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Is It Fraud to Lie on a Job Application?

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The difference between a resume and a job application couldn't be more clearly stated than by Miriam Dushane, manager of New York City-based Linium Staffing, who says, "A resume is not a legal document and an employment application is." Resumes often are considered an effective way to market your skills, designed to stimulate the reader's curiosity about your qualifications. Job seekers often fudge a little on their resumes, but lying on an employment application can cause serious problems.

Legal Document

Many employment applications ask for personal information, such as your name and any other names you've used. The reason this type of information is required is because many employers conduct background checks and, to obtain accurate information about you, they must know all the names you may have used to verify your employment, salary, military service and Social Security number. Omitting information -- intentionally or inadvertently -- may destroy your chances for an interview. And if you're already employed by the time the company discovers the omission or cover-up, you risk being terminated.

Exaggerations and White Lies

Conventional wisdom says, "Tell the truth in all your business and personal dealings," and completing an employment application is one of those business dealings that forms working relationships. Although telling a white lie or exaggerating a tiny bit on your resume might not seem like a big deal, it's a huge deal if you lie on your application. One of the final clauses on an employment application asserts the employer's right to terminate you if it discovers that any of the information you provided was inaccurate. Depending on the lie, it might not be fraud from a criminal standpoint, but it's certainly fraudulent and dishonest behavior, both of which aren't traits that employers value.

Stolen Valor Act of 2013

People who lie about military service for personal, tangible gain are subject to criminal punishment under the Stolen Valor Act. The act makes it a crime to say you have served in the military so that you can obtain some kind of award or tangible benefit. With so many employers emphasizing the value of veterans in the workplace, claiming you're a veteran to improve your chances of getting a job is, therefore, a crime. Many employment applications ask if you've ever served in the military and, if you have, you could get veteran's preference, especially if you're applying for a federal government job. But if the company finds out you lied about military service, you could be fired and possibly prosecuted.

Attesting to Truthful Information

On the final page of most job applications, you'll read a paragraph that basically says that all the information you provided is truthful and that you attest to the veracity of your statements. Putting your signature on a document that contains lies and fraudulent information is decidedly poor judgment that comes with consequences. In the end, you will have lost your integrity and any opportunities you may have had for a rewarding career. Therefore, stick to the truth to preserve your dignity and your chances for landing a great job.


Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.

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