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Should you exaggerate (lie) on your CV?

“If you don’t want to slip up tomorrow, speak the truth today” — Bruce Lee                               
Being honest, we’ve all been tempted at one point or another to embellish the information on our CV. Let’s say you’ve found the perfect job, but the company is asking for two programming languages you've not used in over a decade - what harm could adding these to your CV really do?
Whilst ‘flexing the truth’ may help you gain that initial interview lies will always find their way to the surface —and the resulting fallout can be a career killer.
Below are 5 of the most common exaggerations we experience from applicants in the FinTech and Broadcast technology industries:-
1. The Exaggerated Skill Set
C++ skills on your CV, haven’t programmed in it since 2001
Over the course of your career you will undoubtedly learn a wide range of technical skills, languages and abilities. Some of these you will depend on daily, but others you may only use once in a single project. In either case you will know the subjects in-which you could be considered an expert, and those where ‘beginner level’ would be putting it nicely.
The point being, if you apply to be a Senior JavaScript Engineer and state proficiency with JavaScript on your CV, expect to be thoroughly quizzed on JavaScript during an interview.
If you can’t answer questions on JavaScript, have outdated JavaScript skills, or have some Java experience and think it’s the same thing, do not put this language on your CV.
Companies request specific skills for a reason. Even if you impress the interviewer and get hired, expect to be shown the door when they realize you’ve lied and can’t do the job. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t apply for jobs that you’re only partially qualified for. Instead, be prepared to turn any missing skills into a positive. For example:
“No I don’t have that skill yet, but I have proven my abilities in X, Y & Z which share similar traits, so I’m confident I can quickly become the expert you require.”
2. The Fake Education
Did you know it’s illegal to commit degree fraud?
Hedd (the Higher Education Degree Datacheck) report a growing trend in applicants falsifying academic credentials, with around one third of people in the UK misrepresenting educational qualifications on their CVs [1]. Some may consider minor alternations like bumping a 2:2 to a 2:1 or upgrading A-Levels from B’s to A’s acceptable. However even small changes can be severely damaging with long term implications.
The consequences of being caught?
If a recruiter or employer receives your CV and discovers it is fraudulent you will be reported to CIFAS, the UK’s Fraud Prevention Service. For the next six years this information is kept on record, showing potential employers your dishonesty any time you make a job application. That’s best case scenario.
Degree fraud is against the law and being cracked down on. Fake your education and there is a real risk of criminal prosecution which could see you face up-to 10 years imprisonment.
Lied about a degree and still got the job? In technical fields such as software development or engineering, knowledge gaps are quickly noticed and employers will not think twice about firing dishonest hires. It’s not a case of ‘if’ but when you’ll be caught, something which could happen at any time.
3. The Unexplained Career Gap
Three months unemployed — just extend when you left the last job, right?
Wrong. Hiring professionals will conduct background checks on your work experience that include speaking with your previous jobs to verify employment dates. You won’t be fooling anyone for long!
For some hiring managers an unexplained career gap alone is enough to scrap your CV and move on. Interviewers are people too and will understand if you decided to spend a few months travelling or took time out to care for a family member. Lying or leaving gaps though, will outright ruin your employment chances.
As a rule of thumb any gaps more than a few weeks in length need explaining. You don’t need to go into great detail, a brief description is fine and honesty will work in your favor.
4. The Embellished Salary
We all go to work to make money.
Some people will say it’s for the experience, for the love of the job, to help others etc., however money will always be a driving factor of employment. With this in mind it’s understandable wanting to aim for a salary increase when changing jobs - but embellishing your current salary to achieve this won’t work.
At Caspian One we recently witnessed the ramifications of a falsified salary with one of our UK FinTech candidates. After successfully completing interviews and Coding tests this applicant was offered a well-paid senior role within a particularly high-end financial institution. The week before he was due to start however, we learnt the job offer was being revoked.
Why? When reviewing the candidates pay slips the new employer found his last salary was 30% less than what he’d stated. As a result the company felt played and offended, no longer wanting to hire this individual — who was forced to return to his previous company in a less senior position.
It’s important to be honest about your salary. It’s often treated like a close guarded secret, but sharing this info really is best practice. Not only will it prevent embarrassing situations, it can also help consultants ensure you achieve the highest income for your skills set and negotiate higher offers from new employers.
5. The Job at NASA
With 5* references from Joe Bloggs and John Smith
As with unexplained gaps in your career, outright fake jobs will not get you pass referencing or background checks. They’ll just make you look foolish and waste everyone’s time, achieving nothing.
Whilst there may be some room for light subjective wording when describing previous job roles, don’t say you worked closely with the FX team if you know nothing about FX — or claim to have managed 100 staff if you have no management experience. You’ll be found out and fired the moment you can’t deliver.
In the same vein, making up fake references or having friends pretend to be old bosses or colleagues is just a bad idea. Apart from the fact it’s ludicrously easy to check this information on platforms like LinkedIn, referencing overall is a very thorough process. Get found lying and your ethics and industry reputation will be thrown under the bus.
In Conclusion

Some people argue that CVs are a sales and marketing tool and that stretching the truth is acceptable if it helps secure an interview. In reality although you’ll often hear ‘everyone is doing it’, lying on your CV doesn’t have a happy ending.
There will always be room for a small amount of embellishment, but the moment you create fake information, exaggerate beyond your abilities or can’t fulfil the job you’ve been hired for, it’s all over. Even if you secure a job by lying you will never escape the risk of being caught out and fired.

References: [1] —


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