hire new talent—or worse, lay off current employees—making the job market incredibly competitive with hiring rates down nearly 24% year over year as mass layoffs flood the talent pool.

Finding a good job has never been an easy feat, but with increased competition and changes to the hiring process, it can feel impossible. From AI-powered application tracking systems misreading your resume to recruiter biases, the recruitment process can feel like a lottery, tempting some job seekers to lie during the process. In one recent survey, a whopping 70% of applicants admitted to lying on their application, most commonly embellishing their job titles and responsibilities. With the knowledge that a vast majority of the competition is lying on their resume, the question is no longer if you should lie, but what can you lie about?

Fibs to get your foot in the door

Of course, lying on a job application should never be encouraged, and depending on what you lie about, it could have serious consequences for your career. However, knowing that nearly everyone misrepresents themself in one way or another during the hiring process can make you feel as though you’re at a disadvantage for being truthful. While honesty is always the best policy in the long run, sometimes the “fake it till you make it” approach can help you access an opportunity you otherwise couldn’t. The key is knowing where to draw the line between bending the truth and bald-faced lies. So, what can you embellish to help boost your profile?

Soft skills

There’s a reason why people differentiate between soft and hard skills. Soft skills are harder to define and even harder to test. There’s no real way to measure your ability, especially during the hiring process, and it often comes down to trying to describe your personality. If you aren’t new to your industry, the chances are that you probably possess most of the qualities you need for the jobs you’re applying to. But if you come across a posting that has a very specific candidate in mind, it can’t hurt to fluff your soft skills to match the job description.

Perhaps you describe yourself as a people person for a customer service job when in reality you’re an introvert, or maybe you exaggerate your love for public speaking. As long as you know you’re capable of performing the tasks required when the time comes, adding a few extra soft skill keywords to your resume probably isn’t going to land you in any hot water.

Why you left your last job

This comes down to the classic job interview advice any recruiter would give you: never bad-mouth a former employer. Maybe your old boss was a micromanager or you were escaping a toxic company culture, no matter the case, it’s never a good idea to give negative feedback about your old job during the recruitment process. While it can be true, it’s best kept to yourself as no one wants to hire someone they can see speaking negatively about the company in the future. Even if you left your former company on bad terms, try to keep your reason for leaving short and sweet if it comes up in an interview. Instead of talking about a bad experience, try to focus on your own ambitions and how this new job will help you achieve them.

Lies that will come back to bite you

While there are some things that you can probably get away with if you choose to pad your resume, it’s important to know what you should never lie about during the recruitment process. Recruiters are not naive, and there are many ways to fact-check your resume or follow up on anything you say during and after an interview. Hopefully, you’re not stretching the truth too far about anything that could disqualify you from the hiring process—or worse. White lies that won’t have a real impact on your ability to do the job are one thing, but bigger lies could constitute fraud in the United States. Employers don’t take lying lightly, especially if you’re found out once you have the job. So, what should you never lie about during your job hunt?


Education can be one of the largest hurdles when it comes to building your career. From the application process to studying, earning a degree or another qualification can take years to accomplish, not to mention the monumental financial commitment that comes along with traditional education in the US. You may that your previous employers never asked to see your diploma, and oftentimes the degree requirements for open positions can seem arbitrary. But this doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to claim an educational qualification you don’t actually have.

First of all, just because an employer has never asked you for proof of your academic credentials doesn’t mean they didn’t require it. While you’re likely familiar with a background check, you may not know that this check isn’t only about your criminal record. Many companies perform an educational background check either by contacting the organization directly or using a third-party service to see the dates you attended, the degree you earned, and even your GPA. So, if you’re thinking about fabricating or even just exaggerating your education, this is definitely not an area you want to take liberties with.

Hard skills

Unlike soft skills, there is no gray area when it comes to hard skills during and beyond the hiring process. In short, you just won’t get away with it. Hard skills aren’t about your personality, but rather your capabilities. They are real, measurable (often technical) skills that you will have to demonstrate either during recruitment or after. These skills are gained from education and hands-on experience, so you can’t really fake it till you make it when it comes to technical abilities.

If you’re applying for a role that requires practical or applied skills and abilities, these will likely be tested prior to hiring through technical interviews or take-home assessments. Even if you’re lucky enough to get the job without proving your credentials, you will find yourself out of the frying pan and into the fire when it becomes apparent to your colleagues and supervisor that you don’t have the required knowledge you claimed you did. When it comes to hard skills, it’s better to be honest and play it safe than to lie and risk ending up in a job you’re not qualified for.

Is it worth the risk?

At the end of the day, lying during the job hunt is never a good idea. While you can probably get away with fluffing your profile a little, the reality is that you’ll always be putting yourself and your career at risk when you lie to a recruiter. Getting caught in a lie during the hiring process or even after you have the job can have serious consequences. Aside from the stress that would surely come with having a position you aren’t qualified for, your employer will not simply brush it under the rug if they find out you mislead them.

One study researching dishonesty in the application process found that 31% of job hunters who lied on their resumes were caught by the employer. Those aren’t great odds when you think of the possible repercussions. Apart from being losing out on a potential job offer or being fired, companies can also put you on a permanent “do not hire” list that will squash any hopes you had of working there at some point in the future. Searching for a job is always hard, but it’s important to remember that dishonesty is rarely the right step forward, and lying can easily make the process even more difficult than it already is.

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