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Why Applicants Should Be Honest on a Job Application

Christine McDade is a human resource professional (PHR & SHRM-CP) with over 20 years in the public sector.

Lying on your resume is never a good idea.

Lying on your resume is never a good idea.

Being Dishonest on a Job Application Is a Bad Idea

Job seekers should always fill out a job application in a manner that is both honest and complete. Since Human Resources and managers must screen through numerous applications to scale down the list for the job interviews, it is very important that hiring mangers not have to guess or take extra time to figure out blanks or incomplete answers to questions on the job applications.

The folks reviewing the job applications are going to assume at first glance that the information included on that job application is true and provides a good description of the applicant's background. Attaching a resume with supporting information and expanded details will also be advisable as it expands on the information that is submitted with the job application.

Job applications should be completed in a thorough and honest manner.

Job applications should be completed in a thorough and honest manner.

Application Packets

Job applications are often lengthy, with many questions to answer about the details of the applicant's work history and overall professional background. Many employers allow applicants to attach a resume, cover letter, list of references, etc., as a part of the application packet that will be reviewed and considered for proceeding to the next step of the hiring process.

These additional documents are great opportunities to include pertinent information about the applicant's knowledge, skills, and abilities as related to the job the person is seeking. Understanding the documents in the application packet is important when you consider:

  • Company's job application: The job application is usually available in the Human Resources Department or online at the company website. Job search websites and apps available on smartphones also make applying for a job very easy. Job applications are traditionally the first step in the hiring process. They should be completed and considered as that "first impression" to the hiring employer.
  • Personal resume: The job applicant's resume is almost always encouraged to be submitted with the job application. The resume should include all of the most updated information about an applicant's professional and academic background. Job applicants must have a current home address, email address, and phone numbers on the resume to make contacting the applicant easy. In most situations, hiring employers will not go out of their way to track down an applicant who gave a resume with outdated phone numbers, addresses, etc. Rather, they will simply go to the next qualifying job applicant.
  • Cover letter: A cover letter is another opportunity to express the applicant's personality and professional goals. It is that "introduction" letter that is another opportunity for the job applicant to tell the employer a little about their background and interests. Some recruitment efforts include the cover letter and resume as a mandatory document to be included in the application packet.
  • References: The applicant's references can be a part of the job applicant packet. Companies conducting background checks should always research and document past work experiences through job references. In some situations, personal reference letters are acceptable as letters of recommendation. Professors, teachers, and longtime acquaintances write letters as personal references for the job applicant. These references will often comment on character more than actual job performance. Letters of reference can be very beneficial documentation.
  • Copies of licenses and certifications: Many jobs require licenses or certification in specific specializations. These licenses and certifications demonstrate mastery of a field of study. Including a copy of them as part of the application packet will save both the employer and the applicant time down the road as the information must be verified.

Job applicants will want to be sure that all pieces of the job application packet are included in the final packet that is submitted to the hiring company. It is important to note that incomplete application packets are often cast aside and not considered for a vacancy.

Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.

— Albert Einstein

The Truth Is Eventually Discovered

When a job applicant is dishonest about details of their work history, abilities, and/or educational background, they are setting themselves up for disappointment in the future as good employers will be conducting background checks. Because job applicants do often embellish the details on a resume and job application, employers do take the time to conduct such background research.

Employers want to be sure that they are getting the right person to fill the job. Finding out that everything on the application is true is very important because discovering the truth after the person has been hired presents another set of problems for the employer, who must make a decision about whether to terminate the employment relationship.

Lying on an Application Can Cost the Employee a Job

The trouble with lying on a job application is that it brings an employee nothing but trouble. When an applicant is untruthful on the application, it may not become apparent to the employer immediately but, almost always, comes to light to the appropriate staff member.

Besides learning the truth about an employee's work history and/or performance from conducting job references, the truth becomes known among the staff of different companies. Furthermore, if the applicant embellishes his/her knowledge, abilities, and skills, the truth often reveals itself in the performance of the new job.

Since jobs are advertised needing a certain skill set, it will become very obvious to the hiring manager who realizes that someone does not know how to perform the job satisfactorily. A performance evaluation conducted during the introductory period will set the parameters for measuring the performance. If the newly hired employee lied about their abilities, it will likely show in their failure to meet the expectations of the job. Since most employees must pass a probationary period to become regular employees, an unsatisfactory performance evaluation rating may cause an employee to lose the job within that introductory period or probationary period.

Another precaution employers take to limit the opportunity for a dishonest job applicant to get through the front door is to have a statement on the job application which warns of making false statements on a job application. For most employees, falsification of information is strictly forbidden, and employers caution that such activity will be handled severely. Having concerns about a new hire's character and integrity is a horrible start to a new working relationship. The damage that can be done to this employee's reputation for falsifying the job application can be very hard to overcome. Trust remains an integral part of the work relationship.

Be Honest

Getting that much-wanted job can be done by being honest throughout the entire recruitment process. Employers get to know the new hires through the documentation submitted and by the things they hear from past employers. When the application contains all of the necessary information, hiring employers will have a much easier time verifying all of the information that describes the job applicant.

A successful relationship between the potential new hire and employer can be established when the selected candidate meets all of the job requirements and has the documentation to support the information submitted on the job application.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Christine McDade (author) from Southwest Florida on January 11, 2017:

Your example presents how the "human" in human resources is necessary for HR professionals to possess. I am glad you were able to get the job and move forward to a better place for you in your life. I appreciate you sharing your story.

Kylyssa Shay from Overlooking a meadow near Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA on April 20, 2016:

I used a friend's address as my home address on applications when I was homeless and I don't regret it for an instant. The truth is that very, very few businesses will hire someone who has no home address. It was a white lie that literally saved my life and hurt no one.

My employer cried and admitted he wouldn't have hired me when I later disclosed I'd been homeless when I'd applied for the job. He didn't fire me; he gave me a hug and apologized!

I've let many other homeless people use my address in the same way in the decades since. It's the only way they can avoid job discrimination.