Employers know when you are schmoozing and making things up. If they are hiring you, chances are they know more about the field you are looking into than you do; ergo, they often know more about your past employment opportunities and coworkers than you might think. In a day and age when almost anything is accessible online, phrases like "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth" are having more and more impact on job-seeking business professionals.
I do not care what your area of expertise is; let me just say that lying to impress a potential employer is never worth it. Your education may not be very impressive; your employment history may look really stagnant or too mobile; you may have "accidentally" broken all the legs on your supervisor's executive desk chair in a fit of rage. Whatever it is, they will find out if you are hiding or lying about something, and then any shot you had at the position will be thrown out the window for good.
Dora Vell of Vell & Associates, an executive recruiting firm in Massachusetts, places lying applicants into four categories: The Executive, The Felon, The Graduate, and The Bigamist. The first group includes candidates who lie about position titles and roles, as well as reasons for leaving. These are some of the easiest lies for employers to catch on to because any type of follow-up call with your past employer will prove the information false. Also, detailed interview questions about past employment can weed out inconsistencies.
The Felon should be aware that background checks will never miss major criminal activities. Some juvenile crimes can be removed from a person's permanent record according to the court's judgment after he or she turns 18, but anything that remains on a criminal record will most definitely appear during a background check, so do not even attempt to hide these kinds of things. If you do have a criminal record from years ago, it may be beneficial to include one sentence in your cover letter about your change in lifestyle and reasons for practicing law, but do not expect that this will excuse past behavior.
The Graduate lies about graduation dates, degree titles, school names, degree attainment, or any number of details about education levels. Loring Barnes of Clarity Communications Group, LLC, tells the story of an applicant who submitted a resume stating that she held a degree she never earned. After the company checked with the educational institution in question, the person was called in to tell her side of the story—something that few applicants ever get the chance to do.
This woman, who was applying to work as an office manager—a position that, according to the posted description, did not require a degree—proceeded to explain that the whole thing was just a misunderstanding. She claimed that she had simply submitted the wrong resume. The resume that Barnes received listed the qualifications she was "aiming for" in the future. Giving excuses at this point is absolutely unacceptable and will only dig your employability a deeper grave.
This applicant's actions not only proved her to be untruthful, but she also walked away looking like she was incapable of catching errors in her work and unwilling to take personal responsibility for her mistakes. Barnes believes that "the people you hire should be a close reflection of your core values and ethics because they should be capable of being a vigorous and credible brand ambassador."
Lastly, we come to The Bigamist. I understand that, as far as hidden activities go, bigamy is not extremely common, but the following story goes to show just how important it is to keep tabs on your public image. Vell tells the story of a CEO candidate who was involved with two women on opposite sides of the country—one was his wife, and the other was his fiancée.
Without even resorting to background checks, recruiters discovered that the man's personal references described two entirely different women in two entirely different relationships when discussing his significant other. At this point, the company did not hire a private investigator or tap any other extremely expensive resource; it simply "Googled" the candidate's cell phone number and followed up on the name listed on the plan. It was not the name of his wife but, rather, that of his fiancée on the other side of the country.
There are all kinds of laws regarding employment discrimination and the rights of candidates to privacy, and these laws are changing all the time. However, anything on the Internet is public knowledge and, therefore, generally considered to be available for fair use by potential employers. Keep in mind that you do not have to personally post information on the Internet for others to be able to find out more about your life.
According to Vell, when it comes to recruiting executive-level candidates for corporate entities, "Often it's not what people are hiding (e.g., the lack of a degree, a less impressive title, some transgression 30 years ago) but the lack of integrity that concerns clients."