Re-Writing your Job History

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Being untruthful on your Curriculum Vitae can be a real temptation. The resume is supposed to be a correct reflection of who you are. Do you want it to be lasting proof of your dishonesty? Have you ever stretched the truth a little on your CV?

Job applicants and CV content

Included ‘fluent in Italian’ when you wouldn’t be able to tell Carlo’s flattery from Klaus’ come-down? It may seem like a little white lie, but the trouble with lies on your CV is that they will always be exposed. Lies have a habit of coming to the surface, even for the veteran con man. In general terms, it seems to be true that more often than not, you will never be asked to produce your O level exam certificates, so you could get away with slipping in another pass. But somewhere not too far down the line, you will make friends with your colleagues and they will find out exactly where you went to school, where you’ve worked, and what you can do. And secretaries just love to browse through CVs when they are tidying up. Are there any inaccuracies in your resume that you wouldn’t want to see the light of day?

Your untruths may not be bold, obvious lies. When asked, most job applicants are ‘great team players, respect diversity, enjoy challenges and always put customers first’. You might be inclined to word your responsibilities in such a way that you will have upgraded your expertise. Giving an impression of yourself as something that you are not, is untruthful.

Lies on the Increase

Statistics regarding dishonesty on CVs show alarming figures. A quarter of 3,000 CVs submitted with job applications in the United Kingdom in a particular study had a lie in them, according to employee screening firm Risk Advisory Group. Inflated job titles, increased salaries and benefits, length of service and qualifications are the most common areas for lies, says Marcia Roberts of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation. Many even claim to have been to foreign universities which don’t exist.

In light of this trend, it is no surprise that checking CVs and application forms is a growing industry. Kroll Background Worldwide managing director Hedley Clark, says: “Companies in the past have done reference checking themselves and just asked people to bring in their qualification certificates when they start. What’s changing is that people are taking it more seriously and seeing more public instances where a CV fabrication has gone on.” Companies are devising an application form which is designed to get to the truth in areas like employer history, professional qualifications and directorships. Applicants are warned that the forms will be vetted, but that still doesn’t prevent nearly one in three containing an error.

Big oaks, little lies

Even just including an added, invented credential can lead to being dismissed from your job. A young woman had got a job as a salesgirl in a shop selling household goods, having impressed the employees with her experience and confidence. Her CV was presentable and exactly what they were looking for. However, she slowly revealed her true colours: borrowing money that was never paid back, arriving late for work, talking about getting drunk on the weekends, so her employer started to feel uncomfortable. An Italian customer had come into the shop and our friend was lost for words. The manager had an increasingly nagging feeling that this woman couldn’t be trusted, so he went over her CV. ‘Fluent in Italian’ leapt out at him. Those three little words were the last straw, the proof that he was looking for.

Never an isolated case

Even lying about your hobbies, while seemingly harmless, is deceitful. The ‘other interests and hobbies’ section is often seen to be irrelevant to your potential to fulfill the job’s requirements, but it is information that you have supplied on your own behalf. This section may be used during the interview as a conversation starter, so make sure that you can carry it off. Again, credibility loss lurks nearby if you’ve stretched the truth.

The bottom line in issues of ethics, is that if you are capable of lying about such a small detail, then wouldn’t you also be dishonest in other things? Every job presumes that employees be trustworthy and honest.

Life and death

A case in point is the doctor who could be struck off the UK medical register after being jailed for lying about his education. Last January Dr Juamer Baldar, 42, of west London, was sentenced to 15 months jail. It turns out that he had also claimed more than 15,000 in sick pay from one hospital while he was working for two others. Baldar admitted to a total of 10 counts of deception.

Other CV liars in the news include a former UK National Health Service trust chief executive who admitted securing a 115,000-a-year job by falsely claiming to be a graduate. Neil Taylor produced a bogus degree certificate to land the position as head of the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals NHS Trust in 2003. But after admitting the offence of obtaining a pecuniary advantage through deception, he now faces the possibility of prison.

A 51-year-old woman who lied on her CV to get a job with a Manchester consultancy firm has been jailed for stealing 115,000 from the business. Susan Simms admitted stealing money while working at Acorn Creative Consultants. Simms worked as an office manager at the Old Trafford firm between 2000 and 2003, but had lied about her professional qualifications to get the job.

To Recap

The Curriculum Vitae, Latin for “Course of Life”, is a brief account of your education, qualifications and previous occupations and is normally an employer’s first contact with you. It gives a summary of the key skills, achievements and competencies you have developed so far, tailored to the job for which you are applying.

Not only will the CV get you an interview, but it is still important afterwards. It can help you prepare for the interview. As you read through it beforehand, you can pre-empt the questions they will ask. This helps you feel more confident. It is essential to know your CV well. It’s disappointing to interview a strong candidate who clearly hasn’t looked at their CV for months, or even contradicts themselves. This results in immediate credibility loss. One method of checking people’s CVs as the interview draws to a conclusion, is for the candidate to be asked to imagine they have got the job and asked to write a 100 word appointment press release for use on office notice boards and in the local/professional press (without reference to the CV they previously supplied). Then the interviewer can sit back and watch the qualifications drop, that experience fade and all those personal achievements disappear.

Your CV as a marketing tool

As a marketing tool, the CV is meant to highlight your strengths and hopefully get you the number one position on the interview list. It should also inspire you to perform at your best in an interview, where your CV will often be used as a basis for discussion. You should encourage the interviewer to be curious about you and want to get to know you better. It also gives the recruiter strong enough evidence that you can do the job they are offering. Make sure it’s always the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Unfair competition

Another reason for adhering to honesty in CV writing is that reputable job applicants are angered by the revelation that so many applicants may be stealing jobs from them through such deceptions. However, liars often feel completely justified in lying, tweaking or revising their CVs. Inflating previous salaries may be done because wage negotiations are seen to be like other financial transactions, a game of bluffing, following the rationale that the salary you end up with should relate to whether you can do the job and the market rate, not what you previously earned.

Perhaps some lies are invented because a job applicant lacks confidence. Remember that you cannot always have the skills and experience required for any particular job, it is your potential that an employer is looking for. On the other side of the coin, isn’t it time for employers to question their own level of honesty? It is understandable that a peeved job seeker may lie shamelessly on his CV because he feels that prospective employers have lied to him in their adverts about job content, responsibilities and salary. Perhaps we should all keep the words of Sir Walter Bezant in mind: “I am afraid we must make the world honest before we can honestly say to our children that honesty is the best policy.”

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