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From Retail to Politics, Is Lying for a Job Worth the Risk?

Some believe that companies fail to recognize a person’s commitment and desire to work that could make them a good candidate for an offered position, despite lacking credentials. But when do falsehoods become too much?

U.S. Rep.-elect George Santos, R-N.Y.
U.S. Rep.-elect George Santos, R-N.Y., waits for the start of the 118th Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 3, 2023, in Washington, D.C. Santos is facing scrutiny for lies he told about his personal and professional background during his campaign.
(Win McNamee/Getty Images/TNS)
(TNS) — When Lizette Garcia was 17, she felt she had little choice but to lie on her resume to get jobs that would provide enough money to support her son and help her mother. She would embellish it with false details about her education level and the time she had spent at previous jobs. But Garcia needed the money and she was committed to learning the craft required wherever she landed, said the now-32-year-old mother.

Though it was stressful fearing she would get caught, she does not regret padding her resume because, thanks to those jobs at retail stores and banks and in car sales, she was able to support her son and attend college. Now an independent insurance agent, Garcia, of Palatine, Ill., values education but strongly believes that some companies fail to recognize the person’s commitment and desire to work that could make them a good candidate for the positions offered.

While Garcia is not exactly proud to have lied, “at least my job did not affect the lives of thousands of people,” she said. Never a political position, she laughed.

As U.S. Rep.-elect George Santos of New York faces wrath from the public and is under investigation from Long Island prosecutors for what’s arguably one of the most notorious cases of professional deception in House history, calls for him to step down grow as the depth of his lies gets deeper.

However, the consequences for his deception remain uncertain. Despite the public pressure, Santos has not shown interest in leaving his newly elected position, and Republican leaders have remained silent on the controversy.

But for those working outside the political world, ramifications for resume lies are often swift and absolute, labor experts say. Employees who get caught tend to get terminated immediately, said Amy Moor Gaylord, a labor employment attorney in Chicago who has been practicing for 25 years.

“Most companies have some type of policy that says falsification of documentation is grounds for termination,” she said.

According to a survey conducted by StandOutCV in the fall of 2022, more than 50 percent of Americans have fattened up their resumes at least once, with most lying about their previous work experience, skills, college degree and personal details. The survey found that those in the manufacturing industry tend to lie more, followed by health care workers. And men tend to alter their resumes more often than women.

But Enrique Anguiano, a former recruiter from the Chicago area and now a professional resume writer, said that falsehoods tend to be more embellishments than lies, such as adding the word “proficient” to a skill on a resume when the job candidate is not. And the subtlety is the reason why many companies may fail to notice.

“Typically, people don’t lie about where they went to school or what degree they completed — those are bigger than just a white lie — and they understand the liability behind that,” he said.

Gaylord puts it more bluntly. “It would surprise me that people would do it now because it is so easy to Google somebody or run a background check and find these things out,” Gaylord said.

According to the investigation by The New York Times, Santos’ alleged discrepancies include employers and colleges that have “no record” of him. There’s also no information about his nonprofit animal rescue, and more.

It’s not the first time an elected official or candidate seeking office has been caught deceiving voters about their experience. During her presidential run, Hillary Clinton famously recounted landing in Bosnia under sniper fire, which turned out to be untrue. In Illinois, Mark Kirk, the state’s last GOP U.S. senator, serving one term before being defeated by Democrat Tammy Duckworth in 2016, survived misstatements about his Navy Reserve career in his successful 2010 for the Senate seat.

Louise Kursmark, a nationally based master resume writer and executive career consultant, said that though it’s rare when people feel the need to lie in their resumes it is because they “don’t feel (like they’re) enough.”

“The reason people are tempted to lie on their resume is that they don’t think the genuine things that they have to offer are enough,” Kursmark said.

Kent Redfield, a professor emeritus of political science with the University of Illinois in Springfield, said consequences for lying can be most severe for public officials during the campaign season.

“If you get caught with a significant lie early in the campaign, it could kill your campaign,” Redfield said. “If you end up with significant embellishments but not fabrications, it may or may not have a consequence electorally.”

But for someone who is already elected, Redfield said getting caught fibbing isn’t a clear-cut end. There could be other repercussions, such as getting booted from a committee or being outcast during the reelection cycle. But an elected official is unlikely to be forced from their seat unless they are in legal trouble, such as convicted of a felony, or by way of a formal procedure and vote, he said.

“Lying in and of itself doesn’t have any legal jeopardy attached to it, but I mean, it is morally wrong,” he said. “It could cost you an election if you get found out. It could ruin your political career.”

The consequences are different from those from the corporate world, he said. A manager or boss can find out about a discrepancy in an employee’s qualifications and can decide to fire that person, Redfield said, but human resources and unions could also come into play in the corporate world and potentially offer some sort of protection.

Anguiano, who worked as a recruiter for different companies for more than a decade, said that during granular interviews with some of the job seekers, he would find that some lied about their background and inflated the experience.

“I had to be very diligent and dig into anything that looked ambiguous in a resume because the liability on my end was too much to risk,” Anguiano said.

Marco Garduno, from Chicago’s Lower West Side, said he needed a job right out of high school. But he didn’t have any experience.

“All I knew is that I needed a job but I didn’t want to work in fast food,” he said.

When he learned of the opening at a local clinic for a diabetes health educator, he went online and searched for all the info that then he put onto his resume, he recalls.

“To get the interview, I became the most knowledgeable health educator on paper. I added things to my resume that I didn’t even know, medical terms I couldn’t even pronounce,” he said.

He did not think he would get a call back, but he did.

“The doctor saw right through me,” Garduno said.

But thanks to the potential he exhibited in the interview, he was sent to a yearlong training by the clinic and ended up working there for nine years after that.

“It was to this day one of the most rewarding job experiences in my life,” he said.

But if he had had support and guidance at such a young age?

He would have done it a different way, he said.

©2023 Chicago Tribune. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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