Fake news: Top tips for finding the lies within a candidate’s CV

In-House Recruiting, Recruitment Agencies
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It happens with a worrying regularity, make sure you know what to look for.


A worrying 38% of Brits admit to lying on their CV, making it increasingly difficult for employers to hire the right candidate. The old saying goes; desperate times call for desperate measures. In the increasingly tough jobseekers market, some may be tempted to fudge the truth a little to make themselves more attractive.

The problem is widespread enough that the government had to step in last year in an attempt to curb the problem. In this blog, we look at how employers can find the truth amongst the lies, and assess if they really matter.

“I got a 2:1 for my undergraduate degree”

One of the most common lies you will spot, or more likely not spot, is a candidate ‘bumping up’ the result they received for their degree. In fact, according to the Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD), about a third of people ‘embellish’ their academic qualifications. In extreme cases, people even buy degree certificates online.

The question to ask yourself is; do you even check what a candidate said they got for their degree? For some professions, like engineering the likelihood of answering this questions ‘yes’ will be high, as it’s vital that they have the right technical skills for the task at hand. For others professions, it can be argued that it doesn’t matter too much. Next time you look at a candidate CV, question how important that 2:1 or 2:2 is to your business.


“I get paid £26k in my current role”

Though not typically in the CV, salary is certainly a topic to be discussed upfront or at interview stage. We’ve all heard stories about people interviewing for a new role exaggerating their current salary. They deliberately inflate it to extract a higher figure when it comes to being offered a role.

As a prospective employer a) you can ask their previous employer for concrete details or b) wait for their P60 to come through and take a look. Despite being a bit underhand, it does happen a lot, so ask yourself how important this is. Perhaps you may view it as divulging some truths about their character – does it make them sneaky or just too shy to ask and be confident in their worth? Each case will need individual examination.

“I ran the project from conception to execution”

Often candidates are applying for a new role in order to clinch a promotion. There’s nothing wrong with that, ambition and confidence can be great qualities in a potential new employee. As a recruiter, however, you need to be able to independently assess the candidate’s competency for the role.

This is particularly important for the engineering sector where employees are consistently held responsible for critical infrastructure projects. If they say they can build a bridge, but can’t, there will be issues. When looking at a candidate’s CV, and potentially through to interview stage, look for those nuances that show they may just have played a part in the project, taking credit for another manager’s work. Lies in a CV like this can also give you some clues about how well they work with a wider team.


“I enjoy long walks on the beach and reciting poetry at weekends”

Sometimes, as a recruiter, you scan the ‘interests’ section of a CV and you aren’t convinced they are genuine. This is often down to a perception fostered by candidates that they need to write ‘something constructive’ in this section. Often people have completely average interest, but feel like they can’t say this.

You need to decide what you want to see in this section from a prospective employee. What is the wider cultural fit that you will be looking to insert the candidate into? Are they more in to reciting poetry or a few pints down the local? It’s disappointing to see candidate’s waste this section with untruths but, equally recruiters need to push candidates on this section and how they will fit in with the team.

“I left due to a differing of opinion over strategic direction”

This can be a red flag or a potential golden goose when scanning a CV or during an interview. You are immediately drawn into wanting to know more about why the candidate left their previous employer. It could be an elaborate way of glossing over the fact they were pushed out, or it could be that they had creative and insightful ideas that went unrecognised.

Be honest with the candidate at interview stage, or even drop them a note asking for a bit of clarity. The candidate is likely expecting this following the teaser in the CV. In addition, think about your contacts in the industry that you could have a chat to in order to glean a little more insight.

Describing something as a ‘lie’ can be quite strong language – especially when it comes to describing statements in a CV. But in a competitive job market, isn’t it smarter to embellish some details in order to stand out a little from the crowd and secure an interview? The answer to that question is down to you as a recruiter, do you desire honesty above everything else in an employee? Or are you only concerned about them being able to do the job put in front of them? Combining skills, culture and your own gut instinct will lead you to the right answer.


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