Lying is rarely our first choice. However, we understand that it can feel scary when you’re on the job hunt. A good job can give you a sense of security and even importance and meaning. However, there’s a reason that lying on your CV is considered wrong.
Let’s imagine you have lied on your CV. There are usually real people out there who really do have the skills and experience you’re claiming to have. The truth is that they might be better suited to the job than you. Not to mention that a lie on your CV could be quite easily disproved by your potential employer. Let’s face it. Lying is not a good impression to make at any stage of your career. In fact, it’s illegal.
However, we also recognise that the situation isn’t always black and white. Unless you’re outright claiming to have skills and experience that you clearly don’t, there’s often more to the story. In this blog post, we will explore some of the considerations of lying on your CV and the line between lying and advocating for your professional worth. We will cover the following topics:
- What counts as a lie and what it could lead to
- How employers find lies
- Some common CV lies and what to do instead.
Our goal is to equip you with the confidence that you and your professional experience are enough without the lies. Let’s look together at some ways to reframe your perspective when you get down to the gritty and write your CV.
Forget right or wrong — is lying on a CV common?
A 2023 study into the UK’s leading fraud prevention service had some surprising results about Brits lying on their CV. Here are some of the insights from the resulting data:
- Almost 10% of respondents admitted to lying on their CV in the last year.
- 1 in 11 people had lied about a degree or qualification.
- Almost one fifth of respondents didn’t realise it was illegal to lie on your CV.
Facts about lying on your CV
Can you lie on your CV? It’s rarely a good look. However, the truth is a lot more complicated than that. Before we can talk broadly about lying on your CV, there are a few points you should consider. We would never recommend lying on your CV, but let’s talk about some of the facts.
What can you gain or lose by lying on your CV?
Most hiring professionals would likely agree that there is a difference between a small white lie and a red-flag, fraudulent claim. However, will you have that much to gain with white lies in the first place? The answer is likely no.
Many employees have reported feeling like they had been filtered out of the hiring process due to a lack of formal education or experience. While it might feel like you have a huge amount to gain, lying on your CV about your qualifications could actually land you in legal trouble.
While an extreme example, a high-profile case of lying about qualifications in the UK ended up with extreme legal consequences for one fraudster. A man who claimed to have experience and qualifications he did not may have earned him a top job.
However, legal action once he was found out ended in him being found guilty for two counts of fraud. The supreme court ordered him to hand over tens of thousands of pounds.
How will employers catch you in a lie?
Your references, your LinkedIn profile, and discrepancies in documentation are all ways that employers can catch you in a lie. However, your own abilities if you actually land the job could be huge giveaways. They say “fake it til you make it”, but we’re not sure that exaggerating your experiences, skills, or qualifications on your CV is quite in the spirit of that expression.
Lying can be a key way that hiring managers and recruiters understand if you’re a good fit for company culture. However, 76% of applicants questioned for one study admitted to lying in the hiring process.
The line between lying and reframing what you do
One thing that we do recommend is finding ways to make it abundantly clear to the hiring manager why you are the right fit for the job you’re applying to. At times, this requires finding new ways of framing your previous experience so there’s no doubt about its relevance. However, there is a fine line between reframing your experience and outright misrepresentation.
Finding impressive ways to assign numbers to your achievements and contributions can be a nice way to quantify your value. For instance, if the implementation of your customer service ideas was followed by a 25% increase in customer satisfaction scores. Just be ready to be transparent about the way that you arrived at these numbers when asked.
51% of employers asked in one survey said that they had difficulty in ascertaining the accuracy of CVs.
Six common lies on CVs
As you read through some examples of common lies on CVs, you will likely come to the same conclusion as us. CV lies rarely come from masterminded con artists. They come from the job applicant fearing that they’re inadequate.
Challenge yourself to find a new approach for something you might see as a problem on your CV. There’s almost always another way to communicate your suitability and competency. Without lying on your CV at all. Read on for some examples.
Contributions and achievements
While many hiring managers may overlook a white lie or two, a well-written CV will clearly include examples of your contributions to a project. If you are struggling to think of how to demonstrate your individual contribution rather than something other members of your team did, try to brainstorm a couple of examples using the STAR method.
- Situation - What was the context of the situation?
- Task - What was the task you/your team was assigned or decided to do?
- Action - What action did you personally take in this? It’s OK if it was a team effort, but highlight the activities that you did alone, or suggested, or even led.
- Results - What was the bigger picture of this? It’s OK to link a smaller action of yours to a bigger picture result that was a team effort. Just remember to frame your actions as a contribution and don’t take credit for all of the results.
With many employees feeling they’ve been passed over for interviews because they are not qualified enough, it’s no wonder that some feel a pressure to exaggerate their education details. However, claiming a qualification at a place you’ve never studied is a sure-fire way to get fired if anyone finds out. That’s if you’re lucky enough to avoid legal ramifications.
“Tweaking” your employment dates to cover gaps in your CV isn’t just dishonest — it’s also easy for hiring managers to find out about. It takes just a couple of calls from the hiring manager to your previous employers, and what you thought was an innocent exaggeration has passed over into the realm of creating distrust with your new potential employer.
So, what should you do instead? While employment gaps aren’t ideal and often easy to explain in an interview, you may consider a short CV entry to explain. One-phrase that you can expand on in an interview should be enough.
For better or for worse, the job title that you were hired to do is pretty fixed. While you may not be able to change it, you can reframe the things that you did in the job. Use the bullet points in your employment history section to describe your responsibilities and curate examples of impressive results you achieved while you were in the role.
Remember that it can be just as impressive to achieve top results with a small team as it can be with a big one. In fact, when working in small teams you’re unlikely to have as much infrastructural support as larger teams in larger companies. Find creative ways to highlight this. Consider the examples you choose to include and the language you use to describe it.
Prejudice can be a real fear for certain jobseekers. But don’t waste your time finding ways to fudge key information about your profile so you appear different from how you really are. Find other ways to present information so that you can maintain a level of privacy for indicators of age or other characteristics you’re uncomfortable with sharing in your CV.
- Lying on your CV is more than an ethical consideration. It could have legal ramifications.
- Most common lies on CVs likely stem from a fear of inadequacy. Put in the extra effort to make your profile stand out — the right way!
- There’s almost always a workaround to avoid lying and instead communicate what you want.
- Learn how to perfect your application by taking a look at our stellar CV examples now.