Job Application

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 so your resume looks cleaner and more professional. I mean, it’s just a resume to help you get a job interview… It’s not a legal document of any sort, right?

Related: Why Completing A Job Application Isn’t A Waste Of Time

Maybe you are eight credits short of graduating from college, but you dropped out for some reason. What are eight little credits? It probably would just look better if you go ahead and say you have a degree. Or, what if you have an associates degree, but the job requires a bachelors degree? A degree is a degree, it doesn’t really matter what 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’s 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 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’ll unlikely 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 with a charge on his or her record to try to get it expunged. 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 people are human. Things happen. People make mistakes. Don’t make another mistake by misrepresenting yourself on your application!

Related Posts

5 Biggest Job Application Mistakes
Can I Get A Job Without A Background Check?
5 Tips To Make Your Law Firm Application Stand Out

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Jessica Simko

Jessica Simko is a senior-level HR Consultant and job search/career strategist. Please feel free to download her FREE report on "The Job Interview Game."


  1. If I was in the military and did not put that I was on my resume. Will they find it on a background check and will it hurt my chances for the job.

  2. A resume and a job application are different. Now, you absolutely should not lie on either. But you don’t have to have great detail on a resume. Resume is a marketing document and you can INCLUDE whatever helps you, I think it’s okay to leave out that job you were fired from, as long as you’re prepared to answer the question where you were for that time (you should not lie there either). You really don’t need Month and Year on a resume, just the year suffices. Also if you went to e.g. Emory but didn’t finish, you can say you went to Emory, and you took some valuable courses. You don’t have to say you didn’t get a degree, but you cannot say you did. When they ask, you answer honestly. You don’t even need the year on your resume, as it might make them think you’re older than you are, and that is no one’s business.

    An application, should be answered directly. It is usually strictly administrative. It’ll ask for School,…put the school, it’ll ask for degree, you put the degree, or else leave it blank if you don’t have one. You don’t have to share info like a 2.0 GPA, if they do not ask for it, but if they do, then answer it correctly.

    Likewise, on the application, if they ask for you job history like the past 3 jobs, that’s all you need to put, where you were, what you did, who your boss was, phone, dates, only what they ask. Truthfully.

    Be honest, but you don’t need to share it if they don’t ask for it. This isn’t facebook.

  3. This is garbage. Even if you have your criminal record expunged you are still required to state that you have a record. As is the case for my uncle who read on the application it is okay to “omit”. Then in a separate sentence it indicated that you must state yes to a felony. His background came back with the charge even after he had his case expunged and dismissed. I know this because I am creating a letter of explanation as we speak. It was an over sight on his part because it was an honest over sight based on the application; here is the example:
    Have you ever been convicted of a crime? You may omit: (1) any charges that were dismissed or resulted in an acquittal; (2) any conviction that has been set aside, vacated, annulled, expunged, or sealed….. etc. All felony and misdemeanor conictions and all convictions in state and federal courts are criminal convictions and must be disclosed…. etc.
    So if you are filling out an application BE VERY CAREFUL.

    • Thanks for the warning John. Paying attention to fine print and other subtle directions is a big deal, but it’s often overlooked.

  4. Load of rubbish

    Employers do not have the tools to check the life history of every applicant, and even if they did, it would give the lie to their lazy and rude approach of not having the time to respond to applicants

  5. Hello, I just wanted to share some of the findings from EmployeeScreenIQ’s 2013 Employment Screening Trends Report as the topics relate to what you shared in this article. We had nearly 1,000 HR professionals participate in our survey and the findings regarding resume lies were surprising. 51% of survey takers said that only 15% or less of job candidates are not hired due to a resume distortion-meaning that a large number of employers are not disqualifying candidates because of a resume “lie”. In agreement with your statement on employers hiring candidates with criminal records, our survey shows that 52% of employers would be MORE inclined to hire a candidate if they self-disclose criminal history. Feel free to download the full survey report here:

  6. How about when it comes to background check routine. There are cases that an applicant has have several same name situation but of course different SSN and middle names, date of birth and other same name have criminal records attached to their names. What if a prospective employer did not meticulously check the name, middle name, SSN, date of birth and places of residency in the USA and conclude that the applicant has a criminal record?

  7. Great article and something everyone should read whether they are being heavily recruited for a job or if they are desperately seeking one.

    One thing I would like to see addressed more is the abuse of the job descriptions that employees use for previous positions. Stating that you have “extensive product management experience” when you really were a project manager, misrepresents your abilities if you are applying for a product manager position. Unfortunately, there is no way of checking job titles you held with previous employers that I know of. I can check your Linkedin profile, but if you were smart enough to change that to match your resume, I have to take your word on it.
    Probably the solution is to conduct a more comprehensive interview process to weed out those who lack the proper experience and expertise for a particular position.

    Just my two cents.

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