Leon Gettler: Resume Lies

Many people lie about careers. More are now telling porkies on their CVs, making up stories about their academic background and achievements. Of course, gilding the lily occasionally might be part of human nature but the evidence suggests more people are bending the truth about their career.

It seems to be more of a problem now. One study, for example, found that graduates these days are more likely to lie on CVs because of high university fees and a difficult job market. Higher university fees means people are more likely to miss out on vital courses, so they are more likely to lie about having done them to get the job. And of course, people are more likely to stretch the truth in a tough job market.

And the lies are coming in from everywhere, even from the boss. In May this year, Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson was ousted after only four months in the job when it was revealed he had lied on his resume. Thompson, who had accounting qualifications, wanted to make a big impression at the search engine company so he had told them he had a computer science degree which, in fact, he had not received.

If the CEO of a company does that, where does that leave everyone else?

According to Forbes, the most common lies on CVs include playing with dates to hide employment gaps, something people use to hide they were fired and spent some time looking for work, or covering over a period of job hopping. Other resume lies include embellishing experience and accomplishments or claiming you were paid a higher salary at your last job to get more money. Some might claim language proficiency which they don’t have. Or they might claim they received degrees and honours that they never got. Older job seekers have been known to fudge or leave off the year they received their degree, or lop off their early work history, to appear younger on paper.

According to a study by talent assessment company SHL, managers are more likely to lie on their CVs than other workers.  The study found that 39 per cent of managers had lied in their resumes while 25 per cent of other workers had lied in a resume in 2012. That’s not surprising – managers tend to be more ambitious.

Lying on your CV is not smart. You will be found out. Kris Dunn at the HR Capitalist site says you just have to tell the truth. But then, what makes it more complicated these days is you need to adjust whatever you said on LinkedIn. That takes a bit more work because it’s not as private as distributing a resume to a recruitment firm or a prospective employer. But in this uber-connected world, it has to be done.

How should managers handle these lies? HR experts suggest some common sense measures. Like for example contacting the university that people claim they attended. Is there a record? Use the Internet, it’s easy these days. Search for the candidate on LinkedIn. If they have a profile, compare what they say about themselves online and on paper. Search for red flags on the candidate’s social media profiles. Check to see if they had badmouthed a former boss or were highly active during normal business hours. Check the referees and make sure they’re credible. Listen carefully to what they say in the interview and watch their body language. Perform a background check and ask specific technical questions about the skills they claim to have.

How would you manage CV lies?



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Leon Gettler: How to write a good CV

Everyone needs a CV now. You can’t get a job without one. But putting a good one together can be a challenge for many people. The resume is actually your key marketing document. It’s about establishing your personal brand. A lot of people struggle with that. That’s a pity. It’s actually not that difficult.

The first rule is to tell the truth and not to embellish. OK, that might sound like a no brainer but it’s extraordinary the number of people who have been caught out lying on their CVs. One of the most recent cases was former Yahoo chief executive officer Scott Thompson  who was forced to step down because of a fake computer science degree on his resume. He wasn’t Robinson Crusoe either.  As we learn here, the corporate world is full of examples of people who fudged their CVs. Lying on a resume is not only morally wrong, it’s also stupid because HR people will check your background. If you’re found out, your career and credibility would be shot forever.

So how does someone put together a CV that will get attention? Resume specialist Laura Smith-Proulx says people often have it around the wrong way. They put down their work history in reverse chronological order. Their big mistake, she says, is putting the critical, most eye catching and important information on page two instead of right on the front. It’s what journalists call burying the lead. And it’s bad marketing. “Putting pivotal, attention-grabbing information on your resume, up front, on the top half of the first page, is the #1 secret to getting noticed during a job hunt,’’ Smith-Proulx writes. “This advice applies to nearly everyone in today’s job market, whether you’re just starting out or have held a long, successful tenure in your industry.”

Writing in Forbes, CEO Deborah Sweeney recommends tailoring the CV to suit the company. That means doing your homework to find out what they’re looking for, and then weaving that into the resume. Do that and your CV will be talking to them, touching the right buttons and making you more attractive as a potential new hire. It’s about targeting your audience, a key part of marketing

It is also important to use key words. As specialists say here, companies these days are so squeezed for time that they use data base technology to scour through resumes looking for key words. If you don’t have those key words, your resume will be rejected by the computer.

So where do you find these key words? Look carefully at the job listing. It’s likely to contain many, if not all, of the key words.

The Quintessential careers site offers a handy short cut, a cheat’s guide if you like, for key words. “Experts say to find anywhere from three to 20 ads for the same position at various companies. Go through each one and highlight or underline the words and phrases that seem as though they could be the keywords used in the employer’s search criteria. After you’ve analysed several ads this way, make a list of the keywords common to all ads. Those are the keywords that have the best chance of being successfully sought out by the employer’s search software.”

A final piece of advice from David Silverman in the Harvard Business Review:  keep the resume short and use verbs that actually mean something. Words like “managed”, “wrote” and “designed” will have more impact than “worked on” and “contributed to”.
Remember, all of this advice is about creating a marketing plan for you.

What resume advice would you give?


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