Resume White Lies

Did you know that by stating something vague, like “great communication skills,” is seen as a lie on your resume? Business Management Daily posted an article about the most common lies on a resume and how Human Resource people can “smoke out lies in a resume.”  CHECK OUT THE ARTICLE HERE

Most Common Little White Lies

The article states that “applicants lie most about their education, followed by their reasons for leaving past jobs, salary, job titles, scope of duties and criminal records.” I was once told a story by a coworker about a friend who lied on her resume and got caught.  The friend thought that her little white lie that stated she came in 1st place at a national competition versus her true 2nd place wouldn’t be a big deal, and that 1st place looked better.  Well, she was caught because one of the people who interviewed her happened to be the father of the 1st place winner.  What are the odds?!  Regardless, honesty is ALWAYS the best policy when it comes to resumes.

Human Resource Managers can also spot little white lies because of vague statements. The article suggested that these vague statements are actually a way to hide flaws of the candidate.  These are the top 10 vague statements used on resumes:

  1. Communication skills – 12.6%
  2. Team player – 7.2%
  3. Organizational skills – 5.5%
  4. Interpersonal skills – 4.8%
  5. Driven – 4.3%
  6. Detail-oriented – 4.2%
  7. Results-oriented – 3.8%
  8. Self-motivated – 3.8%
  9. Problem-solver – 3.2%
  10. Highly motivated – 3.2%

My Suggestions

When I see these vague statements on a resume, I usually suggest students to move it to the cover letter and support the claim with examples.  It’s hard to provide general examples on a resume when it’s intended to be focused on concrete specific skills that you possess.  That’s why placing the information in a cover letter and then providing examples is a good way to tell the employer that you are self-motivated without their eyebrows raising and thinking that you’re feeding them a lie.

If one of your examples is something concrete like how you used those skills with a project in a class, campus organization, or at an internship, then add these to your resume. For example:

Bad resume statement: Detail-oriented worker
Good resume statement: Edited the newsletter for the Biology Club while working on a time-conscious deadline for 4 semesters.
Good resume statement: Initiated and wrote a community resource book for case managers to provide to families and other clients.

Notice how the good resume statements still tell about the person’s ability to be detail-oriented and self-motivated but didn’t have to use those words to convey the full meaning.  And, as always, have your resume critiqued by a career counselor or trusted friend. Critiques are good because they can provide needed insight and alternatives that you may not have considered.


Karen is a Career Counselor and Internship Coordinator at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW). At IPFW she assists students in finding internships, coordinates and assists with campus-wide events, teaches a Career Planning course, and meets with students to assist them with all aspects of career development. Connect with Karen via LinkedIn or Twitter.

Related posts:

  1. The Graduate Student Brand, Part 1: CV or Resume?
  2. What if Your Resume Was A Car?
  3. One Resume Does Not Fit All

2 Responses to “Resume White Lies”

  1. [...] It has a lot of great resources, don’t be scared off by the spammy-looking design. Check out: 5 Things I Wish I’d Done During My Final Year of College and Resume White Lies. [...]

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