The temptation to exaggerate or even lie on a resume can be strong. The question is, is it illegal to lie on a resume?

According to a study by Forbes, 51% of employers said they would "automatically dismiss" a candidate who lied on their resume.

Now, in addition to this, an employer’s decision can also differ based on the nature of the lie and if you are a likable candidate, they might even look past it. But these chances are very thin.

We will explore this topic in-depth and provide you with key advice on how to avoid the pitfalls of dishonesty.

Unpacking the Legality of Lying on a Resume

The Fraud Act 2006 states ‘A person is in breach of this section if he dishonestly makes a false representation, and intends, by making the representation to make a gain for himself or another, or to cause loss to another.

In the context of a resume, this means lying about your qualifications, skills, or experience to deceive potential employers.

If an employer can prove that you lied on your resume with the intent to deceive, they can take legal action against you.

Additionally, if you obtained a job through resume misrepresentation, your employer can terminate your employment and take legal action against you.

Also read: What is and isn’t a lie on a resume?

Understanding the Legal Consequences of Lying on a Resume

There can be severe repercussions to lying on your resume in 2023. Given below are certain legal consequences that can backfire on you:

Breach of Contract

While lying on a resume may not always be illegal, it can have legal ramifications if you have signed an agreement or contract attesting to the accuracy of the information provided.

Breaching such agreements can lead to lawsuits from employers, especially if they can demonstrate that your lies have caused harm to their business.

Certain professions, such as law or medicine, have stricter regulations, and falsely claiming qualifications in these fields can expose you to additional legal action and potential criminal charges.

Repercussions Under Specific State Laws

Falsifying your resume can be considered a criminal offense in some states, particularly when it involves educational credentials. For example,

  • The Fraudulent, Substandard, or Fictitious Degree crime in the state of Texas prohibits you from using a fake college degree or one that doesn't belong to you in an attempt to get a job or for some other advantage.
  • The State of New Jersey treats resume falsification as a violation of NJSA 34:15-79 and is punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a $10,000 fine, in addition to substantial civil penalties.
  • In California, lying on a resume can lead to automatic forfeiture of all employment rights. In addition, the employee can also be treated unlawfully by the employer and be unable to hold the employer liable.

Cornell Law School stated in its resume inflation report that under 18 U.S.C. § 1001 candidates who are found guilty of resume fraud will be fined or imprisoned if they knowingly and willfully make any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation.

Background Verifications

Employers often conduct thorough background checks and verifications to confirm the accuracy of the information provided in resumes.

These checks may include contacting educational institutions, previous employers, or professional licensing bodies. (we will discuss these in detail in the next section)

If your lies are discovered during these investigations, it can lead to immediate rejection from job opportunities and permanently tarnish your reputation with multiple employers.



Also read: How long does a background check take?

How Employers Verify Information on Resumes?

Employers employ several reliable methods to verify the information presented on resumes, particularly when hiring for critical positions. Here are some effective methods commonly used by employers:

  • Checking Educational Records: Employers often contact educational institutions directly to confirm the educational qualifications listed on a resume. This involves authenticating the degrees earned, courses completed, dates of attendance, and any honors or accolades received.

  • Contacting Previous Employers: Employers frequently reach out to previous employers or human resources departments to confirm the accuracy of the candidate's employment dates, job titles, responsibilities, and achievements. This step helps employers gauge the candidate's past performance and ascertain whether their claimed experience matches the needs of the position.

  • Background Checks: Background checks are particularly critical when hiring for positions that involve financial responsibilities, sensitive data, or working with vulnerable populations. They involve scrutinizing a candidate's criminal records, credit history, driving records, and other pertinent information.

  • Checking with References: References play a vital role in validating a candidate's qualifications, experience, and work ethic. Employers reach out to the references mentioned in your resume, typically former supervisors, colleagues, or mentors, to gain insights into the candidate's performance, skills, and character.

These methods are not intended to be exhaustive, but they represent core practices used by employers to verify the information on resumes.

Candidates must present truthful and verifiable information on their resumes to maintain their credibility and increase their chances of securing desired job opportunities.

Also read: Who can be my references on resume?

FAQs for ‘Is it Illegal to Lie on a Resume?’

Q. Can you lie on your resume?

A. Not advisable. Lying on a resume can damage your reputation, breach trust with employers, and potentially lead to negative consequences such as termination of employment or difficulty in obtaining future references.

Q. Is it illegal to lie on a resume in the USA?

A. Lying on a resume in the United States is generally not illegal, but it can have legal consequences if it involves falsifying official documents or important credentials. While the odds of facing legal charges are slim, the repercussions could include civil penalties or fines depending on the state.

Q. Can you lie about having a degree?

A. Falsifying educational credentials can damage your professional reputation, terminate your employment, and can have potential legal repercussions. For instance, the state of Texas prohibits you from using a fake college degree or one that doesn't belong to you.

Q. Can you go to jail for lying on your resume?

A. Lying on a resume in the United States can potentially have legal consequences, but it is rare for individuals to go to jail solely for lying on their resume. However, if the lie involves falsifying official documents or credentials, it could lead to charges such as fraud or perjury, which can carry criminal penalties, including imprisonment.

Visit Hiration's next-gen ChatGPT-powered career platform, where you will find a solution to every career obstacle, from resume and cover letter building to interview preparation and much more!

You can also reach out to us at support{@} for any queries or concerns.

Build your resume in 10 minutes
Use the power of AI & HR approved resume examples and templates to build professional, interview ready resumes
Create My Resume
out of 5 on