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“Is it okay to have little white lies on my CV?”

By UCL Careers, on 11 November 2013

Everyone lies on their CV don’t they (guys? Guys?). I’m not talking massive great lies like Dennis O’Riordan’s, who audaciously faked a stint at Harvard and a doctorate, but little lies, like “I am a highly motivated and enthusiastic employee.” Or bumping up your A-levels a grade or two. Or saying you have A-Levels. You know, minor stuff. (‘Everyone lies on their CV – but an Oxford doctorate is an addition too far’, The Guardian, 10 Oct 2013)

With all sorts of pressures that come with applying for highly sought-after internships or graduate jobs, many students feel that they need to enhance certain details in their CVs for that little bit of competitive edge over the next student-applicant. You might think you can get away with a bit of exaggeration here and a little tiny bit of fakery there, but there should really be no argument about this – DON’T lie on your CV!

Despite lacking the necessary experience, students still feel that they should list desired skills on their CVs anyway and hope that employers won’t check up on these minor details. The CV is not a document for you to make up abilities that you think you should demonstrate to the employer, but rather, it should list factual details about bona fide experiences and skills you have already gained thus far.

The falsifications that students are guilty of range from minor embellishments to very serious and potentially career-damaging lies. As tempting as it is to write on your CV that you have ‘excellent leadership skills’ – especially when the extent of your leadership activity was being responsible for just sending one email to your two other project team-mates to organise a meeting, you need to be honest with yourself and the skills that you do (or don’t) possess. Employers will have the means to test your claims and they will find out the truth one way or another.

Here are two real examples of applicants being caught out by the little white lies on their CVs:

‘Languages: French (fluent), German (intermediate), Mandarin (intermediate)’

Student X stated on his CV that he speaks various languages, particularly French with some level of fluency. However, the last time he spoke French was when he was doing his A-levels where he got an A grade, and that was 4 years ago. He got through to the interview at the company he applied to, and half-way through the interview, he got the shock of his life when one of the interviewers started to ask questions in French – ‘since your CV says you speak French’. Oops.

‘Jul 2011 – Sep 2011: Summer internship at Xingutao Commercial Bank, Jiakou Province, China’

Student Y  was applying for an IT job in finance, but had no experience in finance at all. Worried that his CV might go to the ‘Reject’ pile because of that, he thought it would be smart to fake some work experience in a small bank in an obscure part of China, thinking that the UK employers would not bother looking it up. They obviously did, and his application was rejected anyway.

While the risks from these two examples seem rather straightforward and obvious, students may think minor tweaks might go unnoticed. Soraya Pugh, head of graduate at FreshMinds Talent, says that lying on a CV is ‘never a good idea, not only because you could get found out but because a lack of skills or experience will become apparent once you are in the role’ (‘Will you be found out if you lie on your CV?’, Guardian, 22 Jun 2012).

To spell this out in even clearer terms: lying on your CV can land you in prison, as it constitutes a criminal offense under the Fraud Act 2006. See http://graduatefog.co.uk/2010/1071/lying-cv-illegal-graduate-jobs/.

If you are unsure of what you have written on your CV, or need help enhancing your CV (the legitimate way!), make an appointment with one of our Applications Advisors.

This blog post was orginially posted on 11th November 2013.

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