Just because Oprah Winfrey’s O, The Oprah Magazine and now two publishing houses apparently have lax fact checking departments, that doesn’t mean your next employer will be as careless about distinguishing written fact from fiction.
Bigwigs at Riverhead Books (PSO), were duped by author Margaret Seltzer, pen name Margaret B. Jones, who claimed to be a drug-selling, gang-banging, biracial foster child in her memoir, Love and Consequences. But unlike her fictional alter ego, Seltzer, 33, grew up in Sherman Oaks, an upscale Los Angeles suburb, and attended the nearby private Episcopal school, which counts Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen as alums. Seltzer’s ruse ended when her biological sister contacted The New York Times (NYT) after the paper profiled the writer on February 28. Oprah's O, whose March issue went to press before Seltzer came clean, called her work “a startlingly tender memoir."
This memoir to novel reversal comes two years after author James Frey admitted to embellishing his drug-fueled bestseller, A Million Little Pieces, published by Doubleday Books. Oprah first endorsed the work for her book club, and later withdrew her support. Maybe your tall tales about your past do not include wild drug abuse or gang activity, but even the slightest fib on your resume can be damaging to your career.
“A lie is a lie,” says Michael Worthington, co-founder of ResumeDoctor.com in South Burlington, Vt. According to Worthington, approximately 43% of resumes in circulation have significant inaccuracies. “An error or a typo is much different than trying to hide something.” The most common places where people fudge facts? Education, length and dates of employment, and job titles or duties. “This is the most ironic because these are the parts of the resume HR can check on without difficulty, without doing a background check,” says Worthington.