independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Lies, damned lies... and CVs

More and more people are telling porkies in their job applications, according to a new survey by recruitment experts. But bosses are fighting back. KIM BIELENBERG reports

Agrowing number of people never let the facts get in the way of a good CV. The most creative act that they might perform in their entire career is the production of their resumé.

Have you ever been tempted to spice up exam results on your CV, or exaggerated your salary by a few thousand euro at the touch of a computer keyboard? If the answer is yes, you are by no means alone.

From minor 'fine-tuning' of exam grades and work dates, right through to the blatant invention of non-

existent jobs, varnishing of the truth is now rampant.

According to a new report by the recruitment screening consultants, the Risk Advisory Group, more than 50% of CVs contain lies of some sort, while 20% contain major whoppers such as falsified exam grades and fictitious work experience.

Job dismissals are wiped from the official memory; degree courses are extended to fill in gaps; and the assistant to the managing director (otherwise known as secretary) suddenly becomes the assistant managing director.

But fakers should beware. CV detectives are about, meticulously checking records and exposing those who should really start a new career in fiction. For fees ranging from ?100 to ?400, depending on the importance of the job, private consultants will check out a person's credentials.

While some of us may forgive (or be guilty of) a little white lie or two, many of the discrepancies uncovered in the new survey were serious and could not be discounted as forgetfulness, according to the Risk Advisory Group company, which checked nearly 4,000 CVs submitted by job applicants.

There are now even web sites aimed at jobseekers who wish to concoct an impressive, but false, CV. Fakeresume.com describes itself as the "ultimate guide to helping you get the great high-paying job you want by helping you lie on your great resume." As the web site puts it, "Everyone else is doing it. Why shouldn't you?"

The website includes sections on how to fake a college degree, how to create false references and how to lie at a job interview.

The advice about faking a university education is remarkably elaborate and offers an insight into the mind of a workplace impostor: "If you can, visit the campus of your new alma mater. Stroll around, taking particular note of the streets and bars in the immediate vicinity. Get a copy of the school's catalogue and study it carefully. Commit to memory two or three of the more prominent professor's names and faces."

If there are gaps in your CV the website suggests that you look in business and trade magazines for the obituaries of executives. You can then claim one of these dead executive as a previous boss, because your reference cannot be checked.

Mike McDonnell, chief executive of Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in Ireland, said many companies are still not making sufficient checks to ensure that job-seekers are who they say they are. "Companies are still much too casual about how they recruit people," he says.

The report on the screening of applicants by the Risk Advisory Group will make sobering reading for bosses who take the claims of job applicants on trust. One applicant to an investment bank, cited in the survey, had five court judgments indicating that he owed a total of ?5,000 against his name along with a bankruptcy order.

Another job applicant's violent past caught up with him when a person supplying a reference was asked to explain why he resigned from a job in Japan. It emerged that he had been arrested and charged with shoplifting as well as being fined for assaulting a shop assistant. In another case, screening revealed that a four year university education was completely invented.

Five years ago, there was embarrassment all round at University College Dublin when it emerged that a senior lecturer with its Business School was not not all that he seemed.

American Gary Santry, who had been presented by UCD with an award for his outstanding service to the college, landed his top post by claiming to hold a Masters in Business Administration from Notre Dame and a PhD from the Southern Methodist University in Texas. College authorities found that he had falsified qualifications and fabricated references.

In another recent case that caused considerable embarrassment, the government's chief scientific advisor, 'Dr' Barry McSweeney, was transferred from his post. This followed the revelation that he had received his doctorate qualification was from Pacific Western University, an unaccredited American 'degree mill' that sells qualifications over the Internet.

Other job applicants hoodwink prospective employers by playing with the truth. The disgraced peer and novelist Jeffrey Archer famously boasted on his CV that he attended Oxford. But anyone who checked the records would have discovered that had not attended the world famous Oxford University, but a polytechnic in the town where he studied for a diploma in education.

Questions have frequently been raised about the third level qualifications of the Taoiseach. The education sections in his short biographies on the Fianna Fail and government web sites are decidedly vague. His education is merely listed as: "St. Aidan's CBS, Whitehall; Rathmines College of Commerce; University College Dublin."

Previously the Fianna Fail website mentioned The London School of Economics as one of the colleges where he received third level education. The Taoiseach has been quoted as saying he completed diploma courses at the LSE.

But his attendance at both UCD and the LSE have never been proven and there is no documentary record of any qualifications from either institution. The Taoiseach has never claimed any degree from UCD.

With many companies using computers to scan CVs looking for key qualifications, jobseekers have learned how to make their CV stand out by inserting keywords that are picked up by the computer.

In one case cited by a Dublin Human Resources Executive a job applicant had got through the initial screening process by typing on his CV: "I am not a graduate of Harvard University."

The computer picked out Harvard and his CV was selected.

Dublin employment consultant Rowan Manahan estimates that 90% of CVs exaggerate the applicants' achievements and qualifications.

But he warns jobseekers: "If you have to lie to get your foot in the door it is not the job for you. If you are a sow's ear there is no point in going for a job as a silk purse."

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