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

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

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 carries a maximum 10-year jail sentence. A false representation is defined as something that's “untrue or misleading, and the person making the claim knows that it is, or might be, untrue or misleading.”

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 never okay to lie on your CV as doing so can be classified as fraud.

The risks if I lie on my CV

In addition to exposing yourself to fraud, there are other consequences to lying on your CV. Including lies in your CV can lead to:

1. Damage to your professional reputation

As a result of lying on your CV, you may get blacklisted by a company – meaning you'll never be allowed to work for them – or blacklisted by the recruitment agency. The latter is arguably more damaging, as they're a resource for multiple job opportunities.

2. Ejection from the application process

If you lie on your CV, and are found out, it's likely you'll be completely removed from the application process. And if you're caught lying on your CV after receiving a job offer, it will probably be revoked.  

3. Potential grounds for dismissal

If you lie on your CV and get the job anyway, much bigger consequences are at play. Your employer will trust that your skill set is in line with the one you represented on your CV and during the interview. If you can't fulfil the job responsibilities or answer questions related to the skill set you claim to have, red flags will be raised, and you could be sacked

4. Embarrassment during an interview

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 immediately spot the difference between an answer fumbled because of nerves and an answer fumbled because of lies. 

Can I lie about grades on my CV?

If we haven't already made it obvious, you cannot lie on your CV about anything, including academic grades. According to The HR Director survey, a whopping 51% of adults have lied on their CV, with 27% increasing their GCSE grades and 20% boosting their A-Level grades.  

We understand that if you're starting out in your career, it can be difficult to land a job when you're reliant on just your grades. 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 I lie about work experience on my CV?

In a similar vein, you can't lie about work experience on your CV. According to the same survey, 41% of respondents, who had lied on their CV, did so by exaggerating previous job responsibilities. As CV experts, we recognise that most of the fabrication comes from a fear of rejection or desperation for a job, but there are ways to address all areas of concern truthfully.

How to improve your CV without lying

When answering the question, “Can I lie on my CV?,” the definitive answer is “No, under no circumstances.” This can't be stressed enough.

We understand you may worry that qualifications, work experience, or work history don't present you in the best light, so here are some common reasons why people lie on their CVs and the ways to address them truthfully:

You have poor grades

There are many ways to list education on your CV. With poor grades, you still have the qualification, so leave the result out. For example, you can write “8 GCSEs” as a summary. If you received a mix of good and poor grades, include a grade bracket if you feel this adds to your application, such as, “8 GSCEs, grades 4-7.”

You don't 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 particular degree. 

If you don't meet those essential qualification requirements, consider if this job is really for you. You may be better off applying for a role you're properly qualified for.

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

You're missing key skills

If you're missing skills and experience, a similar approach applies. Review whether you're the right match for the role, no matter how much you want the job. Adding skills that 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. Trying to learn on the side while navigating a new role is a strenuous task.

If you're tempted to lie on your CV about skills, bear in mind that the “perfect” candidate doesn't 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?

Expert tip: If you're lacking a good chunk of the requirements, invest in courses that will provide you with the necessary skills. Add to your CV that you're training and include an expected completion date. If the course is going to take a while to complete, and you're likely to miss the application window, reach out to the person recruiting for this role to introduce yourself. You never know, you may get headhunted later on 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 dates is one quick way to approach a career gap. Instead of including the months and years of your employment history, omit the months, and show years only. But don't extend dates to try to mask the gap. This is lying.

Think again before lying on your CV

So can I include lies in my CV? No. Honesty is the best, and only, policy when it comes to your CV. If you're tempted to falsify the truth, ask yourself whether the job is right for you, and evaluate your options before telling a porky. 

There are ways to write your CV to present your talents in the best light, without needing to bend or stretch the truth. Just ask a CV writer for help.

This article was originally written by Laura Slingo and has been updated by Elizabeth Openshaw

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