Liar for Hire? Top Ten Lies spotted on Faked CVs.

August 27, 20149:00 am1448 views

A recent article by AFP wrote about a group of Hiring Managers from an IT company in New Delhi. They were puzzled when they encountered over 30 job seekers who claimed to have worked previously for the same employer- one they’ve never heard of. The puzzled managers sought the help of a firm which specializes in screening background information given by prospective employees.

The findings were stunning. The “employer” was an owner of a dingy one-room mobile repair shop- who charged candidates money to answer verification calls and outline how the candidates had ‘worked’ for him previously doing data entry.

Forging qualifications, faking experience, and inventing companies — desperate candidates are telling all kinds of lies to land jobs in an increasingly competitive marketplace where candidates are plenty and jobs are drying up.

So how does one spot the liars?

The Gray Area Between Fact and Fiction

The thing is- a certain amount of fudging is expected in CVs and most career experts advise job seekers to customize their resumes to the individual jobs they apply for. So where is the line between self-promotion and falsehood? Its definitely a grey area which can be hard to spot, especially when the difference between self-promotion and a damaging lie varies by industry and profession.  For instance, financial executives are subject to more intense scrutiny than many people going into entry-level positions that don’t involve money.

Yet studies are showing that quite a few people embellish their resumes with falsehoods. A 2012 study by Accu-Screen, Inc, ADP and the Society of Human Resource Managers estimated that over 50% of resumes contain some kind of lie.

So why do candidates lie on their CVs?

Common wisdom dictates that stretching the truth is risky — especially on official job applications.  And it’s puzzling why anyone would make up his or her job history, especially when people can easily check references, do some snooping on social media and even hire agencies that specialize in performing background checks.

Yet apparently this does not deter the lies. Reasons vary greatly, from an applicant with a criminal record who’s afraid his history would prevent him from being hired to someone looking to cover up an employment gap. It could even be that the job seeker did not have the required educational qualifications or skills that a job requires, yet still feels he’s qualified. Whatever the reason for the lie, there can be consequences beyond simply being caught.

The Top 10 Lies on a CV.

While there’s no limit to what job applicants can lie about on their résumés, several firms we spoke to have a list of top ten lies which they vigilantly check out during their screening process:

  1. Stretching dates of employment. Since many are told that working anywhere less than a year looks bad, many candidates are happy to fudge their timelines than be honest about their employment history.
  2. Inflating past accomplishments and skills. There’s a difference between enhancing actual skills and accomplishments and flat out making up abilities.
  3. Enhancing titles and responsibilities. Sometimes candidates do perform a lot more than their original job title suggests and feel well within their rights to include these additional responsibilities in their resumes. Some however will lie about this- making up a job title they feel will resonate well with the hiring manager.
  4. Exaggerating education and fabricating degrees. This lie is not common- as it is easy to verify, and could get one fired and even  incite legal action. Yet many desperate employees resort to this- even at the very senior level.  Perhaps the most recent and famous case of this would be Yahoo’s short lived CEO Scott Thompson- who was forced to resign from his position after it emerged that he included a computer science degree he did not have on his CV.
  5. Unexplained gaps and periods of “self employment.” This usually happens when candidates take time off to raise children, go back to school, are retrenched and dealing with a tough economy, or even just recovering from an illness. Yet they put in a white lie on their resume stating they were ‘self employed’ or more daringly, they make up jobs.
  6. Omitting past employment. This is a gray area. Technically this is not lying (even if it could be defined as “lying by omission”), but there’s probably a reason why the candidate removed a job from their résumé. It is always good to find out why.
  7. Faking credentials. Just like with lying about education, this can have serious consequences that can impact productivity and one’s brand.
  8. Falsifying reasons for leaving prior employment. While many candidates employ a tactful way of explaining being fired or quitting abruptly, some of them will lie about this.
  9. Providing fraudulent references. Its quite common for candidates to request friends and family to lie and act as professional references. Some candidates are going as far as paying individuals just to get them to act as a professional reference.
  10. Misrepresenting, or hiding a criminal record. While hiding a speeding ticket or a former drunk driving citation does not matter- it does matter if a candidate covers up any crimes they may have committed that would directly impact their work.

So how do you spot a liar- and if you do- what can you do?

Two words: “due diligence”. Always check references, and look up past employers no matter how time-consuming it may seem. Do a search on social media. Never be afraid to ask for proof of education (certificates etc).  Ask candidates to sign a written declaration to confirm the truth of their application- highlighting possible legal consequences for lying.

Through all this- one message is clear: never rely on instinct alone.

And if you happen to catch a job applicant out in a CV lie—what should you do? Perhaps its important to look at the lie itself- it may not be worthwhile to retract a job offer because a candidate said they got a B grade average in high school when they actually got a C.

But overlooking deliberate dishonesty is a risky game for any employer to play, as the damage to a business can still be significant. If it all goes wrong and you have to get rid of them, you will have replacement costs to meet and there could be problems with staff morale, as its definitely not good for other staff to see someone being marched from their desk in disgrace.

If, despite your best efforts, you do end up taking someone on based on a fraudulent CV, you may have some recourse under civil law. If there has been material misrepresentation—in other words, the employee told lies that you relied on when making the job offer—you can serve a notice to rescind the contract and sue the employee for all the costs incurred in his or her employment, including recruitment costs and all salaries paid. But in many cases the dishonest employee will not have sufficient assets to make pursuing such a case worthwhile. And the burden of proof is on the employer: you must be able to prove that you were supplied with false information and that you relied on it when making the appointment.

Clearly, it’s better not to be taken in by CV lies in the first place. And Honesty is truly the best policy when it comes to hiring.


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