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Is résumé padding wrong?

Two contributors debate the moral permissibility of exaggerating professional achievements
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Debate Club is a column that pits writers head-to-head on questions that matter to students. Though it lacks the shaky knees and microphone feedback screeches that typically accompany any oratory competition, rest assured that Debate Club is not for the faint of heart.

Resolution: “Be it resolved that résumé padding is wrong.”

In favour: Adina Heisler, second-year English and Women and Gender Studies student at University College

Against: Ross Johnston, second-year Political Science and Indigenous Studies student at University College

AH: Any undergrad facing the job market will know it is a terrifying and competitive place. Even the expectations placed on people searching for internships and entry-level positions are much higher than what they used to be. All in all, it can be difficult to keep up, and the result is that — between two similarly qualified candidates — one might get hired while being dishonest on their résumé.

There are a number of reasons why résumé padding is a bad idea. Not only is it patently unfair to obtain a position based on false qualifications, but lying to a potential employer may mean problems down the line if the job candidate can’t actually perform the duties required. The temptation to lie is understandable, but the end result is undesirable. When faced with a pool of seemingly overqualified candidates, employers’ expectations may become even more unreasonable, prompting more lying and the continuation of the cycle.

RJ: It seems unfair to say that people need to be completely honest on their résumés when employers are constantly embellishing the employment positions they have available. Companies do this as a means to attract overqualified applicants, and you only have to look so far as a job’s title to see this firsthand.

For example, one posting on a popular job hunting website is titled “Customer Service Executive.” Though the word “Executive” brings to mind the prospect of leading a team, coordinating co-workers, and potentially being the head of a department, in reality this position appears to be a bottom-of-the-barrel telemarketing and customer relations position for a discount hotel booking site. Why should we be so worried about being so truthful on our résumés when employers are not asked to do the same?

A dishonest employer is a symptom of a broken job market, where, due to a limited amount of available work, employers hold much more power over their employees then they ought to. But two wrongs don’t make a right, and an employer’s potential dishonesty does not make inflating your own accomplishments any more justifiable. Besides, most people are able to see through such ruses if they bother to read more of the job description beyond the title.

RJ: Though it may be the principled thing to do, considering the current state of the job market, it is unreasonable to expect most people to reduce their already pitiful chances at employment for the sake of honesty. With so few opportunities to expand one’s own résumé, there is little reason why someone would refrain from milking the opportunities they have held in the past, even if doing so involves a bit of exaggeration.

There’s little harm in changing “My minimum wage customer service job taught me that most people are horrible and often unreasonable” to something more employer-friendly, like, “As a customer experience consultant, I developed skills in conflict-resolution and learned to understand diverse customer needs.” If anything, putting a positive spin on an otherwise menial job is a skill in itself that employers may value.

AH: I’ll concede that such small changes are not much of a problem — but that’s not really outright lying, it’s just reframing the description to seem more employer-friendly. The real issue is when people just make things up. If I have never worked in customer service, but my résumé indicates otherwise, that’s a problem —  and I could get into serious trouble if I am hired without having all of the required skills.

This is not to mention that being hired based on false qualifications may take opportunities away from people who appear less qualified on the surface, but in fact are much more suited to the job.

RJ: Employers are easily able to weed out applicants who can’t perform the tasks they need using interviews, skills tests, and probation periods. Any employer that naïvely hires based on a résumé alone deserves every bad hire that comes their way. For many, a résumé is just a way to get a foot in the door, providing an opportunity to prove their worth later on. We should not punish people who are motivated to work and gain experience just because they do not yet have this experience on their records.

Granted, some positions mandate past experience, but others can be fulfilled by any hard worker through the employer’s training, regardless of the so-called ‘mandatory’ qualifications. A candidate that initially embellishes their résumé for the purpose of catching an employer’s eye may turn out to be the best worker in the long run.

Who won?

The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth
A little embellishment never hurt anyone

Poll Maker