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Ask the Headhunter: I didn’t go to college. Should I lie on my resume?

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979 and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community.

In this special Making Sen$e edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.


Question: In the case of a successful manager, how important is a college degree to a headhunter? I don’t have a degree. With so much emphasis on education nowadays, should I fabricate the truth on my resume or completely eliminate the education section entirely? If I were to stretch the truth and include a degree on my resume, how often at my level of achievement does a search firm investigate?

Nick Corcodilos: I’m really worried about you. Just what kind of achievement is it to lie about your credentials? Can a successful manager believe it’s smart to even consider fabricating a degree?

Don’t lie and don’t stretch the truth. There’s an entire background-check industry ready to expose you. If you lie about a degree, you will probably get caught. It could cost you an offer. Worse, because some of these background checks take time, the truth might not turn up until after you’ve been hired – then you’ll lose your new job.

If you think it’s bad to get caught by your employer, consider that once the headhunter finds out you lied, your name will be mud all over your industry. Even white lies on your resume can come back to bite you.

Some people say, “Aw, everybody does it. Companies expect some inflation in a resume.” How much do you want to bet? Your career? Your reputation? Let me remind you: Your integrity is everything. Protect it.

Now for the good news. Not all management jobs require a degree, and many companies will place more value on your abilities and experience. Have a good (honest) story to tell, outstanding references, and be candid with the headhunter. You can even ask the headhunter for guidance.

If in the final analysis the lack of a degree continues to pose a problem, then earn one. With all the good distance-learning schools out there nowadays, you will likely be able to skip right over some courses by testing out of them. Your experience will count for a lot toward the degree. Check with your state’s department of education for a list of accredited distance schools.

For more tips about how to land a great job without a degree, see “No College Degree, No Problem.”

Dear Readers: Have you ever fudged your credentials when applying for a job? Did you get caught? How would you advise this reader?


Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps,” “How Can I Change Careers?” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

Copyright © 2018 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

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