Job Search Tips: What Happens If You Lie on Your Job Application?

When preparing your resume, you might find yourself coming face to face with some issues from your past. Perhaps you will then find yourself trying to figure out how to fix those issues to make your resume look a bit cleaner and more professional. It’s just a resume to help you get a job interview.  It’s not a legal document of any sort, right?

Maybe you are 8 credits short of graduating from college but you dropped out for some reason. What are 8 little credits? It probably would just look better if you go ahead and say you have a degree. Even better, what if you have an associates degree but the job requires a bachelors degree? A degree is a degree, it doesn’t really matter which kind of a degree, does it?

Maybe you have a big gap in your work history or maybe you don’t want to include a job where you were fired.  Well, you are trying to make your resume look as good as possible so why not just fudge the dates a bit and make all your past work experience run back to back from each other. Good idea?

Think again!

When you are in a job search, you will almost always have to complete a job application as the process moves along and you are officially considered a “candidate”. What you write on your job application will make or break your chances of getting the job.

What is So Important About a Job Application?

Most employers want candidates to complete a job application because yes, your resume is not any sort of legal document where you have sworn on your life that everything you wrote is true.  A job application is and companies run background checks off them.

In reality, you can fudge your resume all you like but what happens when you have to complete a job application? At the end of your job application, you do sign away your life attesting to the truth of everything you have written on that document.

Quite honestly, you can’t write different things on the application than you wrote on your resume.  That creates a serious integrity issue that will quickly bounce you out of the job candidate pool. What you write on your job application is going to have to exactly match what you write on your resume.

The background check employers run will likely verify your education, your past work experience, and your criminal background. Companies might run credit reports on you if you work in the financial field or motor vehicle record checks if you will be required to drive for your job.  Many companies run those on everyone regardless of the position for which you have applied.

Being Honest and Direct

When you are filling out your job application, you need to be 100% truthful. You will need to be very specific about the details as they will be verified. You can’t win if you lie. And although it doesn’t happen often, you can even be prosecuted for misrepresenting yourself.  This would typically happen if it wasn’t discovered until after you started the job and it caused harm to the company.

If you have a job gap, explain it. If you want to leave a job off your resume and application, you can. Just don’t extend the dates of other jobs to cover that time period.

So many candidates, when completing job applications, will come to me and say “I wasn’t sure of some of those dates of my past jobs so I looked them up and the ones on here are more accurate than the ones on my resume”. Maybe that is true, but it raises a red flag to me. At best, it indicates that you didn’t take great care when you put your resume together.  At worst, it means you fudged the dates on your resume and you fixed them on your application because you knew you had to tell the truth.

It would be much easier if you just did it right the first time, on your resume.

Do You Have Any Skeletons in Your Closet?

On the job application you will likely be asked if you have ever been convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony. This includes DUIs which, in my experience, is the most common charge that shows up on background checks.

It is my guesstimate that 75% of people who have a criminal record or a DUI do not disclose it on the job application. They answer the question, “no”.  This is a lie and you will not likely get the job if a company learns your falsified your job application.

The truth is: if you have a criminal record or a DUI you could very well get hired anyway, if you disclose it. If you don’t disclose it, it doesn’t matter what it is, you will not likely get hired just based on the fact that you lied on your application.

Whether or not a criminal record is overlooked depends entirely on what it is that you did, how long ago it happened, and your explanation of the incident. I have overlooked many types of convictions, especially DUIs. Recent convictions and felony convictions are not easy to overlook but it’s possible if you are honest and forthright about the details.

Finally, I would advise anyone who has a charge on his or her record that can be expunged, to get it done! I have seen many very dated charges come up on candidate’s background checks that caused them to lose the job when it could have been avoided altogether if the candidate would just have had it expunged off his/her record.

What you write on your job application is critical to your success in getting a job. Hiring managers know that people are human. Things happen. People make mistakes.  Don’t make another mistake by misrepresenting yourself on your application!

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Jessica Simko is a seasoned senior level Human Resources professional with over 15 years of experience in all facets of Human Resources Management.  She is a Freelance Writer and Career Coach specializing in helping all levels of career professionals find and keep meaningful work in the corporate environment.  Striving to help people connect their passions with their jobs and life, she offers great career, personal branding, and life tips on her new blog, Work and Life Solutions.  Feel free to connect with her on:

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