Basically, I’m the stereotypical soon to be grad with not a lot to put onto my resume. Everyone else has internships and awards and whatnot and I generally don’t have those things.

A friend suggested that I could just extend certain summer activities to pretend to cover the entire summer and refer to it as a job. For example, my grandfather and I built a hydroponics greenhouse. His suggestion was that I just claim I built them all summer as part of a startup company.

Another suggestion of his was to issue myself awards and put them on as he “has never had the awards checked.” Claim to have won an essay contest or have been given a scholarship. He is also willing to issue me an award and print off a certificate as proof through the nonprofit he uses to apply for grant money.

His third suggestion was to market truths differently. He refers to the money his parents gave him for school as the [Insert Street Name] Scholarship and lists it as a “full ride for academic excellence.” My parents also gave me money through their company, so I could slap the company name on it and call it a scholarship.

He also suggested the Penelope Trunk article specifically this:

You do not, for example, need permission from Nike to do a social media campaign. You can write a great tweet and link to a page on Nike’s site. Then you can count the retweets. And here’s what it looks like on your resume: Designed and executed a social media campaign for Nike.

In the interview, when you have to talk about what you did, talk about how you decided to drive traffic to that page, and how to quantify success by counting retweets. You’ll sound smart. No one cares if you got paid to be smart once they notice how you sound smart.


Basically, how much of this stuff can I get away with?

I’m looking to join one of the various corporate leadership programs.

  • 3
  • 2
    You are presumably applying for entry level positions, there is no need to make up experience as those positions usually assume you have none outside of your education.
    – sf02
    Commented Feb 19, 2020 at 16:46
  • 1
    You'd get much further ahead in life just by dropping this 'friend'. He never gives good advice!
    – PeteCon
    Commented Feb 19, 2020 at 18:55
  • 2
    Your quoted example is garbage actually. The first thing I'd be doing when that came up would be asking "What did Nike ask for? What were the expectations/etc?". The lie would come out instantly, and I wouldn't even wait for the time to be finished. I'd conclude the interview right there. On a positive side, I will never recommend that site or her advice to anyone, ever. That article contains some of the worst advice I've ever seen. Commented Feb 19, 2020 at 22:37
  • 1
    I review resumes for a living and fluff like the example you listed is really easy to weed out. We're smarter than you think. I'd rather hire an honest person with potential than a liar any day.
    – jcmack
    Commented Feb 20, 2020 at 2:52

5 Answers 5


Do not lie on your résumé.

Your friend is giving you bad advice. There are no "safe" ways to fabricate work experience.

Employers are smarter than you think. Background checks can identify faked experience. And if you lie about having experience and skills, then your inexperience will show in your performance.

Maybe you get the job, but you're not qualified for the responsibilities. The work is too hard and you are unhappy. Your co-workers and employer realize you are incompetent, and you get fired.

Maybe the interviewer suspects that you lied on your resume. They don't hire you, and instead blacklist you, informing other employers that your experience may be faked.

Yes, your friend is lucky. Your friend is also dishonest, unprofessional, and a terrible role model.

Your résumé should accurately represent what skills you offer as a potential employee. If you want a job, but lack prior professional or academic experience, then you'll need a strong argument and evidence for why you're qualified anyway. For example, building grandpa's hydroponics greenhouse could be presented as engineering knowledge and ability to plan projects.

Conversely, if you can't argue why you're qualified, then you shouldn't have that job.


There is a difference between being a salesman and a liar. You need to be the former

Sales people, for a start, don't outright lie. What do they do? They bring the good qualities that are relevant to the buyer to the forefront, and de-emphasise shortcomings as much as is reasonably possible. What you and your CV should be doing is this. Straight-up fabricating details is as bad for business for salesmen as it is for you, and for much the same reasons.

What you should be doing is talking about how, for example, the experience of building a hydroponic greenhouse taught you a lot about hydroponic greenhouses and the intricacies of building one, how it deepened your understanding of how they work. Give it some real thought; the experience probably taught you a lot more than you're aware. Your 'buyers' love people willing to get their hands dirty, willing to learn and to be a team player (you did, after all, make it with your grandad). They don't really care about academic ability so much as a willingness and ability to work hard and see things through, so things like scholarships don't matter as much as your friend thinks. When you have some text that details this, you'll probably have better CV material than your friend's lies.

  • 2
    More general, and more important for most jobs than learning about hydroponics, the OP probably learned something from the grandfather about planning a project and working it to completion. Sell that aspect, combined with teamwork. Commented Feb 19, 2020 at 16:57

First, and most important, remember that the friend who is advising you is a liar. Probably he is truthfully telling you about lies he has told others, but given you are dealing with a liar you should not count on that.

How much you can get away with depends in part on how skilled and practiced you are at lying. It will not just be limited to what you write. Interviewers will use your CV as a conversational starting point, so you will have to fill in details and try to keep it all consistent during interviews. You will need to produce plausible answers to arbitrary questions about your experience, prizes, and scholarships. While making those answers up, you will need to look and sound as though you are just telling the truth.

For example, you may be asked about the management structure of the greenhouse business. Who supervised you? How does it advertise? How many crews does it have? Is it just hydroponics, or do they install other types of greenhouses?

You may be faced with awkward coincidences. What would you say if the interviewer remarks that his wife knows some people who work in Nike's social media operation and asks who your contact was?

Even if you are not caught in a lie, there is a risk you will seem stiff and hesitant, without much enthusiasm for what you have been doing.

On the whole, it would be much safer to look over what you have actually done, or are doing, think about applicability to the jobs for which you are applying, and emphasize those aspects.


how much of this stuff can I get away with?

Likely very little. "Lieing is bad mkay!"

Any HR worth its salt will do a decent background check. Often looking into your social media and your friends social media to see what you where actually doing.

Only ever put things on your resume/cv you actually did. You can exclude time frames from it and keep a list of things you have done. At that point it would be up to the interviewer to ask you how long you did something. They may or may not even ask about time frames. But if they do ask you don't lie. Be honest and confident. Often being likable and confident are a big factor when getting that job.

That said be sure that the skills you include are things you are confident you can accomplish in a work environment. You don't want to suffer from pore performance and get stressed out over it or fired for that matter.


I’ve gone ahead and upvoted your question because though it shows tremendous immaturity, laziness and devious nature, it is worth understanding why it’s a terrible idea. I should probably be downvoted for not heeding, “ Anonymous is a new contributor. Be nice,” but some things need to be said.

Here’s how your question reads:

I have wants but I don’t have any interest in earning them. What’s the most effective way to cheat and steal to trick someone into giving me what I want with minimal effort on my part?

Sadly, you probably could get away with it. And the more your lies work for you, the harder it’s going to be to actually start earning your results. But someday, you’re going to get caught and until you mature into working for what you want you’re going to continue to fall behind.

Your friend reads as a disgusting example of privilege and lack of integrity. "Being born" is not "academic excellence." You and your friend both know it. Try to take an honest view of what your friend suggests. If you were in competition for something you truly deserved but lost it to someone who marketed mommy and daddy’s gifts as accomplishments how would you view that as both the person who lost out and the poor sod who wound up employing them?

Yes, you are at a disadvantage, but you are not without any training. You have your schooling. Focus on that and whatever related accomplishments you have actually had. While you look, start to make up for it by volunteer work or whatever work you can find.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .