The annual survey on graduate data fraud by UK Higher Education Degree Datacheck consistently shows that around a third of people are not entirely truthful when applying for jobs, whether by adding a slight embellishment to their academic qualifications, or telling outright lies.
But employers never really check the details on your CV, right?
Wrong. Almost three quarters of recruitment managers have spotted falsifications on CVs according to research by CareerBuilder, and it’s more or less guaranteed that they will discard an application upon finding a lie. There is a fine line between self-promotion and falsehood, and the grey area varies according to company and role. For the most senior positions, for which applicants are under far more scrutiny, this line becomes a thread that could break at the slightest wrong move.
A+ for effort
Some job seekers go to extraordinary lengths to jazz up their CV, such as falsifying official looking letters from universities or paying for a novelty degree certificate online – some even go as far as inventing an entire company and impersonating a former boss to give a reference (cue your best Alan Sugar impression).
But beware, the internet makes investigating candidates child’s play for recruiters. What’s more, many don’t realise that lying on your resume is a punishable offence; getting creative with your employment history could lead to being slapped with a hefty fine for fraud.
Twisting the truth on your CV could also land you in trouble even after securing a job. Rue the day when your boss asks you to attend a business meeting with a new French client because you’ve listed “fluent in French” as one of your additional skills following a two-week holiday camp in Paris when you were 12.
So how can you improve your CV without lying?
While fabricating skills, interests and hobbies is not recommended, there may be some past experience that you have overlooked. Dig out that certificate you obtained after attending a skills workshop, which now sits in a drawer gathering dust; not only are transferable skills extremely useful, this also shows a dedication to self-improvement. If you have never considered signing up for a workshop, see what’s on offer – these are a great way to get job ready.
If you don’t have the exact skills listed on a job advertisement, but still think you are a strong candidate for the role and feel you would fit in well at the company, highlight this in a cover letter. Recruitment managers are often open to considering people they believe have relevant transferable experience and skills, and who they think will be able to learn and adapt to the role.
It is extremely important to research a company before applying for a position. There may be aspects of the company’s culture that you can relate to in your CV by noting relevant extracurricular activities and achievements (note that winning at an egg and spoon race on a university charity day is probably not going to land you the job.)
There is no need to lie about employment gaps; simply explain them. Perhaps you were working on your own projects, participating in voluntary or charity work, or taking time out to travel and broaden your horizons. All of these are productive activities through which you will have gained new skills, and such experiences can make you stand out from the crowd.
Shraga Zaltzman is chief executive of Work Avenue.