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Resume Inflation

Monday, Mar. 5, 2012

The best student comment on "Resume Inflation" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, March 18. Finalists are selected by "likes," so click the Facebook icon above to let your friends know about The Big Q contest.  For updates and to learn the winner, subscribe to The Big Q blog by RSS (above) or by using the email feature at the bottom of the right hand column.

Graduation is months away, and Nicole still doesn’t have a job. Thousands of dollars in college loans are backing up and payments are due soon. Furthermore, her mother was recently laid off, and her parents are in need of some supplemental income. Stress and pressure, then, is building as Nicole remains jobless.

Fortunately, she just received a request from a marketing firm to send in her resume. However, Nicole’s resume is not quite up to the standard that this job expects. She has had an internship in marketing before, even excelled in the subject at school, but she doesn’t have the proper list of real-world experience her employers will desire. When pondering the issue, she realizes that she could exaggerate her responsibilities from her internship. Although she was typically filing and making coffee, she could say that she "wrote" a report she had in truth transcribed. When she staffed the front desk, she could claim she was doing “client intake.” And even though she quit after a quarter due to boredom, she could say she worked there for six months.

Nicole knows she’s competent and capable of doing the job well; it’s just that her employers might not recognize it based solely on her resume. Since she is buried in debt and her family is in need, is it all right for Nicole to simply alter some facts?

