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Friday, 10 August, 2001, 09:28 GMT 10:28 UK
CVs: Have you ever fudged the facts?
Millions of workers have lied on their CVs in the belief that employers never check up on them, a survey suggests.
One in three people questioned admitted having made false claims about qualifications, interests or previous experience when going for jobs. Some also admitted lying about criminal records, education history or previous job titles.
Twenty percent of the 1,000 workers surveyed said they had exaggerated CV details in order to "stand out" from other applicants.
Is being "creative" with the truth on your CV just a way to improve your chances of gaining employment? Have you ever been caught out? Tell us your CV pork pies.
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Most of the staff I have employed in the past have lied on their CV, mostly to cover up gaps in their employment histories or to reduce the number of past employers. Employees should watch out. It is true that the vast majority of employment law favours the employee but fabricating your CV is legitimate grounds for instant dismissal.
The CV should form a material part of the employment contract. If after signing an employee is found to have lied the contract should be rendered null and void and the employee dismissed without notice and made personally liable for repaying any salary payments. In my opinion a false CV is not "playing with language" it is a fraud aimed at deceiving a prospective employer.
A CV is a sales document. It gets you through the door. At that point it is the responsibility of the employer or agency to check facts and the balance of information. There are shades of grey and emphasis which are legitimate. Lying on a CV - for example about qualifications or periods of employment - is a dismissible offence in the UK.
Failure of employers or agencies to check is a reflection of the attitude of the employer to the employees and maybe the quality of management.
What hope is there when people volunteer to go to war by lying about their age then pay the ultimate sacrifice!
I would never lie on a CV. But then, with a first class degree in Quantum Physics with Brain Surgery from Cambridge, experience of managing a number of major multi-national companies, two Nobel prizes, and a cycling proficiency certificate, why would I need to?
I am amazed at the attitude of some of the responses here. I have never lied on a CV and would never expect too. I expect to be able to defend every statement I make and provide evidence and I will expect people I interview to do the same. People who lie on their CVs are stealing from me and honest people like me. Companies must root this out.
While I've never lied about qualifications and work experience I have knocked off up to four years off my age and had to adjust dates accordingly. This is only because too many advertisers specify upper age limits, which I think is rank. My career is also quite chequered so sometimes I have left out the jobs that are not relevant, while adding on a year or two to those that are. I've only done this because many employers appear to just want automatons who've followed a narrow career path rather than people who've gained a wide range of experiences from a variety of jobs.
After reading these comments and especially by those that have cheated in one way or another, I know now why I, in spite of my good education, am still at the bottom of the ladder. Thanks for the advice.
Fabricating a CV/resume which results in obtaining a position is actually a criminal offence of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception. Few "employees" if discovered would be prosecuted because companies would not want the attendant publicity - but it is worth bearing in mind that it could happen.
It is much better to be truthful and obtain a job on merit rather than on falsehoods.
CV's are used by recruiters as a form of buzzword bingo. Only if the correct words appear on your CV will you be considered for interview. As a result people have to lie in order to get the interview.
I'm sorry, but I have never met a scrupulous employer in the private sector - they have all lied about hours, job description, and career development; the above example is only the most extreme. If employers want honest candidates, they should clean up their own acts first.
As a recruitment consultant, I see all kinds of CVs, some understated and others completely over the top. I'm pretty sure everyone has an element of untruths on their CVs, but unless the person is in a crucial position, ie doctor etc, there really is no harm. As long as the person is capable of doing the role, what does it matter?
From a different angle, I am bilingual in French/English and it is truly shocking the number of people on both sides of the channel who say they can speak the other language with considerable fluency (which illustrates "lying" on one's CV). Unfortunately, a foreign language here is worth thousands of pounds of salary per year, so everyone says "fluent/ bilingual" on their CV, and bit by bit the meaning of the word is lost. Fluent now means GSCE standard: "Please, some beer can I have".
CVs too are becoming less and less trusted with a significant number of candidates showing contempt both for the system, their education and themselves. You might as well lie, provided you can live with the risk of these demons catching you up. I feel bitter about this as a "first" student, fluent in a foreign language and with people saying that we are jealous about frauds. If you do the work and have the expertise you deserve the merit more than a grinning buffoon with a grade 'A' in lying.
The applicants lie because they know the panel who will be interviewing them have also lied when they were selected. It's a chain reaction. Most of the time people who interview do not have any idea what they are talking about and this gives the chance for the applicants to lie, as they know that they won't be caught.
