There are lies, damn lies and there are CVs

By Alan Perrott

Varnishing or plain telling porkies... whatever you call it, untruths about skills and experience will find you out.
Forward-thinking recruitment firms are contracting out CV checking to an external, specialist service provider.
Forward-thinking recruitment firms are contracting out CV checking to an external, specialist service provider.

Geez, everyone lies from time to time, so what's the big deal? Especially when it works. Consider - and bear with me here - push-up bras, they aren't so much about lying as augmenting reality. And if anything is the zeitgeist of these Trumped-up times, it's an augmented reality where lies aren't wrong as long as they reinforce your particular world view.

So is it such a big deal if you massage the facts in an attempt to get a job or secure a pay rise? After all, if it works, you gain an income and if everyone's happy with your performance then how is it anything other than a win-win, victimless crime?

I know I'm sorely tempted to have a crack, crossing over a certain age threshold carries with it an unspoken assumption of obsolescence, so while I may baulk at suggestions to flat out lie, I am at least considering leaving my age out all together. We all know that HR robots are only ticking boxes when it comes to shortlisting candidates and that if only we could get an interview, any employer would realise what an incredible asset we'd be.

Lying even used to be an indication of chutzpah. We all know stories of people who got their big break by claiming they could do things they'd never attempted in their lives. Not only were they not done for fraud, when it comes to their eventual leaving do they are celebrated as risk takers, who took a punt to succeed.

It's also common practice. In Britain, it's estimated that one third of all resumes are less than honest. But who knows, it could be far higher, given that the people who get away it are hardly going to dob themselves in. And why? Because not only would it be pretty damned embarrassing, you could end up doing time.

Take one of our more infamous cases. Canadian John Davy was a surprise choice when he was appointed chief executive of the Maori Television Service in 2002, but there was no denying his formidable CV, which claimed he'd served as a member and adviser to the BC Securities Commission in Canada, was a director of the Middle East Round Table for International Relations, had a Master of Business Administration degree, and had written two books as well as the hit song Red Rubber Ball.

And all was well for six weeks until Herald journalist Louisa Cleave noticed his shoes - these were not the shoes of a successful man - and thought she'd do some digging. It quickly emerged that Davy's CV was entirely bogus, from his top-secret securities work to Red Rubber Ball his pants had been in flames, so he was sacked, charged with fraud and sentenced to eight months in jail.

Then there was Mary-Anne Thompson who was convicted of fraud in 2010. Her claim to a non-existent PhD from the prestigious London School of Economics led to her running Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet in the Beehive before being put in charge of the New Zealand Immigration Service. Her appointment had come despite a recruitment company expressing doubts over her qualifications back in 2004. She was simply asked if she had a PhD.

"Yes," she said. "Good enough for me," was the gist of the response.

The whole embarrassing mess could have avoided if Parliament had taken heed of the professionals.

Most recently there's the case of the former Ministry of Transport manager Joanne Harrison who last week was found guilty of defrauding the agency of $726,000 and this was not her first offence.

Steve Jackson is chief operating officer for Madison Recruitment and says they go to great lengths to confirm the bona fides of every candidate's CV they present to clients. When you're in the business of shortlisting potential employees for client companies, ensuring that each person is exactly who they say they are is essential.

When short-listing applicants to interview, and after a round of preliminary questions, judgments are made based on CVs: "However, when we get to interview stage," says Jackson, "it is not uncommon to find that the competencies and level of experience is not as first thought."

As a result, and before anything else happens, every jobseeker must sign a form confirming the accuracy of all the information they will submit while also acknowledging that falsehoods could result in the loss of whatever job they may attract. From there they undergo an interview, followed by reference and probity checking and further cross-checking using whatever can be gleaned online. Madison are now considering strengthening this process further by contracting out CV checking to an external, specialist service provider.

It's a process that has highlighted the most common lies - past achievements and why we've left jobs - and as each feeds into the fundamental issue of competency, they are almost always found out.

If you have been stretching the truth and made it this far, you've probably done quite well given you'd have undergone screening, a behavioural interview, reference checking, psychometric and skills tests, a police check, and, if necessary, a credit check.

So it's over to you if you want to take the chance and if the risk still seems worth it you may want to consider your online footprint - if your privacy settings aren't locked down you're in for a rude surprise.

Still, Davy managed to blag his way through a similar process so it can be done. Just remember to check your shoes before you leave home.

- NZ Herald

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