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Lessons from Ben Carson about Stretching the Truth on a Resume

A few months ago, the Ben Carson campaign appeared to be taking the Republican primary contest by storm, but then something went wrong. News surfaced that the accomplished neurosurgeon had lied about receiving a full scholarship offer to West Point in his autobiography and in numerous past public speaking engagements. The misstatement not only monopolized headlines, it triggered a snowball effect that motivated journalists to question the accuracy of many of Carson's other claims. Did he or didn't he graduate from West Point? Did he once try to stab somebody, or not? What has he actually been up to doing the course of his career? And do these activities and accomplishments suggest a successful tenure as the President of the United States? Those who once answered yes are now changing their minds, and there are a few lessons we can all learn from this turn of events. Keep these in mind if you're ever tempted to exaggerate or "adjust" the details of your own resume.

Even the smallest fibs can damage your credibility.

Rounding up your GPA, overstating the revenue you raised for the company, or fudging your employment dates may not seem like a big deal. Who cares about these things in the long run? Why would a busy hiring manager split hairs over such small matters? Because small matters easily extrapolate into big matters, that's why. If your resume invites small questions and doubts, most managers will decide then and there you can't be trusted with larger concerns, and your candidacy may end on the spot.

Lies are made of air and noise, even if you yourself believe them.

If you've completed a certain task before, you'll have a stronger grip on it when you endeavor to do it again. Experience strengthens expertise. This is a simple statement of fact, and your potential employers have a right to ask if you have or haven't exercised a certain skill set at some point in your past.  You may think it looks easy, you may think it will come naturally once you take the wheel for the first time, or may think you've nailed down the basics by watching others. But if you haven't done it, you haven't done it. You'll do yourself and your employer no favors by inventing a grey area where none exists.

Getting caught is embarrassing.

For most people, getting caught in a lie can be one of the most humiliating experiences that life has to offer (depending on the circumstances). If you think you have what it takes to shrug off the pain of this cringe-inducing scene, feel free to take the risk. But know what you'll do and how you'll react if you're caught. Most of us (excepting sociopaths) react the same way when we're called out on our lies: we fervently wish for a time machine so we could rewind the clock and make different choices.

Resume lies will stay on the books.

Most employers will keep your resume on file after you're hired, and if your fabrications are discovered, even years down the road, this may result in immediate termination. You may not want to live with this possibility hanging constantly over your head.

The truth will make you happier in the long run.

Be comfortable in your own skin. Be proud of what you've done and be honest and forthcoming with others. This doesn't just serve the greater social good: it also protects the quality of your own life. You have nothing to hide, and if you respect yourself and those around you, the same respect will come back to you in return. A steady, honest career climb will take you father than a high and wobbly tower of lies. — For more on how to create a resume that accurately reflects who you are and what you've done, use the tools available on MyPerfectResume.

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