Embellishing the truth when applying for a new job is nothing new, whether it’s overselling the importance of work at a previous company, claiming a bigger team than you actually managed, or promising you could use systems you weren’t trained on.
But now job seekers are taking an even bigger leap with their falsehoods: claiming to work at a company when they were never even on the payroll.
Lying on a CV is fairly commonplace according to research published last year, with a survey by StandOutCV finding that 55% of Americans had lied on their CV.
The majority of the falsehoods related to work experience which never happened, followed by skills, having a college degree and details such as age, name or location.
However, a viral TikTok video has since pointed out that jobseekers can simply lie about their job history if a new employer can’t verify the information. The resume hack could either work for businesses that have collapsed entirely, or for those which apparently don’t have a very active HR department…like Twitter.
The video, posted by a user called Alex Pearlman, has now amassed more than 1.4 million likes.
In the video, Pearlman said: “There was a national store back in the chain called Circuit City—it was just like Best Buy. It went out of business one day.
“It was right around the time of the recession so all my friends had gaps in their employment, they had all these other issues, and they were stuck in entry-level positions. They couldn’t move up in anything.
“So what did they do? They all got together and they started covering each other’s resumes that each of them had worked at different positions at Circuit City. Did they ever actually work there? No. Had they been a bus boy for the last five years? Yes.
“But now on paper they were the floor manager at Circuit City. Boom. They got more money. Nobody could prove otherwise, there was no HR department to call, there was nothing you could verify this information against.”
Pearlman then begins to apply the same theory to Twitter and claims the company doesn’t have a functioning HR department.
It follows a spat between former Twitter staffer Halli Thorleifsson and CEO Elon Musk, after the former asked the Tesla CEO if he had been fired.
Dear @elonmusk 👋
9 days ago the access to my work computer was cut, along with about 200 other Twitter employees.
However your head of HR is not able to confirm if I am an employee or not. You’ve not answered my emails.
Maybe if enough people retweet you’ll answer me here?
— Halli (@iamharaldur) March 6, 2023
Musk was forced to apologize after responding forcefully to the request, saying he had “misunderstood” the situation. Thorleifsson later received an email saying he had been fired.
The incident has, for Pearlman, presented a loophole for the tens of thousands of laid-off tech workers looking to try and rejoin the industry. I
n the last year more than 70,000 people have been laid off in Big Tech including Google owner Alphabet (12,000 employees), Amazon (18,000), Meta (11,000), Twitter (4,000), Microsoft (10,000), and Salesforce (8,000).
Pearlman said: “You know what this means? It means it’s time for all of us to be former employees at Twitter.
“Don’t like your job? You haven’t been doing that job. You worked for Twitter for four years, you were the director of ad sales. They’re never going to actually respond to any request for verification because even Twitter doesn’t know who works there anymore.”
Twitter did not respond when approached by Fortune for comment.
Can someone actually get away with this?
The answer is probably not—and the costs can be far greater than the gains.
Pete Milne, managing director of global recruiters Robert Walters’ American division, explains that lying on a CV is actually classed as fraud.
“Lying on your CV could cost you the job (and future ones) in the long run—either when your employer realizes you are unable to carry out the role sufficiently, or when they find out the truth about your supposed experience or qualifications,” he said.
“In my experience, and increasingly now more than ever—employers are looking at potential over experience, so the lie on your CV could be wholly unnecessary. If COVID changed anything in recruitment, it is that gaps on a CV are no longer a turn-off, but in some ways to be expected.”
Milne added that gaps in employment records post-pandemic can actually present candidates with opportunities. He suggested being open and honest about why the gap is there as well as illustrating how it was used effectively for either professional or personal growth.
That could be sharing details around the time taken for family, upskilling, taking on a side hustle or traveling, he added.
What if your company actually did go under?
There’s no need to make CVs look like they haven’t survived tough economic times, Milne added.
“A colourful CV is evidence of a resilient professional who can handle and adapt to change,” he said. “If the business you were working for went under then absolutely still include this on your CV. Bring it up in your interview before they do—share your experience, the lessons learned and what it taught you.
“Today’s employers are looking for professionals who are not risk averse, who are adaptable and do not need handholding in the face of turbulent times—the best way to showcase that you are this person is by being open about all the highs and lows in your career.”
Fortune‘s CFO Daily newsletter is the must-read analysis every finance professional needs to get ahead. Sign up today.