Okay, so we all know that lying on your resume is a Bad Idea. But what if you just … fudge some of the details?
Sorry to say, but there’s no amount of lying on your resume that is okay. But what if you’ve already done it? How can you recover from applying (or even getting hired) after lying about employment dates on a resume? And is it ever okay to exaggerate your dates of employment, even just a little?
Keep scrolling for the answers to all those questions — and details about what to do next if you’re worried about your resume.
Why extending employment dates is a bad idea on your resume
The short answer is: Because it’s super easy to get caught. Hiring managers can discover that you’ve fudged your dates of employment when:
- Running a background check
- Speaking to your references
- Calling a past employer (remember that hiring managers can speak to anyone — not just references that you officially provide)
- Verifying details on your resume
- Searching your LinkedIn or other social media accounts
- Talking to mutual contacts
So, assuming you get caught — which you probably will — what are the consequences?
Fudging employment dates on a resume: What are the consequences?
It should go without saying that lying on your resume is the biggest red flag there is. Lying about anything on your resume — even something seemingly inconsequential — can mean that:
- You don’t get the job. This one is fairly obvious — if a hiring manager discovers you lied (or even just fudged the truth a little), that’s an automatic “no.”
- If you already got the job, you could lose it. There’s no statute of limitations on lying on your resume — if your employer finds out about it at any time, that can be grounds for immediate termination.
- It shows employers that you’re dishonest. Even if a company doesn’t fire you, finding out you lied about anything in a professional context will put you on very shaky ground.
- It damages your reputation. This matters more in some fields than others, but regardless, you’ll be burning a bridge with at least one company — and maybe a whole lot more.
- You’ll be ineligible for unemployment benefits. Lying on your resume means that you’ll be fired for cause and won’t be able to collect unemployment.
- You could lose your professional license. If you’re in a licensed profession — like doctors, lawyers, and nurses — there is a chance that any kind of professional misconduct could lead to you losing your license and being unable to practice.
- At worst, you could be facing criminal charges. This is rare but not impossible, especially in heavily regulated industries.
But what if you already lied on your resume? Should you sit back and hope you don’t get caught, or do you need to do something about it?
What to do if you lied about employment dates on your resume
If you’ve already sent off a few resumes with less than completely honest dates on them, the important thing is, don’t panic.
What you need to do after fudging dates on your resume depends on how much you lied. If you only changed one or two details — say, your last position ended in June but you put the end date as July to avoid having a resume gap — you probably don’t need to do anything about it at all. A small discrepancy between your resume and official dates of employment can easily be written off as a mistake and generally won’t be seen as a big deal.
If you fudged employment dates on your resume by more than a couple of weeks — or if you’re worried at all about being caught — you can:
- Update your resume and resend it. This is usually the best option; you can simply say that you caught a small mistake on your resume and wanted to send a corrected version.
- Withdraw your application entirely. This usually won’t be necessary, but if you fudged the dates on your resume by a lot and you don’t think you can explain it away as a mistake, it’s better to withdraw from consideration before you get caught. This is likely to be your best option if you lied about something big — for example, if you made up a whole position that never existed, or claimed you worked somewhere for a couple of years when you were actually fired after two months.
- Tell the truth. If you’ve already made it to the interview stage — or even got the job — and you get asked about it, don’t double down on the lie. Instead, admit to making a mistake and apologize.
What to do instead of extending employment dates on your resume
The good news is, there’s no need to lie about the dates of employment on your resume. If you’re worried about having a resume gap, here’s what to do instead:
- Own it. Most resume gaps really aren’t a big deal — hiring managers aren’t even likely to care if it was less than six months. If you have a longer resume gap, it’s fine to just address it directly in your resume, cover letter, or interview.
- Explain it. If you were laid off for reasons outside your control, including a short note — for example, “due to a company-wide reorganization” — can help allay any concerns about why you left your previous job.
- Fill it. Picking up some short-term, contract, or freelance work, volunteering with a charity or nonprofit organization, completing a short course, or even taking up a personal project can all fill in space on your resume without leaving a gap.
- Reassure yourself by running your resume through a free resume checker. This can help by flagging any areas you need to address or even just reinforcing that your resume is fine as it is — no exaggeration necessary.
- Educate yourself further by reading our detailed guide on how to list gaps on a resume (without making it a big deal).
You can avoid exaggerating or fudging your employment dates by using your freelance or volunteer work to fill any gaps in your resume. Upload your resume to the tool below to check if you've used your temporary work to address any gaps in your resume.
What you can get away with fudging on a resume — and what you can’t
Extending employment dates on a resume isn’t the only thing you shouldn’t lie about. You should never lie about:
- The dates you worked — it’s better to have to explain a resume gap than a lie
- The company you worked for
- Your educational background and credentials
- Professional certifications (especially if they’re legally required for the role)
On the other hand, it isn’t always a bad thing to curate your resume. For example, it’s okay to:
- Spin your experience so that less-relevant experience appears relevant
- Include skills that you’re a little rusty on or still learning but can easily pick up
- Use a different job title instead of or alongside your official job title (within reason — for example, if your actual job title doesn’t accurately reflect what you did)
Frequently asked questions
Do you have to include exact dates of employment on a resume?
Not always! On an application form that specifically asks for that information, yes. On your resume itself, no.
Including just the months — or even years — on your resume is perfectly fine, as long as you aren’t drastically misrepresenting your employment. For example, listing 2017 – 2020 on a job you were at from March 2017 to October 2020 is fine, but listing 2018 – 2019 if you only worked somewhere for a few months from November to January would be a huge misstep.
How common is fudging dates of employment?
32% of job seekers admitted to fudging employment dates on their resume in a recent survey — nearly one-third of applicants! The overwhelming majority of respondents also reported feeling anxious after lying on their resume, worrying that they’d be fired or wouldn’t measure up after getting the job.
Why do people lie about their dates of employment?
The most common reasons for lying about employment dates are:
- To hide a resume gap or period of unemployment
- To leave off a job after being fired
- To appear more qualified or better suited to a role
How far can you stretch employment dates without raising red flags?
Is stretching the truth really the same as lying? Well … yes. If a job application asks for exact dates of employment, it’s best to be as accurate as possible. If you don’t know the exact dates, it’s okay to use the first / last / middle of the month as a placeholder, as long as you do it consistently.