Telling lies on your CV (no, not the car)

Telling lies on your CV (no, not the car)

This is a guest blog by Adrian Berwick.

A recent survey has suggested that as many as 85% of CVs contain lies or untruths. Telling the odd untruth or embellishing the truth is nothing new on a CV – when a candidate is looking for a new job, the CV is a crucial part of their brand profile and it is important to achieve that competitive advantage over the other candidates. Similarly, the linkedin profile is a crucial part of personal branding when looking for a new job and again, it’s an excellent opportunity to do a bit of embellishment.

There are blatant lies on a CV where the candidate may make claims about academic or professional qualifications, which is clearly wrong and there is a good chance that these lies will get found out if pre-employment checks are carried out.

Similarly, some people lie about their job title because they want their title to suggest a greater level of seniority or authority. An Account Managers might decide on their CV to call themselves an Account Director to suggest that they have greater influence and it is unlikely it will be questioned.

There are also situations where people make claims on their CV which are difficult to prove but an experienced recruiter may dig deeper and ask some quite probing questions and expose the fact that the statement was somewhat creative.

Data

We live in a world where we are obsessed with data, metrics and analytics and the best way that we can demonstrate performance improvement is by using metrics. However, as we all know metrics don’t tell the whole story but on a CV, it is extremely easy to put a “spin” around performance improvement by using a % measure.

An HR Manager may say they introduced “a talent management exercise that saw sales increase by 25%” or “the introduction of robust absence management controls reduced absence by 10%”.

From outside the business, we are powerless to dispute this data but similarly it is reasonable to assume that sales would have increased anyway or absence may have reduced by 10% but this may have been due to a long term ill health person either leaving the business or even passing away. Who can say? Lies, damned lies and statistics!

The recruiter view

Experienced recruiters will not accept such statements at face value and will use searching questions for the purpose of validation and it will soon be apparent whether there is any merit in what is being alleged. Take a Sales professional….if a Sales professional cannot “sell” themselves, what chance is there that they can sell a Company’s products? Sales people are naturally self confident and excellent at the way in which they portray themselves on a CV and use % measures to demonstrate their sales performance improvement year on year.

Similarly, it is too easy to exaggerate your part in a situation. Imagine that someone makes a claim on their CV that they “led a bid process that resulted in the Company securing a contract for £5 million”……pretty impressive. It is quite feasible that this statement may be accepted at face value but similarly, an experienced recruiter will want to ask further questions…….

  • What was the profit margin on the contract?
  • What was the make up of the team you were leading?
  • How did you price the tender and what was your decision making authority?
  • Who were you accountable to in the delivery of this bid?
  • What differentiated your bid from the competitors?

If they genuinely managed the bid, the candidate will have no difficulty giving comprehensive responses to all these questions but if they have embellished their part in the bid, it will become obvious very quickly.

The Apprentice

We have probably seen candidates on The Apprentice have their CVs exposed as a complete sham and ripped to shreds by very polished businessmen who are highly respected by Lord Sugar for a reason. It’s all about reading between the lines…..

So, CV or linkedin profile embellishment is not exactly new. However, if a candidate is greeted by an experienced Recruiter, the likelihood is that they will dig deeper and ask more probing questions. Too many interviews develop into a chat with information taken at face value and too little attention is paid to asking open questions – who, what, why, how etc.

Effective competence based interviews will soon expose whether the candidate is telling the truth or putting a degree of “spin” around the situation to give themselves a better chance of getting the job.

Think carefully about being able to substantiate the claims you make on your profile but just remember – if you’re going to “talk the talk” make sure you can “walk the walk”.


This is a guest blog by Adrian Berwick, who is a very experienced and commercially aware Human Resources professional with a generalist HR background.  He has given support on issues ranging from input on strategic planning and business re-organisation through to practical advice on employee management issues including discipline, grievance, TUPE, ill health, redundancy, recruitment, remuneration and benefits, terms and conditions and pensions.  He recently started his own HR consultancy, having been an HR Director of a major Facilities Management company for 11 years.

AB Commercial HR Solutions
Adrian Berwick

If you’d like to get in touch with Adrian directly, his LinkedIn profile is here and his company’s website is here.

And if you have a blog article that you’d like us to publish, please send your submissions to: matt.byrne@bluespoint.net.

AB Commercial HR Solutions works with business and offers coaching and mentoring to assist individuals with the challenges of transition in their professional life.