Depends on what you're trying to achieve. I, like other people in IT, wouldn't hesitate to add bogus qualifications to get past the irrelevant HR screening process, but I'd never lie about my work experience or the facts that are actually relevant to my work.
Karen Wallace, UK
I've been cheating my CV all my life. Thanks to that I'm now a managing director for one of the departments at a very large firm in the UK.
As an executive who has hired several hundred people, I view CV ("resume" in the US) fraud as a true indicator of the candidate's character. If they lie on their resume, they will lie to their manager and lie to their team. All are unacceptable. If exposed, I would can them immediately. The best way to prevent a future employee problem is to screen carefully at the front-end and to not hire it.
Smiley Dave, Trinidad
In IT some companies keep all the CVs that they are sent. When a new one arrives they compare it with the old one, and when they find discrepancies bang goes any chance of an interview. Why do people bother?
Well, I was honest with an employer and was offered the job above several hundred other applicants. I took it on the understanding that I would receive excellent training and other benefits, as well as good experience. None of these materialised - in fact, I was laid off by them TWICE in six months. Now tell me why I should trust employers in the future?
I've never understood the relevance of listing your interests. Like many people, by the time I get home I don't have time for myself let alone any hobbies or interests. At the weekend I just look forward to relaxing with a pint with my mates and you can't really put that on your CV!
The problem is, is that these students who are coming out of Oxford and places like don't like the fact that someone with no education is earning more money then them and know more than them. These with no education are more likely to lie. Good luck to them (they could not afford to go to university so they must use other means to achieve what they want from life).
James C, UK
I am shocked that your headline should use the word "fib", which usually refers to a minor bending of the truth. Lying on your C.V. is nothing more nor less than fraud. I am British and have lived in the U.S.A for many years. A company which hired me as an officer in 1997 had, three months earlier, fired another vice president because they checked up on his academic credentials and found that he did not have the M.B.A. he claimed. The money lost in hiring him, training him for the three months he worked there, and then firing him on discovering he was a fraud, was not recoverable. He damaged all the people who had hired him, those who had begun to work with him, and those left with the realization that if he lied about his credentials he had probably lied about many other things.
As for secretaries who claim that they can type when they cannot -- I have nothing but scorn for their incompetence and their dishonesty. If you want to earn a salary, you should be prepared to train before you ask for someone to hire you.
Please do not make light of lies. It does the BBC, and Britain, no credit.
I have had job interviewers whose very first question has been "How old are you?" (I was 38.) I have had job interviewers who seemed unduly preoccupied with my relationship status. (I was single and childless.) In about 125 job interviews all up, I have only once had an interviewer ask what why university results were. (Honours 2.1) No other interviewer has so much as referred to my formal qualifications. Granted, I have had an unusual career path and rather more positions, for legitimate reasons (including several transcontinental re-locations), than one might expect of a 40 year-old. But as long as employers behave as if the number of my years and the number of my jobs are the deciding criteria, I will continue to leave my age off my CV altogether and to omit short-term or peripherally-relevant experience, as advised by more than one head-hunter and recruitment agency.
When Senior Board members lie about the financial status and viability of a company for months on end and then all of a sudden sack virtually all the staff who cares about lying on a CV. Life in the Corporate world is about getting as much as you can out of the companies that employ you and then moving on to bigger and better things. If that means lying on the CV then so be it. Directors do it and so should everyone else.
You have the same obligation to honesty when you advertise yourself to a company as corporations demonstrate when advertising to the public. When you consider that a well-known fast food outlet's definition of nutritious means their burgers contain nutrients, I would argue that you're fully entitled to lie through your teeth and claim whatever you want on your CV (just make sure you can do the job).
I have often not declared my GCSE, A levels, and Open University qualifications because I felt would be classed as over-qualified. Is that lying or just being economical with the truth. (Yes I did get the jobs)
I left school with two 'O' grades and immediately went into unskilled work. I subsequently picked up an HNC and further Post Grad Diploma. I am now working towards an MBA. I have worked my way through several careers picking up experience all the time. I think I have earned the right to embellish my CV to win the right job. However one of my former employers who I generated significant earnings for took a different view. When I handed my notice in to move to a new job, he waited until I was at the end of my notice period and then forwarded an anonymous fax to my new employers slandering me and attacking the credentials on my CV. Fortunately my new employers took this as sour grapes and never reacted to it. The caveat here is that things can come back to haunt you. Beware, former bosses who speak with forked tongue!
