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Job Envy Often Drives Resume Lies

Job Envy Often Drives Resume Lies
Credit: Frame Angel/Shutterstock

If you are out of work, seeing others get hired while you struggle to find a job can be difficult to stomach. Those feelings of envy can drive some job seekers to try to increase their chances of landing work by any means necessary, new research finds.

A study recently published in the Academy of Management Journal revealed that watching others get jobs while they don't can often lead job seekers to commit resume fraud. This is especially true as the job search process drags on.

KiYoung Lee, one of the study's authors and an assistant professor at the University of Buffalo, said envy can be a destructive emotion that makes you cut corners to get the same outcomes others have had. 

"We found that envy leads to more resume fraud, in terms of fabricating and embellishing their information on their resume, but particularly when they face high temporal pressure in [a] job search," Lee said.

For the study, researchers looked at two groups of job seekers to measure job search envy at different career points. They first surveyed 335 unemployed job seekers from an internet job board serving the southeastern portion of the United States. They also surveyed 77 graduates of a large U.S. university over a two-year period while they searched for both internships and full-time jobs. [Lying on your resume? Find out which lies are the worst.]

The study's authors found that the resume fraud became more common with the unemployed job seekers the longer they were forced to look for work. In addition, more master's students started embellishing their resumes when they began moving from the less critical internship search to the more critical full-time job search.

"When they feel envy, they rely more on resume fraud than making constructive search efforts," Lee said.

The study's authors believe the research can help hiring managers get a better feel for which job candidates' resumes might not be completely factual.

"If you're a hiring manager and applicants are coming from a very close cohort where they may feel very competitive to each other, be aware of the possibility that envy may impact what's on their resumes,” Lee said in a statement. "Also, if you're a career counselor and you know someone who is very competitive and may be experiencing envy, you can try to help them affirm their self-worth to channel that envy into more constructive efforts in resume and interview preparation."

The study was co-authored by Brian Dineen, an associate professor at Purdue University; Michelle Duffy, a professor at the University of Minnesota; and Christine Henle, an associate professor at Colorado State University.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer and editor with nearly 20 years in media. A 1998 journalism graduate of Indiana University, Chad began his career with Business News Daily in 2011 as a freelance writer. In 2014, he joined the staff full time as a senior writer. Before Business News Daily, Chad 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. Chad has also worked on the other side of the media industry, promoting small businesses throughout the United States for two years in a public relations role. His first book, How to Start a Home-Based App Development Business, was published in 2014. He lives with his wife and daughter in the Chicago suburbs.