Should you ever lie on your CV to help you get a job? We reveal all...

Lying on your CV can be tempting, especially if you're striving to improve your chances of landing an interview for a job you really want. Slight exaggerations to numbers and abilities, or amending employment dates by a month or two, might seem harmless - but little white lies could land you in serious trouble. 

In this article, we'll explore the legal aspects of lying on your CV, what happens if you do lie on your CV, and how to improve your CV with no need to forge the truth. 

Is it illegal to lie on your CV?

It is illegal to lie on your CV, according to The Fraud Act 2006. Lying on your CV is classified as "fraud by false representation" and it carries a maximum 10-year jail sentence.

A false representation is defined as something that is untrue or misleading, and the person making the claim knows that it is, or might be, untrue or misleading.

The Fraud Act 2006 states that a person is in breach of this section if they make a false representation and intend to make a gain for themselves or another, cause loss to another, or expose another to a risk of loss.

If you lie on your CV, you know you're embellishing the truth and are misleading prospective employers to help you gain a job. Therefore, it's not okay to lie on your CV and it can be classified as fraud.

What can happen if you lie on your CV?

In addition to exposing yourself to fraud, there are other consequences to lying on your CV.

Firstly, there could be embarrassment, experienced by you as well as the recruiter and prospective employers. If you're in an interview and the interviewer asks for an example of a skill that you've falsified on your CV, it will be an uncomfortable experience as you grasp at straws to string a scenario together. Interviewers will be able to spot the difference between an answer fumbled because of nerves and an answer fumbled because of lies. 

Then there's damage to your professional reputation. As a result of lying on your CV, you may get blacklisted by the company - meaning you will never work for them - or even blacklisted by the recruitment agency. The latter is arguably more damaging, as they are a resource for multiple job opportunities.

When you lie on your CV and are found out, it's likely you'll be ejected from the application process. If you managed to get a job offer, it may be revoked.  

If you lie on your CV and get the job anyway, much bigger consequences are at play. At this stage, your employer trusts your skillset is in line with the one you represented on your CV and in the interview. If you can't fulfil the job responsibilities and duties, or answer questions related to the skill set you claim to have, red flags will be raised. If your employer suspects you've lied on your CV, there are grounds for dismissal. 

Can you lie about your grades on your CV?

If we haven't made it obvious already, you cannot lie on your CV about your academic grades. 

According to a UK Higher Education Degree Datacheck Survey on graduate data fraud, a third of graduates falsify important information on their CVs. Of the offenders, 40% exaggerate their academic qualifications, while 10% make up a degree altogether.

We understand that if you're starting your career, it can be difficult to land a job when you're highly reliant on grades alone. But there are ways to write a CV with no experience, where you don't need to lie about your GCSE results or your degree on your CV. 

Can you lie about work experience on your CV?

In a similar vein, you cannot lie on your CV about work experience. 

According to a YouGov survey, of the 874 UK adults surveyed that have lied on their CV, 35% lied about the length of time they spent at a job, 30% lied about their level of expertise and 21% lied about current or previous job titles.

From the data, you can see that there are many ways you can be dishonest about your work experience. As CV experts, we recognise that most of the fabrication comes from fear of rejection and desperation for a job, and there are ways to address all areas of concern truthfully.

How to improve your CV without lying

You cannot and should not lie on your CV to get a job. We understand that you may be worried that your qualifications, level of work experience, or work history do not present you in the best light. Here are the most common reasons people lie on their CVs and ways to address them tactfully and truthfully.

You have poor grades

There are many ways to list your education on your CV. If you have poor grades, remember you still have the qualification, so you can leave the result out. For example, you can write "8 GCSEs" as a summary. 

If you received some good and some poor grades, you may want to include a grade bracket if you feel it adds to your application, such as, "8 GSCEs, grades 3-5."

You do not meet the qualification requirements

Some job roles require certain types or levels of qualification. For example, it may require GCSE maths and English, grades 4 and above, or at least a 2:1 in a certain degree. 

If you don't meet the essential qualification requirements for a role, think about if this job is for you right now. You may be better off applying for a role you're qualified to do, as it may cause you and your employer more harm in the long term. 

If you are part-way through these qualifications, or have just missed out on the grade required but feel you have other strengths which make you a strong candidate for this position, you can expand on this in your cover letter. 

You're missing key skills

If you're missing skills and experiences, a similar approach applies to the above. Again, we advise you to review whether you're the right match for the role you're applying for, no matter how much you want the job. 

Adding skills you don't have to your CV will only trip you up further down the line when you have to use them day-to-day, and trying to learn on the side while you're working in the new role is a fairly strenuous task.

If you are tempted to lie on your CV about skills, bear in mind that the "perfect" candidate does not exist. Job descriptions are a wish list of all the possible skills and qualifications a decent candidate could have. If you meet 75% of the requirements, you're golden. Plus, if you only apply for roles where you fit the job spec exactly, how will you learn, expand your skill set, and climb the career ladder?

Of course, if you feel you're lacking a good chunk of the requirements, it may be wise to invest in a course first, that will provide you with the skills you need for this job. Then, you can add to your CV that you are training and include an expected completion date. If the course will take a while to complete, and you are likely to miss the application window, try reaching out to the person recruiting for this role to introduce yourself. You never know, you may get headhunted later down the line as a result.

You have a career gap

Explaining a career gap on your CV can be tricky. But career breaks are common and you can make them work to your advantage if you address them on your CV in the right way.

Amending the dates is one quick way to approach a career gap. Instead of formatting the month and the year of your employment history, omit the months and show the years only. But remember, don't extend dates to try to mask the gap. This is lying.

Honesty really is the best policy when it comes to your CV and there are no excuses for lying. If you're tempted to lie on your CV, ask yourself whether the job is right for you and evaluate your options. And remember, there are ways to write your CV to present your talents in the best light, without needing to bend the truth. Just ask a CV writer for help!

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