Personally I have never lied at an interview. As a rule I don't like lying anyway. However, I remember a good piece of advice I was given by a salesman (remember that interviews are an exercise in selling yourself): "You are not compelled to reveal the truth - but at the same time never tell a lie". Interviewing is a bit of a game anyway - employers generally are very subjective; they will look for reasons to dismiss you if you don't "feel" right, and for reasons to accept you if you come across well. You might just as well be honest if not entirely forthcoming.
I list on my CV relevant skills and experience I have, describing the level of experience in each case favourably but truthfully. I have been in interviews where they have merely skimmed the CV for keywords and then claimed I'd said I could do more than I could.
It upsets me to see people with no more skill other than the overrated one of good communications being favoured because they can lie confidently.
Changing "emphasis" on a CV or Resume is natural to make your skills set appear more tuned to the desired position. However, going too far with this and, at the extreme, blatantly lying will ultimately catch up with you. I've interviewed hundreds of people who claim personal responsibility for things, when they clearly haven't a clue. Indeed it is up to the employer to ask the right questions. But once the facade is cracked it collapses quickly to the point where the interview is irrelevant. It is always better to answer "I don't know" to a question that to try and muddle through.
One of the most important things an employer wants to get from an interview is to see how the person thinks. There's no room for trickery or deceit on either side. Hiring is one of the most expensive tasks in a company - not just in recruitment and head-hunter fees but also the time taken by staff pulled-in to the interview round. It's a non-trivial overhead to the mainstream business operation. I'm aghast at people who treat this subject so lightly. At a minimum it's a waste of time and shows a lack of respect, not least for yourself. At worst it's criminal deception.
It is ridiculous to believe that the presence or class of degree is the best judge of suitability. Filtering applicants by this method will result in a bad choice at least 30% of the time. I have known people that learn exam solutions by rote to achieve spectacular success, when under normal circumstances they are incapable of understanding or using the subject. Interviews that assess someone's actual ability are the only safe way to choose. Enthusiasm backed by ability and self-taught knowledge will count for much more; the best programmer working for me does not have a degree, and basically, so what? Organisations will employ the people they deserve, and if that means a digs-trashing lager-lout who happened to get a 'First', then good luck to them!
Isn't this the purpose of the interview? Any candidate should accentuate the positive (if not, would you want to work with him or her) but not tell an outright lie.
In the IT industry, it is very difficult to get jobs without very specific expertise. However, in reality, that expertise isn't really needed as people can learn quickly.
I have never lied on a CV. However in my psychology degree (with Computer science!) I learnt that lying can be beneficial.
People who lie tend to have a higher IQ; this has been well proven with children and is the case with adults as well. Candidates who lied moderately) about their experience (in Secretarial work for instance)were statistically better at the job than those that did not.
The average salary of single men is considerably less than the average salary of married men. This is a statistic in Canada and the USA, even though marital status is a prohibited basis for discrimination.
In interviews I try to give the impression that I'm married. They can't ask if I am. I don't say I am, I just use an occasional plural. If they offer me something they wouldn't have offered a single person, they are the sinner for wanting to discriminate on a prohibited basis.
The feeling amongst applicants for jobs is that, if everyone's at it, why don't I just join in? I don't believe in lying on a CV, however being creative and selling yourself is something else.
The idea of being truthful at all times sounds appealing, but speaking as a 50-year old accountant, a 5-year reduction of one's age appears to be my door opener. So what is better, being totally honest and unemployed or fractionally a liar and part of the mainstream?
Why would you lie about your age? I have removed mine from my CV. It's nobody's business and in many countries it's not even legal for employers to ask about it. When I've been asked about this at interviews, I have politely told the interviewer that I do not consider it relevant, unless he wants to tell me his.
The CV is the step to interview, it is then down to the interviewer to establish the validity of the candidate.
Having had problems in the past we now take all except current employer's references before making a job offer and recently had what looked like a good candidate decline to provide references. I'm far happier working with people whose CVs match their experience. We don't make mistakes at the start and normally everything works out all right. People who lie about their skills and then can't do the work damage the company and cheat their (ex-)colleagues who have to clear up the mess.
I haven't lied, but then again I haven't felt the need to so far in my career. I have interviewed people who have, though. That is partly what the interview is for, to find out how much they actually know. Just talking through their CV quickly shows those who know their stuff and those who hardly know anything or have made things up!