Useful Resources

Framework for Ethical Decision Making
Lying on Your Resume


Photo by Chloe Fitzmaurice

Comments Comments

AZ said on Mar 6, 2012
Nicole could justify (or reject) exaggerating on her resume by weighing the importance of who needs the job versus who deserves it. While she clearly needs the job, and thinks she has the qualifications, she is taking a huge gamble assuming that is justification enough to alter some facts. Real-world experience to a company can far outweigh purely academic competence, as is likely the case for this company. Nicole may be a competent person, but she cannot override the company's criteria for potential employees because she is not in a position to fathom how detrimental it would be for the company to hire underqualified applicants and she may detract offers from other applicants in the same state of need who are more qualified by assuming she is a unique case. The fact is, no one can "play God" and judge that their need is the greatest or most justifiable. Nicole might think she is "leveling the playing field" but in truth she would be skewing it by making an exception for herself. If other applicants like Nicole used that logic and did the same thing, hiring companies could not rely on individual accountability anymore and would have to take every application with a grain of salt. While it is important to be compassionate towards those who have fallen on financial hard times, using that as a basis in the job application (and by extension hiring) process is counter-productive to companies and unfair to more qualified applicants in the realm of hiring for educated positions. Nicole may have been shortchanged in having an internship which did nothing for her experience, but there are other more honest ways she can land a job. She could write a cover letter explaining that her experience may not be what the firm is looking for, but that she has gained many transferrable skills from her four years at school. She can also ask her professors for references, which can be very valuable if she stood out as a student. In this case, her future employer would at least be prepared to provide her assistance if she does get hired. Since Nicole has months to graduate, she could take a lower-level job to save up in the meantime. It is not the ideal situation, but it is a far better alternative than to risk the ramifications of landing the job and being found out when her lack of experience becomes evident. - Like - 2 people like this.
P. Sacul said on Mar 7, 2012
Nicole has found herself in a desperate situation that makes justifying her desire to alter facts on her resume seem rather appealing. However, there is no possibility for justifying lying for ones personal benefit at the expense of others, and as such it is not alright for Nicole to alter some facts on her resume. First lets look at what altering some facts really means. Facts are things that are known to have happened or existed, so when one alters this reality or truth, what is left is nothing more than a fictitious statement or a fabrication. For a fact to be true, it must all be true, thus once any part is altered, it becomes fiction and/or a lie. If Nicole were to alter some facts, what she would be doing would be considered lying; she would be making up things that are simply not true. Now we have to focus on whether lying is moral or justified. According to Thomas Aquinas, every lie is a sin and therefore by default immoral. He argues that in order for an action to be good it must be right in every respect: because good results form a complete cause, while evil results from a single defect (Aquinas ST II-II Q110 A3). Since altering some facts would constitute a defect in the truth, we could call it an evil act and thus an immoral and unethical one. Even if were to disregard Aquinas reasoning, we could still reach the same conclusion by taking into account the ethical implications of such an act. If Nicole altered some facts, she would potentially (she really should not be assuming the standards of the job) have a higher chance of being accepted for the internship, but she is in no position to evaluate whether she is qualified enough or not for the position as that is up to the hiring individual. Although she may think that she is the qualified, the consequences, for the company for hiring an incompetent worker are tremendous. Not only does the company suffer financially, but productivity may be compromised since time will need to be sacrificed for additional training. On top of this, all other applicants who might have been more qualified than Nicole, but did not fabricate their resumes, will suffer because they will not be accepted. Thus, if Nicole were to be accepted due to fabrication, she might be increasing the suffering of all those in the company and other applicants, all for her personal benefit. And since harming others without just cause (such as self defense), let alone for personal gains, is immoral and unethical, so would be Nicoles action of fabricating her resume. Therefore, there is only one conclusion: If Nicole was to alter some facts on her resume to increase her chances of being hired, she would be committing an immoral and unethical act. - Like - 4 people like this.
Shaitan Addvokuht said on Mar 8, 2012
Nicole is in a tough spot. On one hand, she has duties to her family and herself to provide money for food, clothing, etc. However, in this scenario, to achieve those necessities, she has to lie. Now, if we look at it from a Kantian perspective (or Thomistic for that matter--though for different reasons), lying is certainly out of the case. Because you cannot universalize lying AND still have a successful community, you should never lie. Never. But if we look at it from a utilitarian perspective, it does seem that the overall utility would improve if Nicole gets the job versus if she doesn't get the job. In this contingent situation, where needs are dire and Nicole already has the skill set, why shouldn't she get a chance? Yes, lying can be bad. But there are always situations when we excuse it. Nicole has the competence and certainly the motivation to complete the job; in a way, shes doing the company a service by providing them with a stellar employee they would have otherwise overlooked. And if you really put YOURSELF in the situation, wouldn't you, if YOU desperately needed the job, alter your resume a little to get it? Worst comes to worst, they simply fire her and hire someone else. - Like
kennyB said on Mar 8, 2012
Nicole must how to go about this complicated situation by deciding what the right thing to do is. Is it moral to lie and exaggerate for her own personal gain, or just try her best to get an interview with her actual experience. It is really hard to decide because she is financially in trouble and she does need a job but it is not worth lying. Say she gets the job and she is not as qualified as she thought, she could easily be fired and back to where she started without a professional reference for future jobs. There are more jobs out there for Nicole and she has a good head on her shoulders. She should not exaggerate her resume but simply give it her best shot because you never know what will catch an employers eye. Meanwhile while she waits for a response from this job she can look for other jobs and submit her resume, giving her a better chance for a response. - Like - 3 people like this.
cmogan said on Mar 8, 2012
Nicole probably underestimates herself. She seems to have real world experience and has familiarized herself well with her desired career. Providing factual information on her resume is not the worst thing for her and does have a great possibility of landing her an interview. She can defend her skills and knowledge if given the opportunity. Supplementing the bullet points on her resume with details and explanations will only help her. If Nicole chooses to deceive her future employer and fabricate information on her resume she will only be doing damage. If the employer grants her an interview and she cannot provide adequate explanations for what she listed as her skills, if her future employer calls her past internship and finds out the truth, or if she is unable to complete tasks she said she was able to after securing the job, she will look like a lying fool. This will not only jeopardize her integrity and honor, but it will negatively affect her ability to get a job in the future. Because she is intentionally lying to get ahead, it cannot be seen as good. St. Thomas Aquinas says that for an action to be good, it needs to be good in all aspects. Only one part being evil renders the entire action evil. Nicole is knowingly deceiving her future employer and that cannot be seen as good, therefore, her action can only be looked at as evil. Additionally, St. Thomas Aquinas would look at whether or not her action was moral by looking at the truthfulness of her action, the will to tell the truth or a lie, and the intention to deceive. Because Nicole intentionally lied (her employer did not gather the information falsely without her knowledge), she willed to tell the lie (she knows it is a lie to falsify her resume), and she intends to deceive her action is in no way moral. She violates all three of Aquinas' statements. Although her intention to take care of her family financially is good, going about it in a deceitful way is never good. - Like - 3 people like this.
