Kemi Adisa: Don’t pad your resume, tailor it! (Y! Superblogger)

Perhaps it is time to make a mental shift and start thinking about our careers as a portrait of who we are professionally, and not just as a job.

It starts as a little white lie, you often tell yourself “there is no harm in it, besides everyone is doing it…..and employers rarely check or take notice”. You build on the assumption that no one will ever find out until it gets to a point where everything starts to unravel!!!

As a recruiter, I am often amazed at how often people cheat on their resumes, especially when they have been searching for a job for years. Typically, the education and experience sections are “heavily padded”, mostly because they are under the impression that if they lack the educational requirements or the experience described in the job description, they won’t be considered as serious candidates.

By and large, job seekers who have faced major setbacks in their professional life – layoffs, company closures; long spells of employment gaps, etc., often resort to exaggerating their skills and experiences on their resume. Examples include inflated titles; inaccurate dates to cover up job hopping or gaps of employment; inflated education or “purchased” degrees that do not mean anything; inflated accomplishments; outright lies with regards to specific roles and duties, etc.  On the other hand, most employers having realised that “resume padding” is on the increase now take much more care in verifying information, and as such, it is becoming increasingly difficult to mislead them. The good news, however, is that lying isn’t necessary if the resume is well-written and strategically organized.

As children we are thought that lying or cheating is bad and that more importantly, you will get caught; yet, most of us can’t seem to help ourselves.  Take the recent sack of Scott Thompson from Yahoo, as CEO as an example. He was fired after just four months, when it was discovered that he padded his resume with an overstated (exaggerated) college degree. In his published Yahoo biography — including the one in the company’s latest annual report, a legal document that CEOs must personally attest to its veracity — Thompson claimed that he held a bachelor’s degree in both Accounting and Computer Science from Stonehill College in the US. The reality however, is that his degree was actually in Accounting only.

The moral of the story is: don’t do it! Lying can be described as “the deliberate act of deviating from the truth.” Most moral and religious codes are in agreement that telling lies is wrong. From an Islamic perspective, lying is regarded as a sin of the tongue. In general, Islam prohibits lying and related acts such as deception, fraud, hypocrisy and providing false testimony.  The Qur’an says “It is only those who believe not in the Ayah (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) of Allah, who fabricate falsehood, and it is they who are liars.” (16:105).

Accordingly, the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) also advised Muslims to be honest and truthful.  He admonishes us “Maintain truthfulness, for truthfulness leads to righteousness, and righteousness leads to Heaven. A man continues to maintain truthfulness until he is recorded in Allah’s book as truthful. Refrain from lying, because lying leads to blatant evil, and evil leads to the fire. A man continues to lie until he is recorded in Allah’s book as a liar,” (Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawood and Al-Tirmithi).

People lie on their resume to cover up or enhance information in hopes of “getting that interview”. Perhaps it is time to make a mental shift and start thinking about our careers as a portrait of who we are professionally, and not just as a job. The trick to obtaining the job you desire is making the most of what you have to offer and think of your resume as a marketing tool – it should showcase your experience and qualifications in the most concise and relevant way possible. But that doesn’t mean you should lie. In fact, fabricating information is unnecessary.

Whilst there is a thin line between padding and tailoring your resume, try to abide by the following golden rules when writing your resume:

Do NOT change your dates of employment.

Regardless of the status of your employment or the duration, do not fiddle with the dates of your employment. Companies keep records of their employees and this can be referenced at any time.

You CAN, to a limited degree, change the titles on your resume.

If you work with a company that uses odd job titles, it is acceptable to use an equivalent title that most people would recognize. For example, a Call Centre Executive can be replaced with Call Centre Representative. However this does not mean it is acceptable to pad your job title to imply you had more responsibility that you actually did. You cannot turn yourself from a Team Coordinator to a Team Lead. Similarly, you cannot claim to have worked in Marketing if you were in the Admin department.

Do NOT pad your academic credentials.

If you graduated with a third-class grade , say so. Do not revise your degree to a second-class upper. A professional development course at the university is not the same thing as an actual academic qualification and should not be treated as such. Similarly, you cannot change your degree from Chemistry to Business Administration; that is as serious a crime as inventing a degree, because that’s what you’re essentially doing.

You CAN leave out irrelevant qualifications.

You don’t have to list your nursery and primary school education on your resume. It is assumed that to obtain a Secondary school qualification, you must have met the prerequisites.

Do NOT omit experience with companies that have gone under.

Some candidates feel that they can take major liberties with their resumes when they do not include work experience with companies they have worked with, that no longer exist. However, with social media and increased access to information, potential employers can talk to people who worked at your long-gone company and verify your story.


The challenge however remains: how do you express your accomplishments in a persuasive manner such that the hiring organization gives you a call?  A common mistake is the one size fits all resume, wherein people inflate their education and experience.  Rather, a resume should be tailored to suit the role in question. When dealing with hiring organizations you have to connect all the dots.

Note, that for each position that you are applying, there is an average of 500 other applicants, as such, you have to make it very easy for the recruiter to distinguish between you and other qualified candidates. If you think your resume needs some finesse, do something about it — the right way. Take a class, find opportunities to gain the skills or experience you’re missing – work for free or on weekends if you have to. If Thompson (ex-Yahoo CEO) felt he needed to add a computer science degree to his resume, he should have taken classes. It’s never too late to gain more education.

I would love to hear your comments on this post.

Please join the conversation.


Kemi Adisa is a HR professional based in Lagos, Nigeria. She blogs about faith, lifestyle, career and self development at and tweets from @MuslimasArena


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

One comment

  1. In my opinion, taking jobs to build up your resume is pretty much the same as saving up sex for old age.

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