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Wednesday, 15 March, 2000, 15:42 GMT
Lies, damn lies and CVs

"I speak Mandarin and I have a first in physics"
Many of us will happily own up to exaggerating on our CVs - an implied qualification here, a non-existent hobby there, perhaps the hint of an extra responsibility or two.

Former London mayoral candidate Jeffrey Archer is probably the most famous exponent of the art.

He suggested on an early CV that he had an MA from Oxford University, when he had only spent time in the town working on a postgraduate diploma.

Are you a CV fibber? Tell us your biggest lie. HAVE YOUR SAY A recent survey for credit reference agency Experian found 71% of firms had encountered "serious lying" on CVs.

This included people disguising a spell in prison as time spent backpacking, and graduates concealing a degree in case it jeopardised their hopes of a temporary job in a call centre.

"Managed a large catering firm..."
The Institute of Personnel and Development says economy with the truth in CVs is an "increasing problem".

"The majority of job applications involve if not outright lies, certainly exaggerations," says spokesman Nick Isles.

"These usually concern academic qualifications where there's widespread 'grade inflation' - 2:2s tend to become 2:1s, that sort of thing."

Click here to find out if BBC News Online users are CV cheats.

Salary is another favourite subject for those who "impression manage" their CVs.

"People exaggerate their remuneration, maybe bumping up their salary by a couple of thousand, or treating things like pensions contributions as net earnings," says Mr Isles.

This, points out Gary James from recruitment consultants Michael Page, is a "pretty short-sighted" thing to do.

"When you join a company you have to present your P60, so they'll soon know exactly what you've been earning."

And don't think putting "abseiling" or "walking the Pennine way" down as a hobby will necessarily make you a more successful candidate.

Go on, admit to it

"The third area where people often come unstuck is interests," says Mr Isle.

"What they really like to do is put their feet up and watch telly with a can of lager, but this becomes translated into some exotic hobby or interest.

Which is the odd one out? Morrisby psychometric test could catch out CV cheats
"But then they may find someone on the interview panel really is an expert in Tae-Kwon-Do or whatever."

Mr Isles warns that employers are fighting back with a range of measures for sifting out the CV cheats.

Big firms, he says, often offer extra hurdles like aptitude tests, psychometric tests or exercises which display inter-personal skills, along with up to three or four lengthy interviews.

And more employers have been taking up references since a survey found that only about one third were doing so.

But Mr James says an interview remains the best gauge of the accuracy of a CV.

Interview test

"A classic one is where someone will claim they were responsible for the launch of a product, when they were really just part of the team," he said.

"But a good interviewer will probe that during an interview and see how the candidate answers, and then make judgements from there."

"I, I, I initiated..."
But is it really important that a professed interest in tennis is little more than a fondness for watching Anna Kournikova on TV during Wimbledon fortnight?

Mr Isles says it does matter, because recruiters want to be certain they have taken on the very best candidate.

Not only that, but by lying on your CV, your are displaying a willingness to lie about anything - and making a tacit admission that your qualifications are not up to the job.

Mr Isles points out that CV lying is being taken increasingly seriously by firms as a "gross breach of contract".

High expectations

"There has been an instance of a City firm sacking someone because they've lied about an O level grade," he says.

"My hobbies are abseiling, white-water rafting..."
But as so many of us are doing it, maybe the problem is that employers are expecting too much of new recruits.

Mr James says both employers and candidates could benefit from a more rational approach to the whole issue.

"The candidate should ask: 'Have I got a large proportion of the skills which will be needed to do that job?'", he says.

"And the employer should say: 'We're taking the potential which they'll be able to develop into, and they may even over-achieve in their position".

Mr Isles says finding the distinction between an acceptable spin on the truth, and an outright lie, could be the answer.

"The skill is walking the fine line between lying and making the most of the truth," he says. "That is the very secret of successful CV writing."

So there is hope for all of us who are not ready to come clean about our chemistry exam quite yet.

Are you a CV fibber? What's your worst lie and did it get you the job?

Click here to find out if BBC News Online users are CV cheats.

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See also:

15 Jan 00 | Business
CV liars face computer checks
13 Sep 99 | Business
'CV cheats lie to get jobs'
04 Jun 98 | UK
Flushing out the fibbers
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