Roy Duncan

8th July 2016

CV – Truth or Fiction?

If you are familiar with the party game Truth or Fiction you will know how easy it is to lie or exaggerate.

For the uninitiated, this is how the game works.  A guest tells three things about themselves. Two are true. One is a lie. The other guests try to determine which the lie is.

In all good games, there is often a strong sense of reality, and Truth or Fiction is no exception. In our daily lives, we say and write information about ourselves which others may then evaluate as truth or fiction.   Research has shown that creating a CV is one area where the lines can easily become blurred.

According to a UK Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD) survey on graduate data fraud, around 33% of graduates or job seekers falsify important information on their CV every year. Amongst the culprits, 40% exaggerate their academic record, while 11% make up a degree all together.


CV of a potential Prime Minister

Perhaps someone should have pointed this out to PM candidate #AndreaLeadsom whose credentials have come under scrutiny.  Much of the difficulty stems from the content of her CV and the public statements made by her which do not appear credible to some observers.  Her employment record has been put under question of being inaccurate by her informed peers and colleagues who seem to have a different recollection or understanding.

According to a report on Reuters’ web site there is a gap between what she claims to have been her role and what her colleagues understood it whilst she was employed at Invesco.   Furthermore her former employers have added fuel to the fire by only confirming periods employed and declining to say what her roles actually involved.    This is of course normal practice.

Another colleague has defended her stating that a job role on a cv “…does not always reflect what you do…”  Clearly that is fair comment.

A more recent article published in The Guardian appears to expose further holes in her 25-year career in finance. The article raises a number of issues which include: omitting a role in her family’s buy-to-let company from her CV; claiming to be a director at Barclays when in fact she was a deputy director; describing her position at a hedge fund run by her brother-in-law as managing director when she was in fact registered at Companies House at the time as marketing director; and stating that she was a senior investment officer at an investment management firm for 10 years when she was only authorised as an investment manager for a three-month period.

It is not a crime to omit information from your cv, however,  taken together with other ambiguities and inconsistencies, people have created their own interpretation of her CV and corporate life!  And it is not a good one!

Regardless of the truth or otherwise, the claims and counter claims, will certainly undermine, her public persona and make a big difference to her credibility; much of which could have been avoided  if she had scrutinised her CV before publication.

However, as she found out, once the lid has been lifted, it is like Pandora’s Box and impossible to close. Indeed, every line is under scrutiny and the doubts and speculation have taken on a life of their own thanks to the media.

Despite these challenges, it seems that #AndreaLeadsom has prevailed and is now down to the last two PM candidates alongside #TheresaMay.  It seems that the weight given to the alleged inaccuracies and omissions on her CV was not sufficient to undermine her suitability for the PM election.

Hold on! That was on Friday! Over the weekend amid further controversy, #Andrewleadsom has been forced to quit her Tory leadership bid!  Once you are under scrutiny for anything that does not appear true or worse appears to be fiction, or indeed,  controversial, it is only a matter of time!


Truth and Fiction

Meanwhile back in the real world of recruitment, candidates’ CVs and careers are unlikely to be subject to the same level of scrutiny, so it is no surprise that job applicants are willing to “chance their arm” and exaggerate or lie to enhance their CV where they can.

This will come as no surprise to employers who according to Alan Tovey, Industry Reporter at “The Telegraph” in his 2014 article Lied on your CV? Your employer probably noticed . He points out that employers often ignore these issues.  Research by @CareerBuilder found that almost three quarters of employers stated that they have spotted a lie on an applicant’s CV.  Once identified, only 41% of employers will then discard the application.

Even though, lying may undermine trust and confidence which is  the bedrock of the employer/employee relationship,  a substantial number of employers are prepared to  overlook it depending on what the candidate lied about and whether they liked them!  All in all it seems employers are fairly cavalier, spending anything from only two minutes reviewing a CV to a little as 30 seconds!

So what are you to do when you are recruiting?  The chances are that the majority of applicants’ CVs will have inaccuracies or exaggerations of some sort.   Will you immediately discard them?

There is no simple answer.  However a good starting point is to review each CV thoroughly to identify anything suspicious which is worth digging in to.  Once you have done that you may well be willing to overlook a white lie or exaggeration; however a big lie or a blatant attempt to mislead is likely to be deal breaker.


So what to do?

In my opinion, once the trust has been broken, there is no way forward and, unless it was a relatively minor issue and the applicant provided a credible explanation, I would not work with the applicant.  I would focus instead on those applicants who appeared to have a more credible CV.

However, often it is not clear cut and you will need to use judgement.  Any lies, errors or suspicious claims need to be evaluated after investigation and consideration. Then, at least you can make an informed decision based on the evidence.

A future blog will highlight how to identify and spot possible lies and exaggerations.

Roy Duncan  is the founding director of RGDuncan , an independent boutique recruitment consultancy specialising in sourcing high calibre senior finance and accounting staff for permanent and interim roles in London and the South East.


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