Is their CV too good to be true?

Too good to be true?

Writing a CV is becoming an art form today and people are investing increasing amounts of time making their application just right. But sometimes the sales job goes a little too far and at other times doesn’t go far enough, so how can you make sure you’re neither having the wool pulled over your eyes or binning the perfect candidate?

Whether you’re an experienced full-time recruiter or someone who hires once a year, at some point you’re likely to find yourself wondering how the person sitting in front of you bears so little relation to the one presented so superbly on their CV. But sometimes it’s not that easy to spot and recruiters can be drawn in to a web of deceit.

Well firstly, a word of comfort, it happens to the best of us. And a particularly high-profile example highlights this fact. In May 2012, technology giant Yahoo! sacked its then-chief executive Scott Thompson after revelations that he had lied on his CV about his qualifications. So if you do get it wrong, you’re not alone. The trick of course is to make sure you don’t.

Today we’re in a hirer’s market, and people are investing more and more time in creating the perfect CV to make themselves standout. Of course by doing this there is a likelihood that people are also being encouraged to oversell themselves or stretch the truth just a little too far.

As one recruiter states: “We have all seen a great CV, got excited, said things in our head such as ‘perfect!’, ‘oh brilliant, so and so is going to love them!’, all in the hope that we can put our search to an end, and celebrate with a happy client.

“Then you meet them, and your plan starts falling apart. You start mapping out how to turn this around and make them like their CV, or worst case scenario, considering starting your search from scratch.”


Looking at bad CVs

There are any number of reasons why this can happen. While most recruiters will agree the interview is the most important factor in the hiring process, one unalienable fact is that it’s the CV that gets you through the door in the first place. The problem here is you’re ruling out the possibility of this scenario working in reverse: sometimes a bad CV turns into a good interview and the candidate takes you by surprise.

This certainly isn’t helped by recruiters knowing they hold the position of power, so too many are looking for candidates who are an ‘exact match’ to their requirements. But while a skills match will tell a recruiter if a candidate CAN be successful, it won’t tell them if they WILL be. In order to determine the likelihood of a candidate’s success recruiters have to look beyond the CV and look at the physical characteristics of the candidate.

This is where a recruiter’s insight can help you. So, here are some areas that you need to focus on:


When reviewing CVs, look for words that demonstrate the applicant has the necessary experience to do the job correctly. These can be industry terms or specific knowledge that shows the employee knows what they’re doing, even if the rest of their CV is coming up short.



These days, experience is generally not as important as knowledge and ability. But applicants that have spent many years with a single company performing tasks related to your industry may still have qualities that make them valuable employees.



You can usually uncover a person’s best qualities within the first few bullet points on their CV. Often great information followed by useless information is just a sign that the applicant hasn’t had much experience writing CVs. Even if they only tick a few boxes they may be worth following up.



Finally, make sure you really do look for signs of great applicants within bad CVs. Every time you discard a CV because of a few flaws, you run the risk of losing out on an individual that may be best for the position.


Spotting the liars

Now you know what to look for a good candidate in a bad CV, how do you make sure you pick out the CVs that really are too good to be true?

The most common areas where people bend the truth are:

  • Exaggerating dates of past employment
  • Falsifying qualifications earned
  • Inflating job title and salary
  • Concealing a criminal record


But a few simple steps can help you filter out the would-be Scott Thompsons:

  • Perform an internet search on a previous employer
  • Search for the candidate in LinkedIn and other sites to make sure their history matches their CV
  • Perform a background check including work history, residences, dates of employment, etc. and look for discrepancies
  • Use pre-employment screening tests
  • Be fair, mistakes do happen so contact the candidate and give the opportunity to explain themselves
  • Use common sense; something that’s too good to be true, very often is!

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