TaylorB said on Mar 8, 2012
I'm not sure that Nicole's situation is a simple discussion of lying as sin. While I do believe that in most situations lying on a resume could be considered as Nicole giving herself an unfair advantage and thus be considered an unjust action, it is important to keep in mind that prudent decision making is contingent. There may be an extreme circumstance that could potentially justify Nicole providing herself an unfair advantage in her job hunt. Nicole's family is clearly in financial trouble and while that likely would not justify the lie perhaps her situation is worse than simple financial issues. Could the job keep her family from eviction? From starving? While Aquinas would likely argue that a false resume is an injustice, I do believe that he would have to consider the possibility of committing sinful action if the action has an overall objective toward the common good. After all he does tend to see the moral goodness of an action as judged by intent. Remember that Aquinas does believe that theft can be justified in extreme situations as all Earthly possessions are truly the property of God. Further, the good of supporting the life of a family member seems to outweigh the sin of theft. Couldn't that same logic be applied to Nicole's situation? It is, however, important to note that Nicole could only justify tweaking her resume in a situation of dire need. Lying is quite clearly a sin of transgression and is accordingly a vicious action. By lying Nicole is not only hurting the company, but selling herself short and failing to achieve the virtuous potential of which she is capable. In this way she not only infringes upon the common good, but similarly upon her own personal good. Thus it appears that while lying on a resume could be considered generally unjust, practical reason is concerned with specific action and is therefore contingent. Nicole must use practical reason to determine prudent action by evaluating the true value her action could have toward the common good. It is important to remember that it seems Nicole's incentive for lying does not seem to be simply about helping herself, but instead helping her family. So while it seems unlikely that Nicole could justify a false resume, it does seem to at least be possible. - Like - 23 people like this.
K. Henderson said on Mar 8, 2012
K. Henderson Just because Nicole is able to perhaps "justify" her qualifications, it does not permit her to outwardly lie and cheat her way into positioning herself for a position which she does not rightly deserve. Recognition and acceptance of respect must be based upon factual events and circumstances which merit the efforts and hopes of an individual and actually enact the policies which could be mirrored in a Thomistic point of view. Participating in activity, without full conviction and taking responsibility creates a void in which the character does not match the effort nor the intent. As life is a balance between what is real and right as opposed to what is fake and un-lasting can be truly but to the test with Nicole and tell her that although cheating may be an easier path; it leads to more pitfalls and a less rewarding life - Like
HLiu said on Mar 8, 2012
Aquinas would consider Nicoles resume embellishment as morally evil. Any extra information or experience, no matter how large or small, that Nicole adds to her resume would render it false. As a result, it is no longer the truth. Even if her intentions to support her family, etc. are good, she is still deceiving the marketing firm to which she is applying. Her deception is fundamentally false, so it belongs to the perfection of lying (ST II-II Q110 A1); it is purely a lie. - Like
Sofia L said on Mar 8, 2012
Nicole is definitely facing a difficult situation. Even though lying on her resume might get her the job, it also might be a downfall when her employers expect her to do certain tasks. On the other hand, Nicole seems confident in her abilities to accomplish what the job requires. She probably sees no harm in lying on her resume because the chances of getting caught are slim. The ethical question is not in whether she gets caught but the overall intentions of her actions. Because employers trust Nicole to be truthful in her resume and she is knowingly deceiving them, her actions are unethical.Even though the benefits of exaggerating on her resume outweigh the risks of getting caught in this situation, it is still unethical. - Like - 1 person likes this.
AAmbrose said on Mar 9, 2012
The question here is whether something that Nicole says is a blatant untruth, or simply a different way of saying the same thing. There are three examples given in this case: she claims she wrote something that she only transcribed, she uses the words "client intake" to describe working at the front desk, and she says she worked at a job for 6 months when in fact she only worked for one quarter. I would argue that the "client intake" is something that is ok to put on a resume in this situation - people are always told to use buzz words when applying for jobs, and I think this fits that description. It may imply a slight exaggeration of her actual duties, but using the words "client intake" leaves what she actually did open to interpretation. This interpretation is likely where the exaggeration will happen - she's not blatantly lying about it. I think the other two claims are unacceptable given the situation. The statement about how long she worked is a blatant lie, which doesn't belong on a resume. The statement about what she wrote implies that she authored the document - it's not like the vague term "client intake," but instead a pretty explicit statement that she did something which she didn't actually do. As far as whether telling these blatant untruths are ok, I don't think they are. Jobs often hire based on who they think will do the job best. Someone who has spent the time to acquire a set of skills that will help them get a job deserves to get one over someone who hasn't, plain and simple. It's not a question of who needs it more, but rather, who deserves it more. If the employer wants to hire someone based on financial need, they will open a position and hire based on that. It's not Nicole's place to decide who gets the job; she needs to tell the truth and leave the decision making where it belongs, in the hands of the employer. - Like - 1 person likes this.
bresendez said on Mar 9, 2012
With so much competition in the business world, people often ponder whether to exaggerate work experience on their resume or to leave it the way it is. Presently, Nicole finds herself in a sticky situation. Since she is almost graduating and because of her parent's financial situation she is more inclined to "lie" on her resume so that she will be more likely to get hired. However, could we really call an exaggeration of work experience ethical? Thomas Aquinas would look at Nicole's dilemma and argue that she is using her exaggerated work experience as a means to the ultimate good. Although, our reasoning and free will allow us to make choices about our current and future prospects, what Nicole is doing is not morally correct in the eyes of Thomas. Her intentions may be in the right place but she is still lying to get what she wants. Lets suppose Nicole gets hired because of the inflation of her resume. The company that hired her then asks her to perform one of the tasks she stated that she could accomplish on her resume. Unfortunately, Nicole can not complete the task because she has never worked on anything similar to what the company wants. What is Nicole going to do now? With any situation it is better to tell the complete truth than to lie. People are destined to find their ultimate end no matter what paths they may walk through in life. So, I would argue that Nicole should just tell the truth on her resume to avoid any future conflict with her employer. - Like
lshabe said on Mar 9, 2012
Nicole is in a tough situation. She needs a job in order to help her parents out, but feels insecure about her qualifications. Her intentions to lie are not necessarily sinful, but are definitely not encouraged. It is not ethical and will lead to plenty more problems down the road if she does go through with her plan. Both her parents and employer would be incredibly disappointed to find out that she exaggerated on her resume. It is possible that her employer may fire her if they find out she exaggerated. Granted, Aquinas will argue she is using her exaggerations as a mean to her ultimate good, but the cost if she is found out might be too high. If she truly believes that she is fit for the job, she should submit her resume as is, but get help writing a stellar cover letter, outlining her current skills and ultimate career goals. Even Aquinas would be proud. - Like - 1 person likes this.
A. Cal said on Mar 9, 2012

