I know that claiming to have a degree that you don't have would be too much, and bring me into legal trouble, beyond being fired.

But can I get away with following stuff?

  • I did French at school, never used it, it's rusty, but I have a certificate that claims I am proficient. Should I disclose that my French is not much more than 'pardon' and 'mademoiselle'?

  • I have being working for a company every now and then for two year, do I put '2010-2011' or the concrete dates (which are many)?

  • I went for a couple of courses at a prestigious college A, but got a degree from college B. Can I put 'Attended college A and college B'?

  • Where do you live? I know this may seem normal in some cultures, however it could reflect very negatively on you in many other professional environments. I personally would not recommend it.
    – Rachel
    Mar 28 '14 at 20:32
  • 2
    I'd be careful. For instance, re the first bullet: if knowing French is important to the position, they might just do part of the interview in French, and you'd have a problem. (If knowing French is not important, why would you lie about it? Better list "I'm active on SE" if you want to sound interesting.) Mar 28 '14 at 20:39
  • Even mademoiselle is spelled incorrectly ;-)
    – user8036
    Mar 28 '14 at 21:38
  • @JoeStrazzere: no, it was not that extreme. It was more several weeks part time, then maybe 1 month nothing, then 2 weeks full-time. But no, I was not a 'regular', but they could count on me when they had extra work. Mar 29 '14 at 0:52
  • @JoeStrazzere: I expect the company to say that I started to work there 2010 and worked up to 2011, in (really many) short and long stints of time. Should I break it down in maybe 40 shorter dates? I'd need a page for that. Mar 29 '14 at 0:59

There's an old rule in sales that goes:

You don't have to tell the client everything that's true, but everything you tell them has to be true.

Applying for job is sort of like sales with yourself as the product, so you can apply this here.

What does this mean?

I'll take your example:

  • You have a certificate saying you're proficient in french. Stating you have this certificate and what it says is the truth, claiming you were actually proficient, not so much. So stick with the first part but don't claim the last.
  • You've occasionally been working for a company in '10 and '11? Mention the years but don't give dates. Concrete dates suggest way more continuity than there was, so you would cross the line to lying. Sticking to just the years will keep you on the side of truth.
  • With your colleges and degree, you can mention that you attended both colleges and that you have a degree. Don't put it so close together as to make an obvious connection between the college and degree, that way people can draw the connections that they want to see.

Psychology tells us that people tend to fill holes in stories and draw connections in their mind (papers use this principle - proximity - a lot). Putting statements in proximity to one another without making a clear connection, promts people to find those connections on their own. Knowing this you can take it to your advantage while avoiding actually lying.

  • 2
    I like this answer and the quote, but I just want to add that if you are asked about anything on your CV, be honest. Its one thing to omit the negative parts on paper, but another to lie when asked directly about it. For example, if asked about your French certificate, be honest that you are not really that proficient in French. Most interviews are all about your likability anyways, and many people don't like being lied to, and can tell when you're trying to avoid answering a question directly.
    – Rachel
    Mar 28 '14 at 21:10

I will try my best at this.

I did French at school, never used it, it's rusty, but I have a certificate that claims I am proficient. Should I disclose that my French is not much more than 'pardon' and 'madmoiseille'?

Are you going to be utilizing French in this position? Does your experiences lack so much that you need to fill out your resume? If so, possibly. I would explain that it is a 'Working Knowledge' of the fundamentals of French but it has been x years since utilizing French. The fact that you have to explain this though will look bad if confronted regarding it.

I have being working for a company every now and then for two year, do I put '2010-2011' or the concrete dates (which are many)?

I have been in this exact situation. I would list it as 1 block and break it down into multiple dates if possible or put something along the lines of "on an as needed basis".

I went for a couple of courses at a prestigious college A, but got a degree from college B. Can I put 'Attended college A and college B'?

Well, this can be viewed from 2 different ways in my eyes. Essentially, listing the college and a transfer of credits can be viewed as you couldn't handle the better college and went to an easier one or you were at least intelligent enough to get into the better college. I would try and avoid this situation personally but it really depends on the field you are going into and how important a degree and the particular school will be.

Generally speaking, avoid half truths because if the hiring manager suspects something fishy and confirms their thoughts, you are out of a job because of something that may not have mattered at all to begin with. Practice your interviewing skills and focus on the portions of your skill set that actually matters for the position.

  • 2
    I completely agree about the 2 colleges. Were it me I would rather just list the college I got my degree from unless the classes I attended at A were special classes that carry prestige on their own. For instance Studied at Cal Tech with Carl Sagan or MIT with Steven Hawking. Mar 28 '14 at 20:48

As with all things, it depends...

If you're going to put something on your resume, it should be something that would be helpful for the position you're applying for and that you'd be comfortable answering questions about in an interview. It would only make sense to list a certificate claiming that you're proficient in French unless you're applying to a job where that would be a qualification and you're prepared to answer questions about your French proficiency in the interview. It sounds like that isn't the case here so it wouldn't make sense to list it.

What does "every now and then" mean? It's reasonable to list one date range (I'd include months unless you're listing a 20-year period at one company) if you've had more or less the same relationship with the company over that range (i.e. you're picking up a shift or two every couple weeks while staying on the company books as an employee the whole time or you're doing contract work under the same basic terms as work comes up). If you were a holiday worker for a couple months, you were no longer an employee for a number of months, and then you were a temporary worker again, you'd want to list multiple date ranges. The litmus test here is going to be whether the employer will back up your date range when someone calls to check references.

It's fine to mention that you attended A. You'll need to indicate that your degree is from B, however.


The easy way to judge these things for yourself is to imagine that everything you do or say will appear on the cover of The New York Times, above the fold, tomorrow. What will you want people to know about you?

You have a certificate of proficiency in French from some years ago, but these days you're rusty? Surely there is something true, relevant and interesting about you, that you'd prefer to use that bandwidth to convey? You don't speak French these days. Why bring it up?

You've been working part time, on and off, for two years, many individual dates. A cool part of your career. More than one line of dates is more than your audience wants. Summarize time frame in 80 characters or less. I moonlighted nights and weekends for a friend, assisting a senior engineer with a relational database of nuclear power-plant residual radiation. I entered and scrubbed data. That's how I list it.

For college, list "B" and your degree first. Its the school you graduated from. Add a line about the the classes you took at school "A" if its interesting and relevant to a particular job. School work has a half-life shorter than how long you were there. If you have a 4 year degree, its half as interesting after 2-4 years in industry, a quarter as interesting after 4-8 years, one eighth as interesting after 6 to 12 years.

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