Multiple market pressures and negative perceptions are fueling the growing trend toward dishonesty.
Authenticity–that is, truthfulness or showing who you really are–is more important in business than ever. That’s because, setting aside the customer demand for good ethics for a moment, business leaders want a realistic picture of whether the people they hire are going to fit well into the company culture and vision. But according to findings from the 2017 State of the Skills Gap Report from online learning center Udemy, many job applicants are leaving hiring managers wanting by lying on their resumes, LinkedIn profiles or during interviews.
Who are the biggest liars?
Udemy found that men are more likely to lie on resumes than women are. Younger workers–that is, Millennials and Gen Zers–also fudge the truth with higher frequency compared to other generations.
You can start to get a picture of why men and younger workers paint their own picture of reality when you look at their honesty rates in conjunction with other data in the report. People from within these groups are more likely to have lower expectations about their careers and being happy at work, see limitations about jobs based on geography and feel personally affected by the skills gap. Men are also more likely than women to see the U.S. job market as competitive or highly competitive (71 versus 61 percent, respectively).
Darren Shimkus, Udemy for Business GM, says some of the negativity among men might tie back to other workplace trends. Automation is affecting manufacturing jobs heavily, for example, and manufacturing jobs traditionally have gone to men. And at the same time, some industries that traditionally have favored women, such as nursing, are experiencing growth.
Younger workers, Shimkus asserts, are more worried about rapid changes in the workplace and what jobs of the future will require. The fact Millennials face an unemployment rate three times as high as the national average (12.8 percent versus 4.2 percent) doesn’t help.
“Younger generations are starting to realize a college degree won’t carry them as far as it used to,” Shimkus says, “and they’re less optimistic about their career prospects.”
And employers might be making the problem worse. Shelly Osborne, Head of Learning and Development at Udemy, says business leaders are unnecessarily eliminating great candidates through their evaluation practices. In particular, the focus on whether a candidate has graduated from an elite university or has very specific prior experience doing similar work in the same industry is problematic. She speculates that this focus might spur candidates to tweak the truth to try to fit the exact profile a company wants.
“We have countless stories at Udemy where students have learned programming or app development on their own,” Osborne explains. “They may not have a computer science degree, but they’re capable, hard-working, and, moreover, they’ve already shown they’re motivated to learn and grow their skills. When employers put more weight on qualifications like having a capacity for learning and strong soft skills, maybe applicants won’t feel tempted to lie just to get that first screening call.”
While the job market and employer behaviors likely are two big pieces of the puzzle, other factors might be contributing to some degree, too. For example, men might be lying more in part because they traditionally have enjoyed power within businesses. They might feel like the role of authority protects them to some degree if they’re not completely honest.
How to weed out the dishonesty
Echoing Osborne’s sentiments, Shimkus says that a key component for getting applicants to approach resumes with more honesty is to expand data to include non-traditional learning, including volunteer work for non-profit organizations.
“List your online courses, bootcamps, workshops, continuing ed programs and anything else you do to maintain your skill set. Then, put those skills to use in the real world so you can “show what you know”. If it’s not something that’s already part of your current job, create a project for yourself. […] I think it’s completely legitimate to explain how you’ve used your skills outside a strict work situation, but you can’t speak in generalities. You need to be very specific about how you solved a problem and produced a certain outcome […].”
Perhaps technology has our backs
Regardless of what the root causes for resume “improvement” are or how you encourage truth, it might be that you soon won’t be able to hide reality even if you want to. Companies like Unilever and Frrole (DeepSense) already are using artificial intelligence to screen not just application information, but also social and other online data. This allows hiring managers to get a more holistic view of what you’re like and can do. And in fact, the success of these techniques in trials, combined with a stress on other, more modern hiring methods, has led some experts to declare that the resume is dying, if not already dead. So in the end, we might need to ask what we can do to foster better honesty everywhere. That’s a completely different fish to fry.
By Wanda Thibodeaux