I firmly believe that there is a clear distinction between lying and simply stretching the truth. In this particular case I find that Nicole stretches the truth on her resume, as opposed to interpreting her actions as lying. In her act of exaggerat[ing] her responsibilities, Nicole is merely buffing up her resume. She stretches the truth in that she rewords and notes her accomplishments in a way that has the capacity to manifest several different interpretations. For example, on her resume, Nicole states that she wrote a report when she had, in actuality, only transcribed it. Yet, this rewording remains truthful. Personally, as someone who transcribes Torah studies for Tikkun magazine, I consider the action of transcribing as a task that primarily utilizes the process of writing. Thus, even though Nicole had technically transcribed the report, transcribing spoken data to written or printed form requires the act of writing. Nicole therefore stretches the truth, allowing for her resume to be interpreted by the marketing firm in perhaps a more positive light amongst a highly competitive pool of applicants. Yet, simultaneously, her resume still embodies the truth, as she herself and others have the capacity to interpret her resume differently. I do not think that Thomas Aquinas necessarily consider Nicoles action of exaggerat[ing] her responsibilities as lying. For instance, in the Reply to Objection 4 within his writing ST II-II Q110 A3: Whether Every Lie is a Sin?, Aquinas describes a lie as an action that injures ones neighbor. Here, however, Nicole is not injuring anyone. In fact, stretching the truth on her resume may be able to help her parents that are in need of some supplemental income. One may thus interpret her action of stretching the truth on her resume as an act somewhat imbued with compassion and justice. It is alright for Nicole to stretch the truth on her resume since she seeks to help her family in need. In terms of justice, Aquinas perceives justice as giving to each person what is their due. Throughout Nicoles life I assume that her parents have provided her with basic necessities and an education. In this case Nicole is giving back to her parents, recognizing their loving actions, and returning the love back to them. Through stretching the truth on her resume, Nicole does not intentionally aim to hurt anyone. If anything, she wants to provide aid to others, specifically her family. On the other hand there are more efficient ways for Nicole to submit her resume without stretching the truth. For example, in her cover letter, she can describe herself in a way that directly highlights her strengths more. If she lists references, they could also describe her work ethic and character.

