CV’s Fact or Fiction?

Recruitment news this week has made grim reading for those taking a dim view of candidates who lie their way through the selection process.

The week started badly as Peter Harris, Editor in Chief of online job board Workopolis said “There are definitely some lies that you will likely have to tell in order to get hired for a new job”. Stats from a recent survey by CV Library only confirmed this when they revealed that over a quarter of candidates admitted to telling a lie on their CV and, perhaps more worryingly, almost 10% said the lies were significant rather than mere “fibs”.

As in all things, candidate deception covers a spectrum ranging from generally innocuous embellishment of CVs to complete re-imagining of academic/career achievements and full-on airbrushing of the sometimes ugly truth.

There seems little doubt that this trend is set to continue and recruiters are part of this dynamic, being tasked with sorting fact from fiction (Note Homer Simpson’s insight here“ Marge, it takes two to lie…one to lie and one to listen”). So what’s the best approach? Assuming we’re all agreed that indignant harrumphing from the moral high ground is a waste of time, recruiters need to stay sharp, cut through the spin and lock on to the truth. The following tips should help:

1) Although the 25-35 age bracket is statistically the most likely to lie, starting with the belief that all candidates could be, at best, stretching the truth, is wise. Recent news reports on senior candidates from all professions including the law and law enforcement being sacked for CV fraud mean assumptions should not be made about a candidate’s honesty, Executive or not.

2) Try to take as little of the CV as possible at face value and verify as much as you can by other means –primarily through rigorous interviewing, testing and reference checking.

3) In the interview use competency based questioning to tease the truth about a candidate’s abilities and achievements out. Don’t hold back on pushing for specifics and be wary of generalisations.

4) Check academic and professional qualifications as standard procedure – a recent survey found that 40% of students and graduates had exaggerated their grades, that 31% lied about how much of the course they’d completed and 11% even claimed to have a degree when they didn’t. If in doubt, hire a specialist to conduct thorough background checks for you.

5) Embrace technology. Tools like Draftback, the latest Chrome extension may allow you to see the edits candidates have made to CVs written in Google Docs. Viewing the candidate’s trail of tweaks and revisions about roles, responsibilities and salary can be enlightening.

The rise in CV fabrications may come as no real surprise in a competitive world where hyperbole is king, “likes” count and social media encourages us to ascribe any number of qualities and skills to ourselves. The flip side is of course that there is a spin doctor inside most of us and recruiters can be just as guilty of employing all manner of tactics to enhance job ads in order to attract the best candidates.

It seems that the uncomfortable truth may be that we are all increasingly disposed towards exaggeration and gloss. Why? Perhaps it is Bart Simpson who cuts to the chase best here with his ironically honest assessment of his deception- “I only lied because it was the easiest way to get what I wanted” Ah bless!

threesixty selection – Management & Executive Recruitment Practice. Specialist Search & Selection in Finance, Purchasing, Supply Chain, Manufacturing & Sales.

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