Resume Writing For Engineers: Fraud, Flaws, and Faux Pas

In my previous post, I wrote about what I like to see in a resume and offered advice on how to create an effective one. Today I’d like to share a few resume faux pas and resume fraud issues I’ve seen over the years.  First I’ll start with the minor infractions, primarily issues that stem from improper formatting and resume design.

Resume Design Flaws

Some formatting techniques and design choices can make your resume difficult to read, by both man and machine. What I mean by machine, is that many companies utilize an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) which is software that helps manage their recruiting processes. All modern ATSs have the ability to parse the resume to extract contact information, work history and other pertinent information and organize it into a reader-friendly profile that is searchable. By formatting your resume in certain ways, you can cripple the ability of these parsers and keep them from doing their job well.

Here are few things that can “hide” your data from a parser:

  • Not having your name and contact information at the top of your resume
  • Utilizing columns (tables) in your resume
  • Using the header and/or footer for name and contact information
  • Appending your cover letter to the top of your resume
  • Not having your physical address anywhere on your resume

What are the ill effects of an ATS not being able to parse your resume properly? Many companies and recruiting firms don’t look at resumes when they first come into their ATS. They will instead use Boolean search and other tools to find resumes that match their job requirements. If your resume hid, or completely lacked, your physical address and the user is searching for people in a certain geographic area, you’re probably invisible.

Other formatting techniques that can hurt your odds of being contacted is those that make it difficult to read. For example, we’ve seen resumes with background colors and pictures that made the resumes very difficult to comprehend. Don’t try to get too fancy in your resume formatting! Let’s face it, you’re an Engineer, not a Graphic Designer. If you are a Graphic Designer, the presentation of your resume might be extremely important and even showcase your talent, but as Engineers your talents don’t require an elaborate presentation.

Resume Fraud

Now for the major infractions. If your resume reflects any of these, and it’s discovered, you will not be considered for a position. Most likely you will be blacklisted in a company’s ATS and your resume won’t ever be reviewed again.

The first, and worst, of these infractions is claiming you have a degree when you don’t. There are entities out there that will gladly take your money and “give” you a degree; these are called diploma mills. A diploma mill is an unaccredited higher education institution that offers illegitimate academic degrees and diplomas for a fee.

The easiest way to determine if you’re dealing with a diploma mill is to consider whether you are earning your degree through academic requirements, or simply by paying them money. If you are not required to purchase textbooks, attend lectures, submit homework, take tests, etc. then you are most likely dealing with a diploma mill. No accredited school will present you with a diploma for your “life’s work experience”.

In our niche, you can easily determine if a college or university program is accredited by searching ABET is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

Many states have restricted or made it illegal to claim you have a degree (from a diploma mill) for the purpose of acquiring employment. This list is growing, so the best action is to not list an unaccredited degree on your resume. Visit The Federal Trade Commission’s site to learn more about diploma mills.

We’ve also seen many instances where candidates list degrees from accredited schools, but later discover that they actually did not complete the requirements for the degree. In some cases the candidates didn’t even attend a single class. Many recruiting firms and ATSs retain previous copies of resumes that have been submitted by applicants, making it easy to compare versions and simple to spot when a degree appears that, if real, should have been listed on an earlier resume. If your prospective employer does even the most rudimentary background check, they will learn that you don’t have the degree.

Another case of resume fraud that is easy to discover is when a candidate stretches the start and end dates of their work history to either hide gaps in employment, or to stretch across a job that went bad and they don’t want that employer contacted for a reference. This is not a horrible infraction, but it shows signs of the willingness to be untruthful. If discovered, most hiring authorities will just move on to the next candidate.


There are more instances of poor formatting and fraud that can be discussed, but to sum it up:  

Make your resume easy for a person to read, simple for a computer to parse, and ensure it contains 100% accurate information. 

Photograph of the author of this article, Alan Carty, the President & CEO of Automationtechies.

About the Author:

This article is written by Alan Carty, President & CEO of Automationtechies.

Catch him on LinkedIn or by email.