Lying on your CV: Fake it ‘Til you Make it

With a slowing economic market, now is the time to select your workforce carefully. The quality of every new hire could make or break the future success of your business. As the cost of living crisis looms and remote positions widening the geographical location for recruitment, organisations face not only a higher volume of applications but also fierce competition for the best talent. 

So it is easy to become enthusiastic when a CV that matches your requirements perfectly lands in your inbox. If all goes well, during the recruitment process, you find that they fit the bill exactly, with all the skills your business needs. You offer them the job, confident that you have made the right decision.

However, once they start their new role, you realise they are not all they have presented themselves to be. Maybe there are gaps in their skill set, or their experience doesn’t seem to add up.

There can only be one explanation: they lied on their CV. 

Could you have avoided this? A dedicated performance management system certainly allows you to assess skill-levels and even highlight skills gaps in your workforce. You can understand employee skill sets and see how qualified they are for a position. This can help to avoid costly hiring mistakes.

But is lying on a CV really that common? Do hiring managers need to take what’s written on job applications with a pinch of salt? We’re performance management software experts, so decided to research the trends to understand how many candidates are actually untruthful during the interview process. Our poll of 1,500 workers asked the right questions to find a definitive answer to the question: ‘how truthful are candidates when applying for a new job?’ The results might surprise you.

How many candidates have lied during the recruitment process? 

Our poll showed that 32% of respondents have lied on their CV in the past. We dug a little deeper, to see if untruthful CVs are more common in different age groups. 

While comparing the replies we received against age demographics, we discovered that 25-34 year old’s were the most likely to lie on a CV. They were closely followed by those aged 35-44, with the 18-24 age bracket coming in third. 

It begs the question, why aren’t some job seekers honest during the interview process?

Why do people lie on their CVs?

With a slowing economic market, diminished geographical barriers to work and the cost of living crisis looming, the reasons for a candidate to lie during the recruitment process could be wide-ranging.

Our results show that there’s no definite reason for lying during the interview process. Instead, there are multiple factors that can cause job application insecurity. The top reasons for lying on a CV, as revealed by our research, include:

Lying about experience

51% of respondents admitted that they have lied to cover a lack of experience. This was the most common reason to lie during the recruitment process.

Candidates are aware that their chances of getting hired increase with their amount of experience. Talented individuals may not get called for interviews if they do not have a broad employment history as sufficient proof of skill.

To bypass this requirement, job seekers might enhance their work history or lie about the level of skills they have. Whilst detailed reference checks are a standard process for verifying candidate experience, they often get delayed or require substantial chasing by HR. Shift focus to understanding a candidate’s level of experience during the interview stage. Probe into their skills and abilities and using competency-based interview questions can help to identify potential inconsistencies earlier in the process.

Lying to make a career change

18% of respondents lied on their CVs in an attempt to make a career change. 

There are many reasons for an employee to pursue a new career path. Personal choice, work-life balance, job flexibility, or simply money can inspire a career in a new industry or role. 

But changing career paths is easier on paper than in real life. Without the required industry knowledge, it can become a herculean task. Applicants for roles in a new industry may tell white lies on their CV as to why they are leaving their previous career for a new one. 

In response to this, HR professionals should focus on how candidates will fit into the business culture. As long as an applicant has the characteristics and core values you are looking for and presents enough transferable skills, they could be worth a spot on your team, even if they are from another industry.

Lying about skills

38% of the total respondents had ticked “skills” as something they had lied about.

A candidate may lie about their skills if they are looking for a more senior role than the one they are in and want to give the impression they are fully capable of doing it. This may be a case of over-exaggerating capabilities to get a “foot in the door” for an interview. 

Conducting competency-based interview techniques can help identify weaknesses in a candidate’s skill set. Consider setting tasks that rely on the key skills required for each role. If a candidate is missing a skill, consider their potential for development and whether they could be brought up to speed in a reasonable amount of time.

Lying about salary

26% of our respondents have lied about their previous salaries during the recruitment process. 

A job seeker may lie about their previous salary in order to give an impression of seniority during the interview. They could also use this tactic to help them secure a higher salary through negotiation. Of course, this is a risky tactic that the candidate’s P45 paperwork can easily verify. 

Lying for a remote job

Over 62% of those who admitted to previously lying on their CV stated that they’d be more likely to lie for a remote role.

In the wake of the pandemic and the great resignation, the number of people applying for remote roles has increased. Working remotely allows for more efficiency as it offers an employee flexibility and the opportunity to better plan their day. Remote workers are able to choose their place of work, depending on contract terms and legal guidance, which allows them to free up commuting time and choose the best environment for productivity.

With all these benefits, it is not surprising that fully remote roles are highly competitive. This can be beneficial to businesses, with location restrictions removed it’s easier to find the most qualified candidate. However, HR leaders not only need to be aware of candidates embellishing their achievements but also need to ensure they have confidence that the candidate has the discipline to carry out their role remotely. 

Some methods that could be useful to enhance the candidate vetting process include using the STAR technique or introducing a separate ‘culture interview’. Including questions on their day-to-day routine, and how they manage and prioritise their time, gives a better understanding of their sense of discipline.

Are there benefits or disadvantages to lying on a CV?

The answer is slightly different when it comes to keeping a position or obtaining employment advantages. Whether it is due to HR leaders’ lack of tools or processes, or simply by learning the required skills on the fly, 93% of those surveyed who lied to get a new job have not been caught out after getting hired. When the poll was taken, 40% of the people who lied to get a job still held that position. 

Our findings show that many candidates who lie on their CV face no consequences. 42% of employees revealed that lying during the recruitment process gave them an edge. This could mean that they landed a role that they might not have if they were honest.

However, the majority of those who admitted lying stated that they have no employment advantage following an untruthful recruitment process. With 58% of candidates seeing no benefit to being untruthful during the interview process, is lying on a CV even worth the risk? 

While lying might seem enticing, it could cause serious damage to an employee’s reputation. Worryingly, 14 of the 1500 candidates that admitted they’d lied during the recruitment process faced legal action.

Are employees likely to lie in the future?

63% of our respondents admitted that they would lie or, at least, be seriously tempted to lie again for future job opportunities. This was despite 68% of those that lied labelling the interview process either “very thorough” or “quite thorough”. This suggests that there is plenty of scope for HR leaders to improve their recruitment process.

Assessing candidates not only during the recruitment process but also as part of a wider organisational skill repository can help to identify inconsistencies and highlight any skills gaps.

The bottom line

The survey highlights that less than a quarter of candidates went through a ‘very thorough recruitment process. This implies that HR leaders should improve the accuracy of recruitment to avoid costly hiring mistakes. 

Using HR and performance management software allows for a more rigorous interview strategy. It enhances the overview of each job opening, drilling down into the specific skills required from a potential hire. Matching these skills to those being interviewed using competency-based practices reduces the risk of candidate inaccuracies. Having access to an organisation-wide skill repository empowers leaders to spot any skill gaps or shortages that may emerge.

StaffCircle’s employee experience platform connects performance management, engagement and culture in one unified solution. We make it easy to create an irresistible company culture that attracts and retains top talent.