CV spin takes an honest turn

The truth is elastic and nowhere does it receive a better stretching than in the world of the curriculum vitae.

And with the economy continuing to putter along in neutral, recruitment specialists predict that almost a third of us will do some lily gilding in the process, either on paper or online.

Embellishments and omissions are par for the course in the land of CV spin, say recruiters, who routinely plough through the sort of puffery that turns junior accountants into finance directors and barmen into hotel managers.

Peter Acheson, chief executive of job agency Peoplebank, estimated 25 to 30 per cent of people had added some sort of embellishment to their CV.

But is the surge in social media sounding a death knell for those who want to bluff their way into plum positions? 

Professional networking site LinkedIn is now used by 150 million professionals worldwide, including some two million Aussies.

With the LinkedIn profile fast supplanting the paper CV, are many of us brave enough to post porky pies about our experience for the entire world to scrutinise?

LinkedIn regional managing director Cliff Rosenberg said the shift is scaring people into greater honesty.

“The transparency of the online profile means that people are more aware of what they put in it. Authentication is more transparent and it's more likely to be checked. A lot of self-policing and policing goes on with LinkedIn, versus the paper CV, which may only be seen by a few people.”


Acheson agreed. “You're not as likely to get away with untruth or embellishment. This was not the case in the past but things have changed a lot in the last three or four years. It's still possible to fool the process but it's become harder,” he said.

For those still game to give veracity a bit of a nudge when outlining their 'course of life' (as curriculum vitae translates from the Latin), 'date fudging' is the most frequently occurring phenomena. Not as tasty as it sounds, it refers to the way in which those two years you spent backpacking can be expunged from the record, or a disastrous stint at Company X wiped out, by bumping up the number of months and years you worked at Company Y.

Taking yourself off the credits of a project that was a high profile flop and signing on to one which won the corporate equivalent of a swag of Oscars is also commonplace, particularly in the high tech sector, Acheson said.

“If a project is well known and a great success, there may have been hundreds of people working on it. Many may have been at the company but had nothing to do with it. And for dud projects, no one wants to be associated with them.”

Awarding yourself an honorary degree or two is another popular way to make your resume stand out from the crowd. This can be as easy as Photoshopping your name and the dates you wish you'd spent on campus onto someone else's parchment, said Geoff Stockton, founder of Melbourne based Personal Risk Management Group, which charges companies between $150 and $800 to check out the bona fides of potential joiners.

Those who partied their way through several years of accounting or arts law, and have the straight fours to prove it, can also redeem themselves on paper. A little close work with a razor blade and photocopier and a lacklustre academic transcript can become a glowing reflection of late nights hunched over the books.

What most often undoes the dodgy degree holders is lack of attention to detail, former police inspector Stockton warns.

“A fake parchment can contain errors. The course may have been called a different name, or not existed during the dates specified, or the vice chancellor signing it may have changed,” he said.

As for impeccable references, in times gone by write-your-own was often the way to go, for those with access to a typewriter and company letterhead. These days most employers prefer to speak directly to a referee, so many who aren't confident of a good rap from their manager get a mate to do the honours instead.

The chances of getting away with it are higher if he or she can talk the talk of the organisation or industry they're supposedly representing and can be reached on a landline, Stockton said – although few go to the lengths of a seemingly high-level candidate he once encountered who was eventually rumbled for setting up a company, office front and dedicated phone number, in order to vouch for his own credentials.

Have you ever been chary with the truth on your CV, or hired someone who was?

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