If you’re applying for a job and currently unemployed, it can be tempting to conveniently omit that information from your resume. It’s a common belief that employed applicants would be more attractive to hiring committees than unemployed workers.
Unfortunately, that belief has some truth to it. Hiring managers aren’t immune to bias, and if an applicant hasn’t been employed for a while, their application may not even be considered.
That’s not a promising thing for job seekers to hear, but still: Lying about your job status — on your resume or in an interview — isn’t worth it. With a little work, lies come to the surface, and it’s not easy for candidates caught red-handed to come back from that breach of honesty. The good news is that no matter how long you’ve been unemployed, you can still use your resume to showcase your great qualities in a way that hiring managers will appreciate.
Spotting A Lie Is Easy
Scott Thompson was the CEO of Yahoo for a mere five months before he resigned in May 2012. The reason for his departure? A lie on his resume.
It’s one thing for a big shot to get caught in a lie — after all, having such a prestigious position surely means that people (read: investors) will do what it takes to keep them accountable. But it’s much less common for more ordinary employees to get caught in a lie, right?
Wrong. One survey found that 85% of HR professionals uncovered misrepresentations or outright lies on a candidate's resume. HR professionals can shed light on this, of course, because they vet resumes thoroughly. (Believe it or not, some of them do call your references.) And when they find a lie, they remove the applicant from consideration.
Recovering From A Lie? Not So Easy
What happens if an applicant gets a job and his or her deception is found out later?
Think about it: Who is more likely to lie on their expense reports, someone who lied on their resume or someone who didn’t? What about sick days, how early you show up to work, whether you like your boss’s kooky watch — who is more likely to lie about those things? You get the picture. It’s human nature to distrust someone who has been found lying, and your manager and HR department are no exception.
Successful companies are only as talented as the team members and as strong as the team. So it stands to reason that if an employee is untrustworthy, the quality of the company diminishes, and termination seems like the best option.
How To Treat Unemployment On Your Resume
Getting laid off can make you feel like a failure, but it shouldn’t. Nearly everyone has experienced a layoff of some kind in their career — the bursting of the dot-com bubble and the 2008 recession are just two of the most memorable moments in recent history that affected a large portion of the workforce.
So, with your credibility and integrity intact, how do you present yourself like the awesome candidate you are? By focusing on the following, you’ll give employers tangible, practical reasons to hire you:
• Your skills and qualifications: Review the job description and let them know you can check all the boxes.
• Strong references and reference letters: The hiring team may not know you, but former bosses and peers can raise your status in the eyes of those you’re interviewing with.
• Your achievements: Take your job duties and turn them into achievements by quantifying the effects of what you did.
• Your relevant work experience: Tailor your job descriptions to the job you’re applying for.
• Their pain points and how you can solve them: Hiring managers will likely overlook any gaps in employment if you can prove you have the ability and know-how to relieve the company’s pain points.
Lying about your job status will never work in your favor. By focusing on how you can solve the pain points of the company you’re applying to, you’ll give hiring managers plenty of great reasons to hire you, even if you’ve been unemployed. And who knows? They might like you even more for your honesty.