The dangers of telling lies on your CV

Updated on 15 March 2012 | 15 Comments

Here are three tales of 'little white lies' on CVs that turned into 'dirty little secrets'!

Recently, I heard a cautionary tale from a young job-hunter. Keen to improve his lot in life, he had applied for a position with one of the biggest employers in our area - a household name and member of the elite FTSE 100 index of British companies.

During the interview, when asked about his qualifications, this lad confessed that he had "made some of them up". When questioned further, he admitted that he did not have the professional diploma needed to take this role, nor did he have some of the A-levels he'd listed on his CV.

He then went on to explain to the interviewer that "he didn't really need those qualifications, as he knew he could do the job as well as anyone else". His prospective boss disagreed, immediately terminated the interview and asked him to leave. When our young jobseeker protested, he was escorted from the building by security personnel.

One lie kills trust

What most amazed me about this true tale is this young man's response and those of his friends. His buddies universally agreed that he had been cruelly mistreated and should have had a 'fair crack of the whip' to win this job.

On the other hand, I was in complete agreement with his potential employer. By admitting to lying on his CV, this young man had been dishonest and, therefore, his boss-to-be would have immediately lost all faith in him. After all, anyone willing to tell one big lie may well produce many more, making him a liability to any firm.

What's more, the position up for grabs required a particular safety qualification. Without this certificate, it is a criminal offence to work in this field. Thus, in these circumstances, the interviewer had no choice but to send the cheat packing.

Lying on your CV

While all of us have 'tweaked' our CVs at some point to make use of persuasive language, some jobseekers choose to cross the line between self-marketing and lying.

Indeed, according to a 2006 survey from jobs website, more than half (57%) of employers admit to finding lies on candidates' applications. In almost every single case (93% of the time), these applicants were rejected.

A more recent survey by Callcredit Direct found that, of the people who admitted to lying on their CVs, a third said they had fabricated qualifications.

Although 'CV fibs' can be missed at the interview stage, they are most often discovered when employers check references after making provisional job offers.

At this stage, so-called 'little white lies' -- such as bogus qualifications or changed dates to hide career gaps -- sometimes come to light. Also, this is usually the point at which over-inflated salaries are exposed (the temptation to add, say, £5,000 to one's existing salary is too much for some to resist).

Alas, when references fail to check out, or CVs simply don't add up, then this almost always leads to job offers being withdrawn. These days, with many employers conducting CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) checks, unmentioned criminal convictions are easily exposed.

So, with perhaps hundreds of honest candidates to choose from, why would any boss take the risk of employing someone who seems to be dishonest?

You might get away with it

Although the vast majority of CV fraud goes undetected, it could come back to haunt you one day. In these circumstances, the best thing to do is to admit your mistake, face up to any disciplinary action and, with a bit of luck, you may still hang onto your job.

The worst thing to do when lies are exposed is to keep up the pretence by building a bigger lie. When faced with exposure, some desperate employees break the law.

For example, forging a bogus diploma to cover your tracks is a criminal offence similar to forgery, known as 'making a false instrument'. Likewise, faking a reference could be classed as fraud through 'false representation'. In both cases, the penalties can be severe and can include up to 10 years in prison.

Two more CV cheats

In the worst-case scenarios, conjuring up false references and qualifications can lead to you being banged up behind bars for deception and fraud.

For instance, Neil Taylor landed a top public sector job in October 2003, earning £115,000 a year as chief executive of the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals NHS Trust. However, Taylor won this job after falsely claiming to be a graduate with a first-class degree from the University of Nottingham.

When his deception came to light, Taylor resigned from his position and later pleaded guilty to 'obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception'. At Shrewsbury Crown Court in September 2005, he was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment, suspended for two years, fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £2,000 costs.

In March 2010, Rhiannon Mackay became the first woman in the UK to be jailed for lying on her CV.

Ex-Royal Navy sailor Mackay falsely claimed that she had A-levels to take a £23,000 a year admin job at Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust in May 2008. After admitting to inventing two B-grade A-levels and faking professional references, Mackay was jailed for six months by Plymouth magistrates under the Fraud Act 2006.

Don't be a 'CV chancer'!

In summary, employers are getting increasingly skilled at separating fact from fiction and falsehood on CVs.

By all means, 'big yourself up' by loudly singing your praises on your CV, but don't be tempted to drift into downright deception. While this might just land you a prize job, your 'dirty little secrets' could cost you your career and even your liberty one day!

Finally, for top tips on writing a great CV, read How to write the perfect CV.

More: How young people can find a job | The worst place to find a job in the UK


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