Any claim at all on a CV could be a lie, but recruiters should scrutinise nine particular areas to avoid being duped, according to Organisational Psychologist, Joshua Wood. The vital parts to pay close attention to, he says, are:
- the importance of the role and responsibilities – are they inflated?
- the candidate’s achievements – are they embellished?
- the reason given for leaving the company – does it mask poor performance, or a conflict situation?
- tenure – has it been increased to remove gaps?
- staff managed – did the candidate directly manage them? Was this in an acting capacity only?
- revenue brought in or financial benefits – has the candidate exaggerated these to make herself appear more successful?
- certification or degree – did the candidate complete this, or fail, or drop out? Has it been conferred yet?
- academic dates – has the candidate changed these to cover failed or repeated subjects?
- previous remuneration – has this candidate bumped it up a little in order to get a bigger salary this time?
Wood says that on top of the above, recruiters should be on the lookout for embellishments or “flourishes” generally. “My favourite example of CV embellishment was given to me from a fellow recruiter,” he says. “The candidate had listed himself as the director of a national community service organisation. In interview, after a long series of probing questions, it turned out that the candidate’s organisation amounted to him and his sister moving some boxes from the garage for an elderly lady next door… once!” Subtleties in the language the candidate uses can hint at embellishments, he says.
For example, did the candidate do the whole lot, or “initiate the project”? Did they make important decisions or did they “research the issue”, “analyse the problem” or “make recommendations”? Did they work with other employees as opposed to “managing” or “supervising” them? Other areas to approach with caution include:
- CV introduction and summary – canny candidates will tell you exactly what you want to hear in the CV summary, Wood says. “The summary might be true, of course, but communication or leadership skills are easier to exaggerate than job responsibilities or role lengths. This is because they are harder to define (and probity check) and they rely on candidates’ self-perception. They may also feel to candidates like less of an outright lie.”
- Hobbies – these might give you an indication of the candidate’s sociability etc,if they’re accurate. Wood’s research, however, shows that this is an area to which experienced recruiters pay far less attention than their inexperienced colleagues.
- Photos – research shows that good-looking people who put pictures on their CVs tend to get rated better than those that look average, but only if the CVs are mediocre, not if the CVs are strong, Wood says. His advice to recruiters: “Ignore the picture.”
- Academic qualifications – compared to inexperienced recruiters, experienced CV assessors place less emphasis on academic qualifications, particularly if they’re not relevant to the role. “If the degree is relevant (e.g. a medical degree for a GP), of course it’s important, but looking for any tertiary qualification, just for the sake of it, can cause you to miss good candidates. Research shows that academic qualifications are not as strong a predictor of future job performance as one might expect.”
“As recruiters we need to deal with embellishments and half-truths from candidates all of the way through the assessment process,” Wood says. “Many candidates will be perfectly honest, but there is a sizable proportion that will exaggerate and embellish to try to get that job. And some, like our ‘director of a national community service organisation’ will have absolutely no qualms about it.”First published in Recruiter Daily 12th April 2010