Applying Ethics in Job Search

Why Conduct an Ethical Job Search?

Despite positive movement in the Canadian economy, the job market remains very competitive.  As employment specialists we ask job seekers to develop strong, employer focused marketing documents (resumes & cover letters) to give them a chance to be selected for interviews. Telling a convincing storey is vital to resume and cover letter success.  Once in a while applicants, in their exuberance to promote themselves, may unintentionally overstate their qualifications.  Although descriptive language demonstrates communication skills and generates employer interest; over-exaggeration of qualifications can create an ethical dilemma and result in unintended and undesirable consequences.

Résumé Fraud[1]

“Résumé fraud or application fraud refers to any act that involves providing fictitious, exaggerated, or otherwise misleading information on a job application or résumé in hopes of persuading a potential employer to hire an applicant for a job they may be unqualified, or for which they are less qualified than other applicants.[1] Depending on the nature of the offense, the type of job and the jurisdiction where it occurs, such an act may or may not be a violation of criminal law. In any case, providing knowingly inaccurate information to an employer or potential employer, if discovered by the employer, is almost always grounds for immediate dismissal from the job or else denial of that job.[2]

Some may suggest that a “white lies” or “over- exaggerations” on resumes are acceptable or even expected.  “After all, it’s all about advertising” and that everybody does it.  However, there are legal ramifications to false advertising[3]. Some may also argue that the item being lied about has nothing to do with the job actually being performed.  The problem with this argument is that resume owner has already severed the bond of trust between himself and the employer.

Can you identify the differences in these two statements?


  • Managed a team of 20 technical and professional staff to achieve 30% increase in sales revenue


  • An integral team member that contributed to the organization over achieving its sales targets

Consequences of Getting Caught[4]

Liar, liar pants on fire!  This is more than a schoolyard taunt. It’s not a matter of “if you get caught” it’s a matter of when, where and how. Below is a list of potential consequences:

  • Workplace sanctions (dismissal, demotion, shift reassignment)
  • Your professional reputation and your character is tarnished
  • Hurting your long term career opportunities
  • Loss of potential future employment reference
  • Professional community sanctions (networks, rumours, the grapevine)

Ethics in the Workplace

  • Codes of Conduct[5]:  reflect the values of the organization, the processes and procedures that guide workplace behaviour
  • Customer Service Statements:  guide how an organization expects its employees to treat its customers
  • Employee Relations Handbooks[6]:  guide the relationships and interactions between management and staff

Interesting Ethics Stories

How Poor Business Ethics Led To The Collapse Of Enron Ethics[7]

Tyco exec makes the rounds spreading the word on corporate ethics

Other Ethics Resources

Job Search Ethics