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Envy Often Drives Résumé Lies

Envy Often Drives Résumé Lies
Credit: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

When job search efforts drag on, unemployed job seekers often become jealous of their peers who have found jobs. That envy is what often drives those looking for work to embellish their résumés, found a study recently published in the Academy of Management Journal.

"Job-search envy has the potential to produce negative or positive reactions," Brian Dineen, the study's co-author and an associate professor at Purdue University in Indiana, said in a statement. "We propose the envious reactions of job seekers can be negative in the form of résumé fraud, but can also be positive in the form of greater job-search effort."

For the study, researchers conducted two separate surveys. For the first one, researchers surveyed 335 unemployed job seekers and found that when job seekers compared their search efforts to those of others looking for work, they were more likely to intentionally embellish or fabricate information on their résumé to keep up. [Résumé Lies Catch Up With Job Applicants ]

"Envy resulted in résumé fraud to a greater extent after a longer search, while it resulted in greater job-search effort during a shorter search," Dineen said.  

A second survey, of 49 graduate students searching for work, revealed similar results. The study's authors found that envy led to greater résumé fraud during the later portion of people's job search phase, with increased efforts during their initial internship-searching portion.

The researchers said they were surprised to discover that both of the groups surveyed were more prone to lying on their résumés when the job markets were strong. Dineen said it appears envy is more painful when an abundance of jobs is available.

The study's authors believe the results provide insight on job seekers' motivations. This will lead to professional recruiters screening applicants more closely and providing more counsel on how to manage envy, the researchers said.

The study was co-authored by Michelle Duffy, a professor at the University of Minnesota; Christine Henle, an associate professor at Colorado State University; and Kiyoung Lee, an assistant professor at the University at Buffalo in New York. 

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.