We’ve all been at that point — you’re working on your résumé and you’re stuck. Maybe a company is looking for someone who’s bilingual, and you completed two semesters of Spanish. So surely no one will care if you enhance your experiences, right? Wrong. Anything that you enhance, expand or elaborate is still a lie and is what PRSA calls a phantom experience. Putting a phantom experience on your résumé will come back to bite you. Here are a few reasons why:
You’re lying to the client. You would never lie to a client’s face, but lying about your past experiences and skills does directly impact them. Once a company hires you and it utilizes your phantom experience in its materials, said materials become tainted. Any materials produced that are even slightly associated with the phantom experience are now bogus. These materials could call your employer’s legitimacy into question and shake the company’s reputation for years to come.
You’re setting yourself up for failure. Once an employer is aware of a phantom experience, it becomes part of how he or she views you. When you embellish or enhance the truth, you’re inflating yourself. An employer now has higher expectations and may assign you tasks and projects based on this false information. Chances are, you won’t be able to live up to the expectations you falsely set for yourself.
Your lie will be uncovered. We live in a digital age, which makes it virtually impossible to live completely in private. All of your personal information is woven into your online profiles, and it only takes a few questions to cause it to unravel. Your job description easily could be double-checked by contacting a previous employer, or conducting a content analysis could prove the success of a campaign you worked on. Once doubt creeps in, it only takes a few minutes of research and a phone call for a recruiter to shed light on the truth of your phantom experience.
Is lying really worth it? Stop comparing your experiences to others and focus on yourself. Employers want to see the best version of you, not a version filled with fabrications and embellishments that turn you into a different person. At the end of the day, all you have is your word.
Visit the PRSA website to learn more on the phantom experience, and other Professional Standards Advisories.
Where do you draw the line between lying and enhancing?
Victoria Lewis is a public relations major at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., and serves as the executive director of Tower Creative Consultants, Belmont’s student-run firm. You can follow her on Twitter @VictoriaKLewis.