THE BLOG
06/17/2010 12:42 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Lie of Omission on a Job Application?

Dear Liz,

By law do I have to include every job I've held, on my resume? Some of them are
short-term or unrelated to my field. Thanks,

Nancie

LIZ REPLIES:

Dear Nancie,

You ask a great question. It is easy to confuse an employer's power (to hire or
not hire us, or to fire us) with legal authority. They are very different
things!

I discourage job-hunters from applying for jobs via the infamous Black Hole
where resumes disappear. I'm referring to employers' career sites and other
online job-application sites, of course. We have more effective ways of reaching
hiring decision-makers. However, if you do have to use the Black Hole for some
reason, I encourage you to include the job history you want, and leave the rest
off the application.

There is no legal requirement for you to include every job you've ever held
throughout your career. Employers will ask the question (insultingly, if you
want my opinion) "Do you certify that this information in this application is
true and complete?" where the word "complete" is completely undefined. Do they
mean, "Did you leave out any job you ever held, from high school on?" They don't
say. Do they mean "Did you include every salary increment you ever received on
any job?" The instruction to "be complete" is ludicrous.

Here we see another interesting question, namely, could you be terminated down
the road for failing to include a three-months-long, fourteen-years-in-the-past
temp assignment on your original employment application? Perhaps you could. I
wouldn't lose any sleep worrying about that. You could be fired for any
(non-discriminatory) reason, so we can add this goofy one to the list. It is
ridiculous for an employer to expect you to remember every short-term role
you've ever held over a long career, in my opinion.

So, leave it off the application Nana and get a good sleep tonight --

best

Liz