What Happens if You Lie on a Job Application?

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ZipJob Team

5 min read

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In today’s highly competitive job market, your resume is often the most important weapon in your job search arsenal. Naturally, you want it to be as impressive and effective as possible. But what about your job application?  Most companies expect you to complete an application as well, and there may be certain questions that you’re not comfortable answering. You may even think that you can misrepresent certain facts without consequence. When it comes to job application and resume lies, however, it’s vital to understand that those consequences can be very real.

Job Application Lies: Shading the Truth

Make no mistake. You may be tempted to exaggerate certain accomplishments on your resumes. You may even have inconvenient details that you would rather omit. Fortunately, job seekers can usually manage those types of resume concerns without outright misrepresentations. Just highlight information that you want to stress and ignore details that weaken your narrative.

We’re not talking about those narrative-crafting choices, however. The job application lies at issue here are of a more serious nature. They are the types of lies that are designed to mislead potential employers during the hiring process. These lies can involve everything from explicitly denying certain past activities to falsifying your credentials, skill set, and accomplishments. For example:

  • False claims about bilingual proficiency

  • Job application lies concerning your previous job titles

  • Pumping up your GPA to make your educational achievements seem more impressive

  • Claiming to possess an educational degree that you never earned

  • Listing hard skills and relevant experience that you don’t actually possess

  • Lies designed to hide employment gaps

  • Lying on job application about a criminal record

  • Highlighting an incorrect work history

Obviously, these types of job application lies go well beyond mere resume embellishment. These lies are intended to misrepresent who you are as a person and a potential employee. They involve fraudulent claims that prevent a potential employer or hiring manager from honestly assessing your hiring suitability. And when they are discovered, they often result in serious consequences.

Is It Illegal to Lie on a Job Application?

You might be wondering whether it is illegal to lie on a job application – and with good reason. After all, there are many instances in life where lying can be a cause for prosecution. Where job application lies are concerned, it all depends on the nature of the lie. Most lies are not covered by specific statutes. However, there are states that have statutes that address certain types of lies – typically involving educational achievements - and they impose criminal penalties against anyone who violates those laws.

Texas is one such state (there are others). In the Lone Star State, job-seekers could be charged with a Class B misdemeanor if they . Under that statute, you could be punished for falsely claiming to possess a post-secondary degree. The law makes it a crime to use such claims for the purpose of obtaining employment. Similar laws exist in states like New Jersey and Kentucky.

(We wrote a post here on excluding education from your resume - which is okay in certain situations)

So, is lying on your resume or job application a crime or illegal in any way? The answer is simple: it depends on the type of lie and where it occurs. It is important to note, though, that the consequences of lying on a job application can be serious even when the act doesn’t violate a clearly-established statute.

Consequences of Lying on a Job Application

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You will almost always face consequences when your job application lies are discovered. For the types of educational degree lies described above, the consequences can involve hefty fines or even imprisonment. Those are clearly serious punishments designed to deter that activity. But what about non-criminal lies? As it turns out, those can also result in serious consequences.

Now, those consequences might not be criminal in nature, but they can still be devastating. You could be terminated upon discovery of job application lies . And the sad reality is that most of these lies are eventually discovered – one way or another. The truth almost always seems to have a way of coming out.

In addition, there are some job application lies that could open an employee up to other forms of legal liability. For instance, a lie about qualifications or criminal history could cause problems for employers. When that happens, the prospective employer or hiring manager could potentially sue the employee for damages that resulted from reliance on that false information. Just as important, application lies could be used against you if you ever sue your employer.

The court could allow the company to argue that you wouldn’t have been given the job if you had told the truth in your application.

The Best Policy

Our advice is simple. You should always be as honest as you can be. Whether it’s your application, cover letter or your resume, lying is something you should always avoid. Tell the truth when you’re answering questions on your application and resist the temptation to embellish credentials or whitewash prior misdeeds. Can you still use your resume to paint a more attractive narrative? Of course! But when it comes to job application lies, always consider the severe consequences that those misrepresentations can bring.

For more on job applications, check out this post: Automatic Rejection for Your Job Application? Here’s Why.

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Written by

ZipJob Team

The ZipJob team is made up of professional writers and career experts located across the USA and Canada with backgrounds in HR, recruiting, career coaching, job placement, and professional writing.

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