8 facts candidates lie about on their CVs that are easy to miss

It is important to make sure you are putting in place proper checks and balances to get the most accurate and honest understanding of all your potential hires when they are still candidates.

Tinashe Alpha Sibanda
Tinashe Alpha Sibanda

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There is a good chance that if you are reading this, you have probably lied a little, or a lot, or exaggerated your achievements on your resume when applying for jobs or opportunities on the web. In fact, Indeed reports that 40% of candidates have lied on their resumes, and that number is even higher in different other reports. In reality, any fact on someone’s resume could very easily be untrue. So what are the potential, easy-to-miss, candidate lies or mistruths to look out for, when reading CVs:

1. Number of years of experience

Internships and freelancing make measuring this even more complicated because there is no exact science to counting the number of years of experience. Like, do you add the months spent on contract? Or does any year you had an internship, however long it was, count as a year of experience? What about time spent on personal unsupervised projects? Add freelancing gigs and you have a complete cocktail of confusion. Then, of course, there are people who just, lie.

2. Their past role names and titles

Roles and titles vary across companies. For instance, you could see both an entry-level and a different senior staff with “Associate” or “Coordinator” or vice versa and you won't be able to tell the difference without cracking your head a bit. Best not assume, and just clarify what a title means for that particular company, and its positioning on the organisation structure and hierarchy.

3. Proximity to the CEO or head of the departments

Presenting yourself as a confidante or executor for the C-suite always gets recruiters salivating and candidates know this. It becomes more crucial to better understand if the candidate did in fact have such access, the structure around it, the nature of projects entrusted with, and their frequency of direct collaboration (not just communication) with their organization’s leadership.

4. How many people they managed directly

This one applies to more senior roles. It’s quite easy to round up or add 5 more people to an otherwise smaller team just to beef up your perceived managerial and leadership skills. The bigger the team, the more you were tried and tested right? So the number of people one managed is an easy fact to misrepresent.

5. The projects they actually worked on

It is quite difficult to tell which projects on a candidate’s resume are fact or fiction. Have they actually done this or was it just on their job description, but on paper? What if they just read up on that project and decided to include it as well without actual experience? It becomes imperative to properly ascertain these projects, how long they took, and the implementation process.

6. Achievements which were a direct result of their personal contributions

This one is complex mainly because a lot of candidates may not necessarily intend to deceive, even if they end up doing so. If you were part of a team that signed a big client, it is hard to tell what exactly were your contributions in making this a reality. You may as well be the least contributing team member, but still claim that trophy like a badge of honor. Recruiters should press to understand exactly what ways a candidate’s presence in that team made a positive difference to their objectives and results.

7. Microsoft Excel Skills

Listen, I have lied about this too. Of course, once in a while, you read a story about a now successful professional who lied about their Excel skill level, got the job, and spent the whole weekend before the first day watching VLOOKUP videos on YouTube, and they actually pulled it off.

8. Fake references and contact information

Recruiters are not always diligent in conducting their reference checks. So sometimes candidates will take the gamble and put fake references, or people who wouldn’t actually give a useful and detailed recommendation on their competence. Most recruiters reference-check too late in the process after already investing a lot of screening time on a candidate, they may just feel inclined to let it go unverified if their attempts to reach the references are unfruitful.

Conclusion: should you even care?

Ultimately, all these pointers should ideally be things you verify when you interview candidates. There are also tools that help you accept candidates whose CVs are already pre-authenticated by their references, so you can avoid interviewing the wrong candidates, to begin with.

I don’t believe candidates should always be automatically disqualified for misrepresenting some facts on their CVs. I mean, employers and business owners exaggerate the “family” culture in their companies or the full utility of their products and services to potential clients too. So it is possible that certain exceptions can be made in good faith.

It is important, however, to make sure you are putting in place proper checks and balances to get the most accurate and honest understanding of all your potential hires when they are still candidates. This way you avoid surprises, accurately identify opportunities for training, and ultimately avoid diluting the overall quality of your talent pool.

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Founder, KrediblePro