When you’re putting together your CV, amassing your achievements, skills, and abilities in just one or two pages, it can be tempting to embellish things a little. After all, landing a job is no easy feat — particularly when there are so many highly qualified and accomplished competitors.
According to a recent survey by CV-Library, 92.5% of UK adults have got away with lying on their CV. Of the 1,000 workers polled, a third (31.4%) said they would be willing to lie about the dates of their previous employment and 27.1% about gaps in their CV.
More than one in 10 — 12.9% — said they would lie about their work experience and 11.4% would fib about their previous responsibilities. What’s more, nearly three quarters (71.6%) of those said that they got the job as a result.
The most common reasons people lie on their resumes is to look more experienced, appear more qualified or skilled, and to earn a higher salary. But while you might get away with a small fib, is it really worth fabricating your achievements?
The CV that you submit is the employer's first impression of you and so it needs to sell you, but it is still important that it is truthful. Firstly, getting caught out is unlikely to do you any favours in the recruitment process.
"It can be tempting to lie on your CV, especially when you know that competition is tough for the role you're applying for. But, while it might get your foot in the door, any interviewer worth their salt will spot these lies a mile off; and it will seriously harm your chances of getting the job,” says Lee Biggins, CEO and founder of CV-Library.
Bringing on board someone that can’t do the job is also going to be a waste of time for everyone, too. If you lie about being able to use certain types of tech or having specific skills, your employer may start to question your abilities — and if they find out you fibbed, your career at the company will be a short one.
“Even if you manage to dupe the employer, cracks are sure to appear as soon as you start work; and your boss will figure out that you were less than honest on your CV in no time,” Biggins says.
With access to information through the internet, it’s also a lot easier to see if someone has lied. It’s not uncommon for people to use other’s achievements for their own gain on LinkedIn, for example. But an employer could easily discover the truth. It’s important to remember that you never know who you will end up working with — or how they will impact your career in the future.
The risks of lying also depend on what it is you are lying about. Fabricating a degree or changing the grades on a qualification may be seen as part of the wider crime of application fraud, for which there can be serious consequences.
In 2019, a woman who lied on her resume and faked references to secure a high-paying job with an Australian regional government was sentenced to at least a year in prison. Veronica Hilda Theriault was convicted of deception, dishonesty, and abuse of public office in relation to her 2017 application for the chief information officer role — earning 33,000 Australian dollars (£17,271) in just over a month before being fired.
Although an extreme example, the case highlights how serious application fraud can be. It might be tempting to fake good references or to cover up any gaps in your employment record, but it’s safer to just be honest.
If you have gaps in your CV, find a positive aspect to the time off you had and explain how this enhanced your skills and experience.
Being truthful doesn’t mean you can’t stand out from the crowd, Biggins says.
“The key to a great CV is to tailor it to each role you apply for. So, take the time to look at what the role requires, and think about how your experience proves you're capable of carrying out those duties. If you lead with these skills on your CV, a prospective employer is sure to be impressed.”