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Lying on a Resume or Job Application

Lying on a resume or a job application can be tempting, but you should avoid doing so because it may cost you dearly.

Seven in 10 U.S. workers say they've lied on a resume to land a job, according to a 2023 report from ResumeLab. Also, 80% said they lied during a job interview, often by inflating job responsibilities, previous job titles, and skills, and 76% said they lied in their cover letters.

The most common areas for false information are dates of employment, credentials, training, degrees, prior earnings, and criminal history.

Job seekers say they "fudge the facts" to get the job.

It may surprise you to discover how often job applicants lie on their resumes, applications, or even in interviews. But resume fraud is a risky strategy.

Lying on a Resume May Get You Fired

You could get fired if you've landed a job after a resume lie, background check, or in your interview. This is especially true when the fraud relates to a relevant part of the job. For example, if you list on your resume that you got a college degree in a field that is important to the position and you don't have that degree, you could get fired if your employer discovers the truth.

You must be honest about your work experience. Employers will ask about it during the interview, include it in your background check, or ask your references about it. So, if your application doesn't align with their research, it creates "red flags."

There is no such thing as a "little white lie" in an employer's eyes. Most employers consider lying in your job application to be significant.

On top of losing your current job, the firing could also make it more difficult to find work in the future.

Legal Consequences — Civil Liability

Lying on a resume may not be illegal. A resume is not a legal document, but a job application might be. During the hiring process, a company may ask you to affirm the accuracy of the information you provide. As a result, it could be illegal to lie during the signing process.

Most states have employment-at-will laws, even if you never checked a box saying that your application was accurate. These laws allow an employer to terminate your employment at any time and for any reason, including resume fraud.

Lying on your resume isn't illegal unless you provide false information about certifications or licenses.

You could be liable for civil damages if your falsehoods created legal issues for your employer. For example, if you're an architect and your company gets sued because of mistakes you made on building drawings, and you lied about the certification to do the job, your employment will probably get terminated. Also, your now-former employer can come after you for civil fraud or misrepresentation if issues or injuries happened because of your work.

Legal Consequences — Criminal Liability

Depending on what you lied about, you could face criminal charges. But, the likelihood of getting charged with a crime for lying on a resume or job application is slim in most instances.

But, certain circumstances could lead to criminal responsibility. In some states, like Texas, authorities can penalize you for lying about your academic credits. Lying about having a professional license, such as that needed for a doctor or nurse, could lead to criminal charges. If you're seeking employment from a state or federal employer, you will likely see a statement reminding you that lying on a government application is a crime.

Loss of Professional License

Many professions have a board that oversees the administration of licenses to people in professions, including lawyers, nurses, and doctors. They can suspend or revoke your license if you commit an ethical violation.

Problems With Suing Your Employer

If you got your job by lying on your resume, you might not be able to take your employer to court, even if your employer has violated your legal rights. For example, if your employer can show that they would not have hired you in the first place had you been honest on your resume or application, you may not be able to recover damages if you got illegally fired from your job.

Courts have generally found that employees who lie to get a job can't later claim they were wronged. Some courts have dubbed this legal strategy the "after-acquired evidence" theory. Evidence that supports this theory has included:

  • Failing to list a former employer on a resume
  • Being fired for cause from a former position and failing to disclose it
  • Failing to reveal or concealing a felony conviction
  • Making up a college degree during an interview
  • Making false statements about professional licenses, education, or experience

If you sue your employer, your employer can use the after-acquired evidence. Your employer will have to show that the falsehoods in your application or resume were directly linked to your job and would have been enough to get you fired or keep you from getting the job.


If you have a criminal history, you might feel tempted to leave that information out of your job application. A study from 2022 indicates that the majority of unemployed men in their 30s have a criminal history.

Most states and many cities have laws preventing employers from asking about criminal history or using criminal history in initial hiring decisions. Employers can request a criminal background check once they've made a conditional offer. These "ban the box" laws support "second chance hiring." According to the National Employment Law Project, 37 states have ban-the-box laws on the books as of 2021.

If a criminal conviction is part of your history, it's best to disclose and explain the incident instead of trying to hide it because it will likely come out in the background check.

If you have an arrest record rather than a criminal conviction and the charges got dropped, consult a criminal defense attorney to explore expunging the charge from your record.

Get a Legal Assessment

Job application misrepresentations or employment issues can seriously affect your rights and prospects. Don't go it alone if you're unsure about your situation. Consult a local employment attorney for legal advice. An experienced professional can assess your case and explain the best steps to ease potential fallout and protect your interests.

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