To err is human: Are jobseeker ‘untruths’ in CVs really that much of a problem?

In the age of spin, it is accepted that jobseekers will use a CV to accentuate their positives but, according to research, a growing number of people are massaging the truth beyond what is generally deemed acceptable.

Employee screening company The Risk Advisory Group (TRAG) took a sample of 3,700 CVs submitted for job applications over the past year and found while more than half contained at least one inaccuracy, one in five contained significant lies.

These major fibs include discrepancies in employment and academic dates, the non-declaration of County Court Judgments and previous directorships and the inclusion of inaccurate academic qualifications.

Head of employee screening at TRAG, Sal Remtulla, said increased competition for jobs was driving candidates to such lengths in an attempt to set themselves apart from their peers.

She said: “There is also a sense that today everyone expects everyone else to lie on their CV, so why not join them.”

In response, Remtulla claims a growing number of employers, too busy to follow-up on references and other background details are turning to the services offered by TRAG and similar companies.

An indication of this trend was given in May when leading credit-checking company Experian acquired, an organisation specialising in candidate background checking for job applicants and contractors. 

“There’s certainly growth in this marketplace,” says Nick Harness, sales director at

According to Harness, the upturn in the need to check the details of a CV has come from an increase in regulatory pressure to ensure people are who they say they are.

Employers in the financial services industry, the security sector and sectors where work with vulnerable people is commonplace all now have an increased onus to check that candidates’ credentials stand up.

In fact, a study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) last year found 77% of companies now follow-up references, with about a quarter (24%) claiming job offers had been withdrawn because people had misrepresented themselves on their CV.

CIPD adviser Rebecca Clake suggests there are a number of simple things employers can do to make their lives easier in this area. A straightforward starting point is to ask candidates to bring their qualification certificates to interview.

Clake also advises against allowing a candidate to start work until references have been checked.

“Many companies hard-pressed to fill a vacancy will start someone in a role before they have checked their references. Once that person has started work, it is much more difficult to get them out if you uncover anything suspect,” she said.

At the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, the trade association for recruitment agencies, chief executive Marcia Roberts also sends a warning note to candidates who exaggerate previous wages in the hope they can boost their pay packet in their new job.

“People feel they can inflate their salary on a CV and get away with it,” she said.

“But more companies are asking to see at least a pay slip and if a candidate has lied it could lead to instant dismissal. It is just not worth it.”

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