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Top CV Lies and How to Spot Them

Top CV Lies – How to Spot Them

A few small white lies on a CV might help some individuals to gloss over difficult areas. As long as you don’t get caught in a lie and you aren’t lying about something that is essential for your role, it’s unlikely to raise any eyebrows. Compare this to someone sharing outlandish lies on their CV in order to secure a job they aren’t qualified for, and you quickly see that not all lies are created equal.

Candidates lying on their CV is bad news for employers. It erodes trust between the candidate and the employer and it makes it more difficult for honest candidates to make a good impression. 

Not to mention, the cost of hiring the wrong person can be staggering. If you factor in the time spent interviewing, training and onboarding candidates – and then the time spent fixing any mistakes they have made – it can quickly add up.

A far better solution would be to learn to spot the little white lies and the more damaging lies on a CV ahead of the interview. If you suspect a candidate has lied or stretched the truth, you can then tailor the questions to get to the bottom of your suspicions. In this guide, we will look at why people lie on their CVs and the types of lies you should be aware of.

Why do people lie on their CV?

There are many reasons an individual might lie on their CV, ranging from malicious to innocent but misguided reasons. Some of the reasons could include:

  • Trying to secure a job they are not qualified to do. This type of lie will nearly always be caught during the interview when it is revealed they don’t have the knowledge the hiring manager is looking for.
  • To inflate their experience in order to gain a promotion. If the candidate believes they are ready for the next step, they might lie to secure the job they want with another company.
  • To conceal something they would rather not talk about. This could include getting fired or having a long absence from work.
  • To secure a bigger salary. Candidates might lie about their previous salary to put themselves in a better position to negotiate.
  • To appear more connected. They might name drop on their CV or include a reference from someone in the hope that you don’t actually check.

Now that we know the reasons why individuals might lie on their CV, let’s look at some of the top lies you can expect and how to weed them out during the pre-interview stages, during the interview and during your due diligence checks. 

What are the top CV lies?

Most employers will want to rule out anyone caught lying on their CV, but it’s worth considering the severity of the lie and the motivation behind it. For example, if a candidate has been fired from their previous role and they are scared about how this will look to prospective employers, it’s always worth hearing their side of the story.

Fancy or made up job titles

Making up a fancy job title or making their role appear more senior is a very common CV lie. Candidates might do this as they are applying for a role that would be a step up, and they are worried they won’t look qualified. 

To root out this lie, you need to look at the description of the role and see if the responsibilities they describe match the level of seniority. You can also ask questions about their role and seniority during an interview. In some cases, it may be that they were fulfilling the role of a more senior member of staff but have been held back by their employer.

Inflated salary

Lying about your current salary on your CV is a common way to try to strengthen your bargaining position when looking for a new role. For example, if a candidate currently makes £24,000 but they want to be able to ask for a salary of £30,000 in their next role, they might lie and say they are currently being paid £28,000.

This isn’t always a bad thing, particularly if the individual has not been given a pay review with their current employer for a long time. If the salary they have stated is within the current market range for their role and experience, this could be a reasonable request. Struggling to get a pay rise from a current employer is a common reason for looking for a new job.

The best way to find out if the candidate is lying is to ask the question again during the interview. It’s likely that the candidate will forget how much they said they earn, and this will open the door to an honest conversation about salary expectations. 

Hiding employment gaps

Changing the dates of employment to hide larger gaps in employment is a common tactic used by those who are afraid to have difficult conversations or are worried they will be instantly dismissed.

Employers know that employment gaps aren’t the end of the world, provided the candidate can explain the reason for the gap and provide some reassurance that they did something productive with their time.

Lying about education level

Sometimes candidates will lie about completing their degree when they dropped out before the end. Or they might lie about having specific professional qualifications

This is a more serious lie which indicates malicious intent. In this instance, the candidate is trying to lie about their knowledge, which could be problematic if they are put in a work scenario where specific knowledge, experience or qualifications is required.

Most employers will check education history as part of their referencing checks, or they might ask to see proof of professional certifications.

Fake references

Name dropping a more impressive reference and then providing fake contact details is another problematic lie. If a candidate cannot provide a genuine and satisfactory reference, this would often set alarm bells ringing for most employers.

To determine if a reference is real, try researching the individual’s contact details online and see if they match the details provided. For example, if the candidate has only provided a phone number, you could try emailing the reference using contact details available online. This will allow you to confirm the correct contact details.

Mistakes and omissions

Sometimes a candidate can make a genuine mistake on their CV which can then look like a lie during an interview when the information doesn’t match up. It’s down to the hiring manager to decide how serious this is. 

It isn’t a great look for candidates, as it shows poor attention to detail when preparing documents, but it could be an honest and innocent mistake.

Closing thoughts

Sometimes candidates lie, and the reasons for these lies are varied and complex. As a hiring manager, you need to learn to read between the lines of a CV and a candidate's experience and pick up on the inconsistencies that could indicate a lie has been told.

Not all lies are malicious and the candidate doesn’t always mean to be deceitful; sometimes, it’s simply a misguided attempt to gloss over something that they would rather not mention. If you catch a candidate in a lie, try to get to the heart of the lie to understand their intent before making a judgement call.