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Half of all CVs contain lies – can your recruiters spot them?

Research from The University of Law has explored attitudes to exaggerating on CVs to secure a role, revealing that over half of working Brits (51 percent) have felt the pressure to lie, but only one-in-ten (10 percent) have done so and gone on to land the job.

Fifty-one percent of job hunters feel the need to lie on their CV to look better to potential employers. New research from The University of Law reveals exactly what the nation feels the most pressure to exaggerate during a job search. Contributor John Watkins, Director of Employability – The University of Law.

We’ve all seen the ideal job advertised and been tempted to apply, even if our skills or experience aren’t quite up to scratch. But how many of us feel pressure to lie about our capability on an application?

Research from The University of Law has explored attitudes to exaggerating on CVs to secure a role, revealing that over half of working Brits (51 percent) have felt the pressure to lie, but only one-in-ten (10 percent) have done so and gone on to land the job.

When asked why they would exaggerate on their application, nearly one in five (17 percent) said they’re concerned their experience won’t be enough to land the job. Similarly, 14 percent said they would lie to ensure their CV stood out.

The study also looked into the areas of a CV people feel the most pressure to embellish with nearly a third (30 percent) saying the previous experience section, while one in four (24 percent) claimed it’s the skills section they feel the need to boost. Other areas Brits feel the need to exaggerate include education history (13 percent) and interests outside the workplace (12 percent). More than one in 10 (12 percent) men admitted to feeling pressure to lie about their age, in comparison to only 7 percent of women.

While experience topped the charts as the most pressured element of our CVs, it was also named the section we’re most comfortable to lie in by respondents (27 percent). One in five (22 percent) however, said their hobbies and interests would be where they’d feel most comfortable lying, and 19 percent said it was their skills.

For those who wouldn’t lie on their CV however, half (53 percent) said it is because they don’t feel comfortable lying, while 51 percent said it just felt too dishonest. Nearly a third (29 percent) put it down to being scared the employer would find out during the application/interview process, but for 32 percent, confidence in their own skills and experience reassured them no lying was necessary. Overall, women appear to be the most honest when it comes to their CVs with two thirds (64 percent) saying no matter the pressure, they wouldn’t actually go through with it, while only half (54 percent) of their male counterparts agreed.

When it comes to the aspects employers are looking for the most on CV’s, 55 percent of job hunters said they thought it would be experience, while a third (30 percent) thought it would be their skills. Recent data from The University of Law Business School however, shows that past experience was only prioritised in 3 percent of job applications and it was actually skills such as communication skills (90 percent), relationship building (83 percent) and organisation skills (63 percent) that took the lead in terms of importance.

Those who have exaggerated on their CV’s to try and land a role share their experiences*:

Lauren, 27, Content Manager, Manchester, says: “When I first came out of university, I found a lot of entry level jobs were asking for experience, which of course, I just didn’t have as a graduate. I felt pressured to have that experience on my application, so I exaggerated a position I had at the University newspaper to show myself doing things I knew I could do but hadn’t had the opportunity to do yet as a grad. I ended up securing the job and no one was ever the wiser, but I’m not sure I would feel comfortable doing it now, just in case the employer found out from my references or caught me out in the interview!”

James, 35, Project Manager, London, says: “Earlier on in my career I applied for a job that was out of my reach in terms of experience, but the money was good, and the company was one I’d always wanted to work for, I thought, why not try my luck? To help me secure the role, I exaggerated on my previous roles and claimed to be able to use a software I hadn’t even heard of (how hard could it be to learn on the job, right?). I landed an interview but didn’t expect them to go into a detailed discussion about the software, asking me how I’ve used it to help run my projects and report effectively. I tried to guess my way through it, but they definitely knew I had no idea what they were talking about. Safe to say they didn’t call me in for the second round.”

Commenting on the findings, John Watkins, Director of Employability at The University of Law says, “We understand the pressure felt when applying for jobs and the increasing trend identified in this research. It reinforces the value of our mantra at The University of Law to help each individual fulfil their potential, contextualised on the reality of their current circumstances. This starts with interaction well before students arrive at the University with encouragement to hone in on how they can proactively address areas of development.

Once enrolled this is even more explicit to ensure that there is no doubt about the importance of accuracy in all documents used as part of the recruitment process. The ethical and legal dimensions are readily understood, and we emphasise that even if someone should reach the point of securing a role by exaggerating, there is every chance that they will either be ‘caught’ at a later date and/or are likely to struggle to meet employer expectations on the job. Therefore it simply isn’t worth it!’”

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