Resume inflation

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Resume inflation is to include false or misleading information on one's resume to make oneself a more attractive candidate for a job. Also referred to as “resume fraud.” Examples include adding degrees or awards one never received or positions one never held. Whether an individual may be liable for resume inflation depends on the jurisdiction. If an individual faces legal liability for inflating their resume, such liability would most likely be predicated on fraud. If an individual is acting within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branches of the federal government, under 18 U.S.C. § 1001, they could be fined or imprisoned if that person “knowingly and willfully . . . makes any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or representation. . .” 

Almost all states have criminal fraud statutes as well, which could potentially be used to prosecute resume inflation. For example, California Penal Code § 532 states that “[e]very person who knowingly and designedly, by any false or fraudulent representation or pretense, defrauds any other person of money, labor, or property, whether real or personal, or who causes or procures others to report falsely of his or her wealth or mercantile character, and by thus imposing upon any person obtains credit, and thereby fraudulently gets possession of money or property, or obtains the labor or service of another, is punishable in the same manner and to the same extent as for larceny of the money or property so obtained.” Washington, in addition to other states, in RCW 9A.60.070 criminalizes the falsification of academic credentials, which may pertain to resume inflation. However, resume fraud may not be used as a defense to discriminatory employment practices. For example, in Moodie v. Federal Reserve Bank, the Southern District of New York did not find that the alleged resume fraud was the actual reason the employer fired the employee, and instead found that it was gender discrimination. Other jurisdictions have also emphasized that courts should be careful to spot whether resume fraud is used to cover up discriminatory employment practices. A California Court of Appeals, in Cooper v. Rykoff-Sexton Inc. illustrates how courts approach the issue, in stating that “[a]lthough résumé fraud is a serious social problem, so is termination of employment in violation of anti-discrimination laws or in breach of contract.” 

[Last updated in April of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team