Study: Resume fraud linked to job search envy

December 22, 2015  


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Unemployed job-seekers can be motivated to embellish their resumes when they are envious of peers, according to a study published in the Academy of Management Journal.

“Job search envy has the potential to produce negative or positive reactions,” said the study’s co-author Brian Dineen, associate professor at Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management.  

“We propose the envious reactions of job-seekers can be negative in the form of resume fraud, but can also be positive in the form of greater job search effort.”

For the first part of the study, researchers surveyed 335 unemployed job-seekers. When job-seekers compared their search efforts to those of peers, they expressed greater likelihood to commit resume fraud – intentionally embellishing or fabricating information – to keep up.

“Envy resulted in resume fraud to a greater extent after a longer search, while it resulted in greater job search effort during a shorter search,” Dineen said.  

For the second part of the study, 49 graduate students were surveyed. Envy led to greater resume fraud during the job search phase, with greater effort more likely during the less critical internship-seeking stage.

Researchers found that both groups – the unemployed job-seekers and the graduate students – responded to envy with resume fraud to a greater extent when job markets were strong.

“Can envy be more painful when jobs seem available? It was a surprising finding,” Dineen said.

 The study “Green by Comparison: Deviant and Normative Transmutations of Job Search Envy in a Temporal Context” is available at Research was supported by a grant from the SHRM Foundation. The study was co-authored by Michelle K. Duffy, University of Minnesota; Christine A. Henle, Colorado State University; Kiyoung Lee, University at Buffalo. 

The study provides professional recruiters insights into job-seekers’ motivation, allowing recruiters to screen applicants more closely or provide counsel on managing envy. Future research could offer qualitative insights into job search methods available to job-seekers to help lessen comparisons to peers. 

Writer: John Hughey, 765-494-2432, 

Contact: Brian Dineen, 765-496-2022,


“Green by Comparison: Deviant and Normative Transmutations of Job Search Envy in a Temporal Context”

Brian Dineen, Purdue University; Michelle K. Duff, University of Minnesota; Christine A. Henle, Colorado State University; Kiyoung Lee, University of Buffalo, The State University of New York

We propose a novel temporal-based theory of how a painful social comparative emotion – job search envy – transmutes as deviant or normative job search behaviors (resume fraud or search effort). We theorize that as job searches progress across time or discrete events, temporal-based pressure increases via perceptions that situations are less changeable or more critical, propelling envious job seekers toward deviant rather than normative search behavior. We propose that market-based pressure, deriving from employment opportunity perceptions, further moderates these effects. In a first study of unemployed job seekers, after more search time passes, job search envy relates to deviant search behavior. Market pressure further qualifies this relationship, although contrary to our prediction, lower market pressure exacerbates rather than attenuates the relationship. Study 2, a two-year study of graduate students engaged in internship and full-time job searches, focuses on event-based temporal pressure and mostly replicates the Study 1 findings. It also indicates that under lower event and market pressures, job seekers expend more effort but do not commit resume fraud in response to job search envy. Overall, we conclude that job search envy transmutes differently depending on temporal- and market-based contingencies and discuss future research possibilities. 

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