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We all stretch the truth from time to time but adding a few little white lies to your resume is very risky.

No matter how many anecdotes you’ve heard from people who claim to have gotten away with inventing their professional or academic past, there is a strong chance you’ll get caught.

We all know people who have extended the date of when they actually left an employer to cover up the fact he or she bummed around for a couple of months. And in a job interview, many of us have bumped up our pay rate when asked: ‘What’s your current salary?’

Yes, privacy laws make it more difficult than ever for a hiring manager to probe a job candidate’s work history. It’s also true that many line managers and even junior HR people are often lax when checking out a resume. On the other hand, recruitment firms leave no stone unturned in checking candidates out thoroughly – they’re reputations depend on it.

Playing with the facts when it comes to job title, responsibilities and key achievements is playing with fire and you could get burnt – very badly.

Just last week a senior Sydney executive with a proven work track record was exposed for making up a string of academic qualifications on his resume, including a PhD.

The fiasco cost Glen Oakley a $237,000 a year job and made him a public figure for all the wrong reasons. Interestingly, it was a recruitment firm that uncovered the ruse.

In many cases, the lying is unnecessary. Extended holidays or even leaving a job because it was not right for you should not be the end of the world and can be explained. Getting caught out in a lie cannot be explained, particularly to a hiring manager or recruitment consultant who hardly knows you.

I remember interviewing an impressive young candidate who told me he was a graduate of a training program run by a well-known media company. He provided a referee who was on leave when I called. It transpired the referee was actually a former colleague so I was put through to the manager who ran the department.