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While not all of us have the same visibility as a world athlete, once personal integrity is gone, you’re finished. We’ve all read about executives that have won prestigious industry or academic roles based on falsified degrees and accomplishments. When the falsehoods are uncovered, and chances are good that they eventually will be, the perpetrator is often humiliated—publicly.

When you complete a job application, you are cautioned to be truthful because the job application likely has a small paragraph on the last page that states:

The information provided in this Application for Employment is true, correct and complete. If employed, any misstatements or omissions of fact on this application may result in my dismissal.

There may also be some text regarding your authorization for conducting a background check and then you are given a place to sign. Once you do so, the application becomes a legal document and can be enforced in court.

A resume, on the other hand, is a marketing tool, not an affidavit that covers every aspect of your life since your first dishwashing job in your family’s restaurant at age 15. So you have some leeway there regarding how you choose to showcase your background and achievements. Be careful, though, to add impact without distorting the truth.

Being an employer myself, I value honesty and integrity in my employees and in vendors that I choose to do business with. Integrity is the foundation that supports your intellect, talents and skills—your unique value proposition. Keep integrity intact and you’ll attract employers to your brand. You’ll also never have to worry about covering your tracks on a job application or in an interview.

Of course we all make mistakes. But if Lance Armstrong’s experience is any lesson, it is best to fess up early, say you learned your lesson and work diligently to rebuild professional credibility.

Ellie Vargo, MRW, CCMC