Australian law news

Australian Job Hunters: Is It Illegal To Lie On Your Résumé?

In an increasingly competitive marketplace, a strong résumé is one of the most important weapons you need in the fight to find a new job. Unfortunately, according to one study, a recruitment consultant will take no more than seven seconds to read your résumé and decide if he or she wants to interview you. As such, it's hardly surprising that some candidates decide to embellish the truth. Nonetheless, if you decide to fake your résumé, you could find yourself on the wrong side of the law. Find out why.

The lies candidates tell

In a 2014 survey, 58 percent of hiring managers said they had spotted résumé exaggerations or lies, and one in three said the problem had become more common since the recession. In some industries, the problem is more serious. For example, 73 percent of hiring managers in the financial services sector said they had spotted problems.

Common résumé lies include:

  • Faked educational qualifications
  • Misleading language proficiency
  • Exaggerated experience
  • Disguised employment gaps

In some cases, candidates can make innocent mistakes. For example, it's easy to get your employment dates slightly wrong. Nonetheless, many of these lies are serious attempts to mislead a recruiter. Nowadays, if you decide to take that approach, you could face legal consequences.

What the law says

Exaggerated or misleading résumés are hardly a new problem, but Australian courts are starting to take a more serious view on this issue. Technically, if you falsely try to persuade an employer that you have certain skills or experience, you are committing an act of fraud.

For example, in New South Wales, a court may find you guilty of fraud if a lawyer can prove:

  • You acted dishonestly
  • The act allowed you to obtain someone else's property, gave you a financial advantage or caused somebody else a financial disadvantage
  • You were reckless or intentionally dishonest

When it comes to résumé fraud, these three conditions could easily apply. For example, assume you state on your résumé that you can speak French. It's dishonest to say you can speak French when you know you can't. You may get a job you can't do, which could then put the employer and other candidates at a financial disadvantage. It doesn't take a strong imagination to see how somebody could decide to prosecute you for fraud.

The likelihood somebody will prosecute you

Some candidates may rely on the belief that nobody will take any action, but that isn't necessarily true, particularly if you apply for a senior role. In one Victorian case, one man applied for a $400,000 job he couldn't do with a major retailer. When the retailer found out, they sacked the man and reported him to the police. The man ultimately faced nine counts of fraud. In states like NSW, you could face up to ten years in prison for this type of fraud, especially if the case goes to the District Court.

Some states have also introduced new penalties that specifically target this type of fraud. For example, in Western Australia, regulations allow local authorities to hit fraudsters with a $5,000 fine for any misleading information they submit as part of a job application.

Of course, a lawyer can help you fight these charges to make any penalties less severe. For example, if your lawyer can persuade the prosecution to keep the case in the Local Court, the top prison sentence for fraud drops to two years. Prosecutors will also need strong evidence you deliberately lied, and lawyers can often persuade major businesses to drop any charges.

That aside, résumé fraud is risky, and serious deception could land you in trouble with the law. In all cases, a lawyer will warn you that the best course of action is simply to tell the truth when you apply for a job.