- Like - 11 people like this.
Jean said on Mar 9, 2012
I agree with a previous poster that some of the exaggerations she is contemplating putting on her resume are ok, while others are not. Using the term client intake seems ok, but to say she worked there longer than she actually had would be a blatant lie, and could easily be exposed by a phone call to her previous employer. I would suggest that she focus on her real experience and put on her resume the projects and community activities she did while in college. If she gets in for an interview, it sounds like she would be readily hired. If it were exposed that she had lied on her resume, it may jeopardize her chance of getting the job. - Like
JPDX10 said on Mar 9, 2012
Nicole is facing a difficult situation. Even though lying on her resume might get her the job, it also might be a downfall when her employers expect her to do certain tasks. But most employers use the resume to help decide whether to give an interview to the person applying. In most professional job environments, you lie on your resume, you do not get hired. And you leave a bad impression to everyone and yourself. The saying is "people do business with people they know like and trust." Sorry, but Nicole should not lie on her resume to get a job. Period, end of story. - Like - 1 person likes this.
Lilly said on Mar 18, 2012
Nicole is facing one of the biggest tests of her life. IF she goes through with the embellished experience she will have to live in fear that one day the truth may leak out and face her employer. In today's world many employers are strictly enforcing ethical policies such as false misrepresentation of academic or work experience. It would be very unfortunate that Nicole would be in this type of situation. The best bet is to always do what is right, perhaps financial burdens are big right now. But in life things don't always stay bad for long, so in my opinion I think Nicole should not lie and should face adversity with courage and confidence that the right job will come up for her in the right time. - Like - 2 people like this.
Stephanie said on Mar 18, 2012
Nicole should stick to the facts. If she exaggerates on her resume this time, what's to stop her from exaggerating time and time again? She can't possibly go through life exaggerating her credentials and selling herself using false records while feeling comfortable with who she is. She also doesn't know exactly what her employees are looking for; who knows, they could be looking for someone who CAN be responsible, who's scrappy, and who can handle being humble and getting coffee or manning the receptionist's desk if necessary. In the end, no one knows better than the interviewer whether the job and Nicole are mutually a good fit, and Nicole is doing herself a disservice by listing her experience inaccurately. If she thinks of herself as more capable than what her resume might reflect, she should include that sentiment in her cover letter or in a phone call/interview with recruiters. - Like - 51 people like this.
Miriam Schulman said on Mar 23, 2012
P. Sacul won the Big Q contest for best comment on "Resume Inflation." We liked many of the submissions,but were impressed by P's exploration of the nature of truth on resumes and the analysis of the effect of Nicole's action on others. - Like
khernan1 said on Mar 29, 2012
The fact is that you will be found out. Your future employers will realize what you are capable of and will know if you were bluffing. Be honest. Honesty is the best policy. You can choose action-oriented descriptive verbs to state what you did in past positions but just be truthful. - Like
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