Too good to be true?

Writing a CV is becoming an art form today and people are investing increasing amounts of time making theirs just right. But sometimes the sales aspect can go a  little too far and at other times not 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 represented so superbly on a CV. Because people are trying to make themselves stand out, there’s every likelihood they’re being encouraged to oversell themselves or stretch the truth just a little too far. So it’s not surprise that sometimes these lies aren’t easy to spot and recruiters can be drawn in to a web of deceit.

But don’t worry, it happens to the best of us. And a particularly high-profile example highlights this. Technology giant Yahoo! sacked its chief executive Scott Thompson after revelations he’d lied on his CV. Thompson’s biography listed a computer science degree that he hadn’t earned. So if you do get it wrong, you’re in good company. The trick of course is to make sure you don’t.

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

They continue: “A telephone chat follows and things are still looking pretty positive. Then you meet them, and your plan starts falling apart. As they are talking you start mapping out how on earth to turn this around and make them like the CV in front of you or, worst case scenario, considering starting your search from scratch.”

There are any number of reasons why this scenario can happen. While pretty much any recruiter you meet will agree the interview is the most important factor in the hiring process, even over a candidate’s CV, one unalienable fact is the CV 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. The problem with this approach is 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. Here are some areas you should 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 candidate knows what they’re doing even if the rest of their CV is coming up short.



Applicants that have spent many years with a single company performing tasks related to your industry may have qualities that will 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 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 ideal for the position.
Now you know how to find 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?

According to a report published by the Wall Street Journal over 53% of job seekers lie on their CVs, and over 70% of college graduates admit to lying on their CVs to get a job. The most common areas where people bend the truth are:

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

A few simple steps can help you weed 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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