The Risks of Lying on Your CV
To get ahead in a competitive job market, many candidates resort to lying on their CV. However, lying or exaggerating on your CV is a bad idea, not least because it can lead to instant dismissal, reputational damage and in the worst-case scenario, a criminal record.
Your CV is the first impression that recruiters and employers will have of you, so it needs to accentuate the positive, but it also needs to be an accurate representation of your skills and experience.
With the introduction of screening checks and advanced technology, employers are now more aware that not everything stated on a CV is necessarily true.
Yet, this doesn’t stop some candidates from telling a little white lie, here and there, to embellish their CVs.
Most common CV lies
According to various studies, over 60% of candidates have stretched the truth in their CVs, at some point or another, but what are people lying about? Here are the most common lies on CVs:
- Job titles and responsibilities
When applying for a higher position, it might be tempting to give the impression that you managed a team rather than being supervised yourself, but your employer can easily catch you out by probing you on aspects of management or reaching out to your colleagues on LinkedIn.
Many employers specify a minimum number of years of experience which can put younger candidates at a disadvantage. It may seem harmless to add a year or two to the length of your experience; however, this is the same as telling a lie and you can easily be found out when an employer checks dates of employment with a previous employer.
- Dates of employment
There are plenty of valid reasons for having gaps in your CV, e.g. a period of unemployment, a sabbatical, parental leave, etc. However, there’s no denying that some employers look unfavourably upon gaps which is why it can be tempting to fudge dates of employment to make it look like you worked longer at a company than you actually did.
The longer your career history, the less your education matters, the exception being professions where qualifications are a prerequisite (e.g. medicine, accounting, etc.).
However, some employers list qualifications as job criteria as a way to weed out unqualified or unskilled candidates. You may think nothing of adding an extra qualification to flesh out your CV or skill set, but this is a risky game to play.
Not only can employers easily check your academic credentials, but you could be fired or taken to court if you claim to have qualifications to enter a regulated profession (e.g, law, teaching, etc).
With more and more companies branching out into international markets, language skills are becoming some of the most sought-out skills by employers. This is why so many candidates exaggerate their foreign language abilities.
However, as language skills are fairly to test either via written tests or conversations with existing employees, this is one lie where you’ll almost certainly be caught out.
- Reasons for leaving
Not everyone parts with their employer on good terms. If you left your previous employer on acrimonious terms or because you were dismissed, you probably won’t want to advertise this information to future employers.
If you were dismissed, it may be hard to obtain a good reference from your former manager or boss. While getting a friend to pose as your former employer may seem like a good idea, falsifying references can put you at risk of being sued for libel.
It can be tempting to lie about your current salary in the hope of being offered a higher one by your future employer. However, this is the sort of thing that can be easily checked through background checks or through probing questions asked by the employer to catch you out.
Consequences of lying on your CV
Lying on your CV is not a good idea for a number of reasons. Should a recruiter or employer discover your lie(s) during pre-employment screening checks, any chance you had of ever getting the job would be gone. Once you’re hired, lying can also cost you the job if an employer realises that you’re unable to perform in the job because you don’t have the necessary skills or experience or when they eventually find out the truth about your qualifications.
- Broken trust
Once an employer finds out that you’ve lied on your CV, they have the right to terminate your contract.
Even if you manage to stay on in the company, the trust would be gone forever. Employers want to hire people they can trust, so if you can tell a lie about your fluency in French, they’ll wonder what else you’ve lied about.
- Damage to reputation
In our increasingly interconnected world, word travels fast. If you get caught lying on your CV, not only are you likely to lose your job, but you could also damage your reputation with other employers, especially ones in the same industry.
You may not have considered this, but lying on your CV could have legal implications.
For instance, in the UK, lying on your CV to secure employment is considered a criminal offence under the Fraud Act of 2006. If convicted, you could be issued a fine and/or sentenced up to 10 years, if you exaggerated your qualifications with the intention of gaining employment.
While lying on your CV is technically not illegal in Ireland, it’s still considered fraud and can lead to dismissal as seen in the case of Yahoo CEO, Scott Thompson, who was dismissed after only four months in the position after falsifying his computer science degree.
In New Zealand, there is no legislation against lying on personal documents; however, you can be convicted for forging your qualifications or failing to disclose a criminal record.
In South Africa, the introduction of the National Qualifications Framework Amendment Act 2019 means that you can now spend up to five years in jail for misrepresenting your qualifications. The law doesn’t only apply to job applications, it also extends to social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook which means you’ll have to tell the truth there too.
Pre-employment screening checks
To ensure that only the right people for the roles are hired in their organisations, many employers carry out pre-employment screening checks.
Depending on the role, these checks can include:
- the verification of identity
- the right to work in the country
- employment history
- criminal convictions
- financial history
- time spent abroad
For certain positions, screening is even required by law:
- employees at banks or other financial institutions (accountants or mortgage advisers)
- government positions
- professions in which confidential data is shared (investigating officers, lawyers, doctors or sworn interpreters)
- positions which involve working with vulnerable people (probation officers, family guardians or health care workers)
- childcare workers
It’s worth noting that employers should let you know if they are carrying out these checks and whether they intend to store the data they’ve collected about you.
In addition to these checks, many employers will go digging into your social media profiles, however unethical that might be. This means that if you claimed that you spent a year at a particular company on your CV but on social media, you posted about how glad you were to leave the company after three months, the truth will out.
Honesty is the best policy
When it comes to your CV, honesty really is the best policy. Rather than embellishing your CV with white lies, you’ll stand a better chance of making a good impression with employers by taking the time to improve your skills and experience.
For instance, you could take on a special project at work or get in touch with some not-for-profit organisations to gain practical experience or develop your skills in an evening class.
Alternatively, you could own up to your lack of experience and who knows, you may even be considered for a junior role or a different one more suited to your abilities.
By lying, you miss out on such opportunities and ruin any future chances you have of working with the company and even other companies, if word gets around.
What may seem like a small white lie at the beginning can have far greater consequences for your career and your reputation.
If you feel like you need to lie to get ahead, it’s worth considering whether the job is right for you in the first place.