A pair of hands are folded. The person's face is out-of-frame. Another out-of-frame person holds a paper that says RESUME.

Yes, There Are Legal Consequences of Lying on Your Resume–Here Are a Few

Last Updated: October 10, 2023

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Key Takeaways:

  • What constitutes as lying: false information, altering employment dates, and exaggerating job tasks.
  • Legal consequences: fines, lawsuits if harm is caused, and criminal charges.
  • Choosing better options: tailored resumes, strong cover letters, and highlighting your skills.

As of April 2023, there are roughly 5.7 million unemployed individuals in the United States. Maybe you're on the hunt as well. You might also be tempted to embellish your work experience, fearing you lack the full qualifications for the job.
However, if you get caught, such actions could cost you more than just your job.

What constitutes lying on your Resume?

Some serious examples of lying on your Resume include:
  • Altering employment dates
  • Exaggerating job titles and tasks
  • Omitting information (such as if you were fired from a previous position)
  • Providing false information (fake references, job history, academic credits, certification, etc.)
Among the most common Resume lies are:
  • The length of time an employee has spent at a company
  • The employee’s academic achievements
  • The employee’s job skills
Here are three legal consequences of lying on your Resume.

You can be fined

There is no such thing as a white lie in the eyes of an employer. Many employers consider lying in your job application to be fraud. In some states, like Texas, you can be penalized for lying about your academic credits.
After hiring an applicant, a company may ask them to sign a contract affirming the accuracy of the information provided. Consequently, it becomes illegal to lie during the signing process.
In a 2019 case outside of North America, an Australian woman was sentenced to 25 months in prison and fined the Australian equivalent of $22,500 USD after she was discovered to have faked references and lied about her education to obtain a high-paying government position.

Fraud is the criminal use of misrepresentation or deceit to get something of value. In this case, it is employment.

You can be sued

Aside from firing or fining an employee, a company can also sue an employee who misled them if they can demonstrate that it hurt their business.
If an employee is not allowed by law to do certain tasks and a customer gets hurt, the customer can sue the company for negligence. The company may then try to join the employee to the lawsuit (with the customer) so that the employee shares in the liability and cost of any damages.
Some professions, like healthcare and law , require a state license to practice their work. If a company determines that a healthcare worker or lawyer has lied about having the appropriate license and still practicing medicine or law, this is a severe offense. The company then has the right to sue the employee.

You can go to jail

Lying on your Resume may count as fraud, a criminal offense in the United States. Some states consider fraud a misdemeanor; others states consider it a felony.
A misdemeanor charge can land you up to a year in prison, whereas a felony can get you up to 20 to 30 years maximum in the United States. While you wouldn’t get the full sentence for lying about your credentials on a resume, you could face a couple of years in prison at least.
In one infamous case, a young man served 20 months in prison after faking a medical license and setting up a medical practice while in his teens. He has recently been arrested again for new charges related to grand theft and an organized scheme to defraud.

What you can do instead of lying on your Resume

Lying doesn’t have to be your first line of action; here are a few things that you can try instead to create a strong job application:
  • Craft a strong Cover Letter to give potential employers a positive first impression. Use the opportunity to discuss why you’re a good fit for the company, your career goals, and how your values align with the company.
  • Tailor your Resume to fit the job you’re applying for by focusing on your education and past work experience.
  • Highlight your top skills and accomplishments without embellishment. You have the skills, so relay them with enthusiasm and honesty.
  • List volunteer and mentorship experience under its own category. This counts as valuable career experience though it is not technically “work experience.”
  • Indicate any extracurricular activities or classes that you took that are relevant to the job you are applying for. This will show your willingness to learn and grow within your career.
Want to stand out to potential employers?
Use LawDepot's Resume Builder
Our easy-to-use Resume Builder helps you organize your education information, work experience, and skills.

Lying on your Resume isn’t worth the consequences

Lying on your Resume is fraudulent behavior. If the company decides to take legal action, you may face severe legal consequences, depending on the company and the state it operates in. This is far worse than being fired and can easily be avoided.
Many companies are, in fact, willing to invest time and training in the right candidate. That candidate could be you, even if you are slightly underqualified. By being honest in your Resume, you begin on a positive note with your new employer and can save yourself from future mistakes and potential career disgrace.