Quite often employers are as guilty as candidates. How often have you heard potential employers "embellishing" career prospects, working conditions, job spec, training etc?
Ryan Short, South Africa
In my line of work (science) it's fairly difficult to lie on a CV - most employers require copies of degree certificates, and the names of several
former colleagues/employers to contact for references. And the real proof of experience is publications, which can be verified by a quick look at an online citations index. I think if someone gets hired because of lies on a CV it's the employer's fault for not doing their verification work properly.
"Embellishment Management" is a real life skill that should not be underestimated - it's all about sales, only this time YOU are the product.
There is a distinction between lying ('Whilst Secretary-General of the United Nations I¿') and representing yourself positively in relation to both the desired position and the qualities that the employer is looking for. Something that may have been a relatively minor aspect of your previous job (say, managing people and resources) can be phrased to seem an integral part of the position; you have had the experience, but not to the extent that they may assume.
As well as the CV, the personality should be taken into account, and regrettably, I don't hire people who turn lying into a profession...
Making yourself look good on a CV is fine; lying about qualifications and experience should actively be discouraged. The integrity of the recruitment process is at stake here. Why bother having a schools/colleges system which provides courses and awards certificates for the benefit of employers if the real aim of the game is to be the best liar? How can any of us sneer at Lord Archer if his attitude of lying to achieve is the modern orthodoxy of job applicants, accommodated by employers?
I've never lied on a CV and would hope that a prospective employer would not lie to me about the job. I have however discovered job agents who have doctored my CV into a barefaced lie.
A few examples... Start ups offering "share options with potential pay-offs of £1,000,000", or "extensive travel opportunities".
Perhaps you've been interested in the advert for "Road waste management engineers: An exciting new career in ecological development".
Spin is all part of the game.
Anyone who lies - including on a CV can't be trusted and should be sacked if found out
I teach Business Communication as part of a 1st yr. Business degree and we emphasise NEVER lie on a CV, it will come back to haunt you. We do however encourage lateral thinking. Eg: Paper round = Organisational skills, ability to time keep and meet deadlines, dependable etc.
It's not to be recommended. Just ask the convicted criminal Lord Archer. Allegedly his University results we're not quite as good as he would led us to believe.
No Mr Giddan, not everyone does it. It is dishonest and you are cheating the decent, honest people out there. Furthermore, as an employer, if I could not trust the integrity of staff in this area, I could not trust them in others either.
It is amazing to see the acceptance of lies in so many of your correspondents. Lies are dishonest and I do not want dishonest people working for me, (once a liar always a liar). Eventually they would lie to me or my clients.
Many people tell lies on their resumes, cheating their potential employers, and their fellow applicants.
It is not right.
But look around you, life is all about cheating to survive.
How would YOU like to be operated on by a surgeon who lied on their CV or flown by a pilot who had been economical with the truth?
Martin Hart, UK
As the earnings gap widens, so too does the standard of living for the have's and have nots in this country. If you don't have the qualifications or the family money, how to get ahead, when not doing so is simply unacceptable? Luckily I've never had to lie, but I've certainly embellished - no one gets rewarded for honesty.
I think it is a matter of selling yourself, as much as anything. I don't agree with making up important things (such as your degree class etc) since this is intensely unfair on those who have gained theirs fair and square.
Everything on my CV I can prove, trouble is it doesn't get me interviews either!
Why not lie on your CV. When was the last time you saw a job description that was a true representation of the job being recruited for?
Steve G, UK
What amuses me is that people lie about their hobbies - perhaps in a hope to look less boring or to present a "better, rounded and crisp image"- to borrow a quote from my university's career advisor!
I would never do it myself, but I do know someone who failed university and has a CV stating a 2:1 degree. He's earning more than anyone I know with a real degree, has a swanky apartment and constantly seems on the up. How unjust is that?
I am Chief Executive of a consulting firm and used to be MD of one before that. We ask for originals of all certificates for qualifications claimed and tell people that we will write to universities to check the class of degrees claimed. And we do write! Applicants are told that if they have lied, we will know about it within the first month and they will be asked to leave. Two still tried it - both were fired.
Everyone wants to get the best out of their CV, though when I hear of people who find positions through false claims of degrees and other such awards I get extremely angry. If I could get my job without a degree I wouldn't be in debt and I wouldn't have wasted three years of my life working hard to attain my highly educated status.
I know of many people who have found themselves in jobs after lying about their qualifications. It's about time that an organisation somewhere did something about this dishonest and potentially dangerous habit of human kind.
