Debunking the Myths: Is It Ever OK to Lie on a CV?

word cloud with lies

How far someone can go to “spice up” details on their CV to help get that dream job?

With more and more companies donning their detective caps to secure candidate info through Google and social networks, any recruiter worth their salt will be able to pick holes in a CV full of lies.

Did you know? Around 35% of CVs submitted in 2020 had a lie in them? However, a report released from The CIPD states that around 25% of companies either failed to fact-check details or did not contact references.

Common CV Lies

  • Falsifying qualifications / references and inflating job titles.
  • Creating hobbies to appear more “interesting”.
  • Lying about age
  • Covering gaps in employment

High Profile Examples of CV Lies

A Chauffeur managed to get a job driving a Managing Director around – even though he had been banned from driving.

The former head of an NHS trust faces jail after admitting securing his £115,000 job by lying on his CV – claiming to have a first-class degree and a Postgraduate Diploma in Forensic Medicine (even though his only qualifications were a couple of A-Levels).

A Dentist who lied about his clinical experience on his CV ended up being banned from practising for a year. The Dentist gave a presentation on oral surgery to an audience full of postgraduates and oral surgeons, but the delegates became suspicious about the contents of his CV and speech. He claimed he was a registrar in Oxford and had carried out 200 operations after 4 years training. This surprised 3 oral surgeons from the hospital who knew the Dentist had worked there for just 10 months. The GDC found he had designed the CV to misrepresent his true position and mislead those who attended the lecture.

What Is Being Done to Combat CV Lies?

Not all companies conduct formal background checks (in fact, it’s more common in the US than it is here in the UK). As well as internal checks and the use of specialist agencies, there are other methods to investigate a candidate’s honesty – even snooping on your social media profiles!

If a prospective employer conducts a background check and discovers you’ve lied, at best don’t expect a job offer. At worst, you could end up blacklisted.

That said, recruiters are often fairly lenient with candidates who stretch the truth “a bit”. They’re privy to the fact that candidates will often inflate their experience to get onto the shortlist. Just 33% of recruiters we spoke to said they would blacklist an applicant for lying.

Should I Lie on My CV?

No. Never lie on your CV. If you do decide to embellish details on your CV (and we do not condone this), you run the risk of leaving your career and your reputation in ruin. Lying on your CV is after all, essential fraud.

If you get away with your lies, you may end up in a job beyond your grasp – and this may lead to questions being asked.

image of a black sheep wedged between lots of white sheep

Is It Illegal to Lie on Your CV?

You’ll often be told that a CV isn’t a legal document so technically it’s not a crime. However, lying on your CV is classed as “fraud by false misrepresentation” and is in fact, a criminal offence.

What Will Happen if I Lie on my CV?

In extreme examples, a criminal prosecution could be the result. However, this would likely only be in the most serious of cases. In general, instant rejection of your application (or immediate dismissal if found out later) is the most likely outcome of lying on your CV. Not only this, but the humiliation and embarrassment will be just as difficult to deal with.

Our Research into CV Lies – Updated in October 2021:

We asked 4,000 users (split between Facebook, Twitter, and our newsletter) if they had lied on their CV. Here were the results:

Lied about qualifications: 41%

Should you lie about qualifications on your CV? This is an extremely risky approach! Verifying a candidate’s qualifications is often the easiest thing a recruiter can do. Some of our respondents reported that inflating their GCSEs from 20 years ago wouldn’t matter.

A survey carried out by YouGov found that ~63% of employers felt that lying about your education was a "very serious" lie, with 29% viewing it as "quite serious."

Be careful: a former probation officer was jailed for two years having earned £1M+ working in senior NHS roles having lied about his qualifications.

Invented interesting hobbies: 32%

This is possibly the most harmless of lies. Most comments from our survey participants said they chose to lie about their hobbies to appear more interesting to potential recruiters.

Although harmless, this could come back to bite in the future. That golf handicap of ten might come into question if you’re ever invited out by your Manager.

Read more about: Hobbies on a CV

Lied about details in employment: 20%

There were multiple lies in this section. Most common were lying about job titles to appear more senior, lying about dates in employment to hide gaps and falsifying achievements.

As with qualifications, it’s easy for a recruiter to fact-check details of your employment.

Lied about something else (rather not say): 28%

Never lied at all: 60%

Responses by age

  • 18-24: 56%
  • 25-34: 20%
  • 35-49: 9%
  • 49+: 15%

Interestingly, we noted that the area harbouring the highest number of “fibbers” was London. This could be due to the competitiveness of the job market in the City. The further north we travelled, the likelihood of lying decreased (with a few exceptions, including Leeds coming in second to London).

With 20+ years of experience writing CVs, it still puts a smile on my face when I hear a client has secured an interview Lee Tonge - Founder and Director


Phone: (01904) 902 102


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