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I padded my résumé because I wanted to write experience commensurate with my (real) skill level (and years of effort which can't be directly documented). The bright-line I used to justify this was, "Can I own these skills in an interview, and can I deliver on the job?" The answer to both of these questions is yes, but I still feel terrible about it.
I've given this résumé to a single recruiter, who asked me to make some minor modifications, and said he would not submit my résumé his client(s) until I had updated it. So, this is my last chance to recover. He seems like a stand-up guy, and I'd like to continue working with him. Is it possible to correct my mistake without losing his trust?
The extent of the damage is this: I worked for a small company as a contractor in two stints, 3 months and 8 months, respectively, with a gap in between. On my résumé, I combined the two, which about triples the amount of time I worked there (from ~1 years to 3 years). I also padded one of the "X years of experience in skill Y" to be consistent with this. That skill is critical for the particular job I'm applying for, so trimming it back down would hurt, but there are other open positions which would not need it particularly.
This is the biggest (and almost the only) piece on my resume, so chucking the whole bit isn't an option. I'm looking for an entry-level position, so I'm not afraid of getting caught right away, but I will lose sleep over it for a long time, and be very nervous whenever I'm up for promotion.
Please understand that I have not lied about my skill level; just my "formal" work experience. In performance, I compare very well to others in the field, even in positions one or two levels higher than entry-level. (It's very frustrating to try to convey that on-paper). My estimate is rough, but also conservative: I just don't have a very long track-record, because often-times I had no (immediate) need to keep track.
Regardless, its really not worth spending the next two years at a new job loathing myself because of a single act of desperation! What I should have realized earlier is this: I can put together 2-3 strong portfolio pieces in 3-6 months that really do convey my aptitude; but I can't undo the damage that's done, and if I proceed along this course, it will only get worse and more risky to confess.
How should I present this to the recruiter, and salvage our relationship? His agency is national, and he's probably well respected by employers throughout my city: If he tells his clients about what I've done, it could end my chances of getting a local job, and perhaps many jobs out-of-state. Should I just walk away from this recruiter ("Hey, I'm sorry, I'm not interested anymore"), and burn the relationship (never use his services again)?
NB: Please forgo anecdotes of bad experiences with recruiters; at this point, I am at his mercy whatever I choose to do. (Continuing to deceive is not really an option for me.)
Thank you for reading this long post!