I have never lied on my CV and so far it has got me interviews for the jobs that I want!
Reading some of the responses makes me wonder whether I should fabricate the truth to compete with all the dishonest people out there.
In over 30 years at work and about 10 jobs I have never been asked to provide evidence that I have any qualifications. This is not surprising when you consider that I am a salesman but what about the times when I have been teaching in various colleges in the UK and still I have not had to prove that I am qualified to teach!
My personal views would be CVs should be thoroughly checked, especially the results, degree, class and experiences because I never lied on my CV and I would hate to fall behind. That way, a genuine candidate won't loose out against another candidate who is not so genuine
I'm not proud of this but a few years ago I gave myself a £10k raise when applying for a new job. My new employer beat that and I flourished in my new job that otherwise would have not been open to me. There were no other candidates so I don't feel too bad. Bizarrely I was totally honest about my experience but simply inflated what I was paid for it - the new employer thought they had a bargain.
As with job applicants, it looks as if those who offer jobs are allowed to manipulate the facts (but not lie). "On-target earnings", "benefits", "opportunity to travel", "within commuting distance of..." are just some of the wholly, meaningless buzz-phrases used to tempt applicants. And as for job advertisements that don't state the salary...
To take an extreme point of view, you could think of CV's as brochures you look at when buying a new car. It's always in my mind that the manufacturer emphasises the good points, whilst skipping the low points (e.g. 0 to 60 in 5 seconds is written everywhere, but the 3 mpg figure is mysteriously missing). As an interviewer, I pick out many points and discuss them with the candidate, it is usually pretty easy to spot the fakes, and normally they don't come for a second interview. Even if this fails (and most peoples intuition is pretty accurate), there is still the probationary period in which staff who don't meet their own standards can be released.
No one will put "Blew up the factory/PC/office" on their CV. It is normal human behaviour to try and make ourselves look better than we are and avoid any unpleasantness. These days the CV is only seen as getting that first interview - a "foot in the door". After that one would hope that the recruitment process would weed out any unsuitable candidates. Unfortunately, beginning or offering a job always carries a risk - the nice sweet people you met during the interview could turn out to be completely unsuitable to employer or employee. Life's just like that!
If a third of people questioned admitted having made false claims about qualifications etc. then it is equally matched by the companies who proclaim themselves to be forward thinking, proactive organisations that seek to develop their staff and fully realise their potential.
As ye shall sow, ye shall reap
As an employer I sometimes wish people were a bit more creative in their resumes. It's far too easy to eliminate CVs because they are so appallingly written. I don't think there's anything wrong with exaggeration (with obvious exceptions such as the caring professions) provided the employee can live up to it. If someone lied that they had a degree and they could do the job - so what! It's hard enough trying to find people without eliminating the good communicators who are a little liberal with the truth. Some of the best talent I've employed have been the least qualified.
Michael Entill, UK
The only thing I've tried to disguise is my age - there's a lot of ageism out there !
If individuals are desperate to get a job they will resort to cheating or "massaging" the facts to make them appear better than they are. However it is possible to weed out those who have lied on their CV or job application form through a well-designed recruitment process. It is reasonable for companies to test potential recruits thoroughly as a bad decision can cost time and money. Having worked in personnel, I often interviewed individuals whose applications were impressive, but failed to live up to these expectations once they appeared for interview and undertook job-related tasks. With a recession on the way and a corresponding increase in unemployment, cheating on CVs is about to get much worse.
I've never cheated on a CV. The novel way I improve mine is by actually studying to get the qualifications and doing the work to get the experience.
It should be made a criminal offence to lie (misrepresenting other goods/services for payment is, why not when misrepresenting yourself?) on your CV.
The risk of lying is that you end up getting a job you can't do and preventing more honest (but better suited) candidates from getting the job - a situation which suits neither (genuine) job-hunters or recruiters.
Phil Davies, UK
When is it a lie, and when is it just playing with language?
"I have extensive experience .." can mean anything from 5 years working with something, to having read a manual.
My CV is full of phrases whose meaning can be played with.
Let's face it, everyone does it, so if you don't you get left behind. I fudged a couple of A results in the past and for one job changed the class of my degree (they wanted a 2:1 and I have a 2:2).
I think mine was a pretty standard
'white lie' for a secretary. I told my boss
that I could type and do shorthand,
Unfortunately during the first week
he asked me to type a very long document
that day. I got sent on an intensive
typing course quite soon after that!
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