Fudging your CV is a time-honoured tradition. It seems that some people interpret advice to present yourself and your achievements in the best possible light as a licence to manufacture skills, experience and qualifications.

My only firsthand experience of this was when I found a colleague's job application stored on a communal work computer. (I'd like to say I simply read a document that had been carelessly left open but I wouldn't put it past me to have gone snooping.)

I'm not sure what shocked me more: the fact that this person had spent most of the morning at work typing up an application for a job in another company or the fact that the document contained a thoroughly fabricated account of this person's current role and responsibilities.

I recall how tough applying for new jobs always was. At the time I thought it was just a reflection of a competitive job market; now I wonder if I was automatically on the back foot simply because my curriculum vitae contained not one iota of exaggeration, embellishment or fiction. Would I have secured more interviews if I'd lied like the aforementioned colleague?


As noted in CV cheats a business risk, there have been some high profile local cases of CV fraud.

In 2010 it was discovered a defence force scientist had claimed to have been a helicopter pilot, marine and member of an Olympic bobsled team. In 2008 a civil servant was found guilty of falsely reporting she had a doctorate from the London School of Economics. In 2002 it was discovered the head of Maori Television couldn't have held a qualification from Denver State University because there is no such institution.

"CV fraud and lying about past accomplishments is increasing," according to a firm that offers background checks on prospective employees. Its website catalogues a list of CV fraud committed in New Zealand, including: forging child-care qualifications, nursing certificates and references, and generally making false claims about education and background.

"Don't be one of the 43 per cent who lie on a CV" advises Careers NZ, a blog which suggests accounting for gaps in your employment history by, wait for it: telling the truth - which is all very well if your time out of the workforce was due to travel, study, illness or family matters. However, the truth seems a less palatable option if the reason you were "between jobs" was because you were in prison - in which case the advice to write a "skills-focused CV" rather than a chronologically ordered one seems especially pertinent.

Aside from twisting the truth in order to disguise gaps in your work history, most other lies told in CVs are designed to give a prospective employer an inflated sense of your worth and suitability for the role. Forging qualifications, faking experience, fabricating references and inventing universities are desperate attempts to make others hold you in higher regard than you deserve. Presumably people who do this are short-term thinkers with no understanding they're likely to be caught out later once they're floundering in a role that is beyond their skill set.

But some of the responsibility for the proliferation of dodgy CVs must fall on the employers too. If they're not savvy enough to check references, confirm qualifications, identify imaginary tertiary institutions and have a likely candidate's background examined, then there's little incentive for dishonest jobseekers to adhere to the truth.

Is your CV beyond reproach or have you stretched the truth to some degree? What drives people to tell outright lies about their history? Is it ever justified? Why don't employers go to greater lengths to establish the veracity of applicants' claims?