Although the embellishment of CVs by candidates keen to maximise their chances of landing a job has always been a problem for employers, this phenomenon is becoming increasingly common.

UK employee screening service’s Risk Advisory Group sampled 5,000 CVs for their annual report this year. 80% contained one or more discrepancy – up by 10% compared to 2016. 57% of those discrepancies are about academic background, while 12% of candidates falsify their grades.

The potential consequences of such actions can be serious indeed, with the effects reverberating through a candidate’s career for years. Depending on the size of the embellishment, they could even face a criminal conviction for fraud.

Some CV embellishments are more serious than others. A candidate who invents something impressive for the section on Interests and Activities would probably affect nobody should his mendacity be uncovered. However, there are industries where possession of a particular qualification is necessary for employment and falsely declaring such a qualification on a CV can lead to serious problems for an employer, since it is their responsibility to ensure that their employees are correctly qualified. There are financial penalties for employers who have not checked staff backgrounds with sufficient diligence and of course an unqualified employee may well pose a risk to the public – raising the risk of claims for negligence against the employer.

If a company is operating in the financial services sector, the effect of even a small fabrication on a CV may threaten an employee’s future career since both the PRA and FCA expect to be advised of any matter that affects a person’s honesty, integrity and reputation.

If the dishonesty is particularly serious, the individual may well be censured or even debarred by the regulator.

What should an employer do?

Employers should take all measures available to them in order to verify what they are being told by candidates, making use of online qualification checking services where they are available.

The best course of action will depend on the point at which the deception is discovered. If it is uncovered before the candidate has accepted a job offer (and if, in the opinion of the employer, it affects their suitability for the role in question) the offer can be withdrawn, citing the reasons why. A rejection may prompt a claim for discrimination, so in order to protect themselves, the employer should scrupulously document the recruitment process, stating reasons for any decisions made.

If the deception is discovered after the employee has started work with the organisation, the employer could well have grounds for dismissal, claiming a breach of the implied duty of trust and confidence between employer and employee. If the deception is particularly egregious, this might amount to gross misconduct and the employee could be dismissed without notice.

Employers should deal with each situation on a case-by-case basis as the facts may vary depending on the individual and their offence.

For longstanding employees, the situation is somewhat more complicated as employees who have more than two years’ service can bring claims of unfair dismissal. An employer who takes the step of dismissing such a member of staff will need to ensure that their action could be defended as a reasonable response to the misconduct.

It is important to seek legal advice before taking the step of dismissal as it could help avoid a costly mistake. This is all the more important if the employee in question has demonstrated, by virtue of their performance that they have the ability to do the job.

As well as carrying out detailed background checks and verification of all new qualifications and CV entries notified, employers should ensure that their offer letters, employee handbooks and contracts of employment contain notice that any form of misrepresentation relating to an employee’s suitability for a role will be considered to be gross misconduct.

Consequences of CV Fraud

Depending on the facts of the case, CV embellishment may also amount to a criminal offence. Under Section 2 of the Fraud Act 2006:

(1) A person is in breach of this section if he— (a)dishonestly makes a false representation, and (b)intends, by making the representation— (i)to make a gain for himself or another, or (ii)to cause loss to another or to expose another to a risk of loss.

(2) A representation is false if— (a)it is untrue or misleading, and (b)the person making it knows that it is, or might be, untrue or misleading.

It is punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine.

The Scottish equivalents to the Fraud Act are the common law offences of fraud – “achieving a practical result by means of false pretence” – and uttering – defined as “using as genuine a fabricated writing falsely intended to pass as genuine the writing of another person”.

It is worth noting, when advising employees of the consequences of fraudulent CVs, that cases referred to CIFAS lie on file for six years, meaning that if applicants attempt to apply for other jobs, the potential employer is alerted to their past history.

Case Studies

2009 A man who lied about his qualifications, falsely claiming that he had a doctorate and a Master’s Degree to land a top NHS job has been jailed for 12 weeks after pleading guilty to obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception and making a false instrument.

After his resignation, a disciplinary hearing found him guilty of gross misconduct.

2009 A senior NHS human resources manager, who lied about her qualifications has received a six month suspended prison sentence and an order to pay £9,600 in compensation.

She submitted a number of dishonest applications electronically, quoting false qualifications which she also reiterated to her line manager.

2014 A HR worker faked a qualification to get a job at a global research firm, following which he defrauded his new employer of almost £50,000 in fraudulent expenses claims. He has now been jailed for three years after admitting fraud and perverting the course of justice.