C-Suite CVs are not immune to errors…or lies

Written by: Steve Playford
Published on: 17 May 2015

That’s a strong word in the headline perhaps – “lies” - but although anyone can make a mistake, “errors” in job applications are getting more frequent.  In reality, a lot of these are probably genuine errors, although these, of course, then shed doubt on the ability of the candidate to check their own CV properly.  At the very least, such ‘errors’ ought to lead you to question the candidate about his/her attention to detail, assuming that you’re still prepared to grant them an interview!

HireRight*, a major, international provider of employment background checks, has recently published research that highlights this problem. Let’s not be in doubt, this is an important issue.  We all can recall “successful” executive hires who turned out to be less than the paper they initially appeared on, even at C-Suite level where you’d expect the degree of due diligence to be rigorous in the extreme. The impact of these fraudulent candidates on the organisation has often been less than beneficial, but by that time it’s too late.  Executive recruitment really is too important to get wrong.

The HireRight research is forthright, telling us that the number of errors in job applications has increased from 56% in 2014 to 63% in 2015 to date.  That 2015 figure is the highest in four years, and, damningly from the perspective of Exec-Appointments’ blog readers, the single biggest rise (c. 40% year on year) occurs in the numbers providing “incorrect information” about previous director-level positions.  HireRight’s analysis suggests that 25% of all CVs include this “error”, up from 16% in 2013. HireRight’s work also suggests that over one third (36%) actually do lie about their previous employment. In addition, some 30% made “false statements” (i.e. lied) about their professional qualifications. 

Given the number of jobs being created in the last few years, and the shortage of executive talent in many key areas, you’d think that being economical with the truth was not necessary if you really want a job. Or is this a societal change whereby many of us seem to think that the end justifies the means? Irrespective of what the truth behind these figures is, I think it’s a sad reflection on the business community if people believe that barefaced lying is a means of gaining competitive advantage, whether in recruitment or any other area of work.

It’s not just sad in the modern sense of the word. In case you think that an “unfortunate misunderstanding” can be swept under the boardroom carpet, it’s worth noting that in 2013, CIFAS, the UK fraud prevention service, prosecuted 324 people for submitting fraudulent job applications.  It is a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison.  It would take more than a degree of sleight of hand to disguise your spell in Pentonville on your CV… More pertinently, as a wise person once said, “If you don’t lie you don’t have to remember what you said (or wrote)”. 

Steve Playford, Global Director, FT Career Management

* HireRight’s quarterly report conducted more than 100,000 checks of 26,000 job applications.