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Better Business Podcast: How To Spot A Dodgy CV

Published November 4, 2018 (last updated on February 28, 2024) | Adam Wyatt - Content Writer


Better Business Podcast: How To Spot A Dodgy CV

The Dodgy CV — one of the most vexing issues of the recruitment process. But are there tell-tale signs that a job candidate isn’t being entirely truthful? In this episode of the Better Business Podcast Essentials Update we learn how to spot a dodgy CV, and what you can do if you’ve hired a candidate you suspect has lied to get the job.


Hello, and welcome to the Better Business Podcast Essentials Update, brought to you by Employsure. I’m your host, Leigh Johnston, and every month we do a quick mini-episode taking a look at a key issue in the world of employment relations. This month, we ask the question, “Are harmless white lies on a CV ever okay? When do they cross the line into fraud and become a serious business risk?” But more importantly, what are the telltale signs of a dodgy CV, and what can businesses do about it?

Here to talk us through one of the most vexing issues in small business recruitment is our resident expert, Thorunn Arnadottir. Thorunn, welcome back to the show.

Thanks for having me back, Leigh.

This month, we’re looking at dodgy CVs. Can you tell us, how would you define a dodgy CV?

Despite it being a fairly common practice, it’s actually not that easy to define a dodgy CV, especially from the onset of the recruitment process. Because often an employer is unable to detect a dodgy CV until an employee starts working and inconsistencies become apparent.

But a dodgy CV can include things like a better-sounding job title than what the candidate actually had in their last job. There might be a few added weeks or months to the actual time served in previous jobs, to make up gaps in employment. Or it might list a university bachelor’s degree when in fact maybe the candidate has dropped out of university or they only have a diploma or certificate.

In many cases, it’s not a matter of outright dishonest content. A dodgy CV can include subtle dishonesty or an exaggeration of the truth. Candidates might claim to have performed certain projects or duties when the reality of it is they may have done this jobs once or twice and not actually gained the necessary experience to take on ownership of the task. Maybe they’ve put their mates down as references who they’ve never actually worked with.

Are there any common signs or giveaways that someone is exaggerating or lying on their CV?

Common signs can be inconsistencies with the application form, the CV, and what they say verbally. So, for example, inconsistencies with dates and what the candidate starts discussing verbally in terms of their previous work timelines, maybe they don’t match up with what’s on their résumé. Also, if details in the CV are vague or general, like “studied a degree”. That raises questions for me. Where did you study? How long ago? Did you complete your degree? Did you pass? What was your major?

And if they exaggerate titles and giveaways where the duties don’t seem to align with what the actual title is. If the résumé’s built on buzzwords, it can be a sign that there’s an attempt to distract from the reality of the employment history and suitability for the job.

Obviously this can be quite sensitive, so how can a small business owner diplomatically raise any concerns with the candidate?

To diplomatically raise a concern it’s best to have a basis for this. Not only taking a CV at face value, but using other ways to get a better idea of the candidate. You could ask for a copy of their academic transcript or certificates. You could call their references and ask the referee to confirm what was the actual start and end date, what was their title when they were employed with you.

By doing a little bit more of a background check, information revealed can help identify inconsistencies which can provide an opportunity to ask the candidate for clarification to close these gaps. But of course it’s really important to be mindful of what is discussed, as some questions can cause a risk of discrimination.

For example, if someone of an ethnic background uses an Anglo-Saxon name rather than their birth name on their CV. If you go ahead and ask questions and imply that they’re being dishonest, this isn’t going to hold up as a basis for rejecting their application form. It’s not gonna impact their capacity to carry out the inherent requirements of the job.

That’s where we start getting to adverse action, right? Can you tell us a little bit about what that is?

Yeah, so adverse action is essentially considering discriminatory factors, especially in the recruitment stage. When you’re looking at adverse action, you’re looking at questions that might be targeted at personal attributes, or protected attributes such as age, sex, race, gender, that kind of thing. You definitely wanna steer away from anything like that because that can expose a business to further issues later down the line.

So when we’re thinking about dodgy CVs, what should business owners do to protect themselves in that recruitment phase?

During the recruitment phase it’s a good idea to be upfront about what the job involves and what may be required during the application process. For example, confirming early on that the company may require a copy of licences, qualifications, and certificates related to the job, so candidates know that they may have to provide proof that they hold these.

The job advertisement should include a good job description of the role and distinguish between essential and desirable skills and qualifications required, so the candidate knows what is necessary for the role and what they will need to demonstrate that they can do.

And as part of the recruitment process, a company can use tools to obtain more information about a candidate such as an application form with more detailed questions related to the job, an interview process, and reference checks as well. Some companies build pre-employment tests into their recruitment process to measure things like aptitude, personality, cognitive ability, and job knowledge. And, alternatively, if suitable, employers may instead promote internally the employees they actually know.

So what if it’s too late, and the candidate has already joined the business as an employee and it becomes apparent that perhaps they had exaggerated some of their previous experience, or their CV was just a flat out lie? What should business owners do?

Employers need to consider whether they have sufficient evidence to support that the CV was indeed dishonest or dodgy, whether the conduct was intended to mislead the employer, and how this impacts the capacity for the employee to carry out the role.

A number of things need to be considered in determining whether there is a valid reason to terminate an employee for this particular reason. And depending on when the dishonest information comes to light, an employer may need to carry out a disciplinary process before moving to terminate. This would involve allowing an employee that has access to make an unfair dismissal claim the right to respond to allegations of dishonesty in a procedurally fair manner.

So what are the legal protections for small business owners in that case? They’ve been the victim of a CV scam, and they need to remove an employee or potentially not offer a candidate a job, are there legal protections for them in that case?

There are protections for employers, so long as actions taken in dealing with such matters are carried out lawfully and in line with best practice. In a recent case in July this year, the Fair Work Commission supported the decision of a company to terminate an employee who had been dishonest about his previous employment. Amongst quite a number of dishonest details in his CV, he had changed the length of service with previous employers to cover up gaps in his employment.

In considering the case in its totality, such as the evidence available, the gravity of intentional dishonesty, and how this would impact his capacity to carry out the duties required in the role, along with the disciplinary process that was carried out by the employer, it was established that the employee’s conduct was inconsistent with the continuation of his employment, and the termination was justified.

So as each case is different, employers should always be mindful of the process that they take when they’re looking at terminating someone for providing a dodgy CV, and making sure that any such process is fair, having regard to the circumstances.

Thorunn, thank you so much for your insight. The old dodgy CV, I’m not sure we’ll ever see the end of them, but certainly a big issue for small business owners. Thank you so much for talking us through it.

Always great having a chat, Leigh.

Well, that’s it for this month’s Essentials Update. A huge thanks, again, to Thorunn for joining the show and helping us examine this timeless recruitment issue.

A quick reminder that if you are an employer and need a hand with your employment relations advice, call our day and night employer advice line on 1300 651 415, or stop by our website for a stack of free resources, tips, and advice to help you navigate the world of employment relations.

That’s it from us for this Essentials Update. I’m your host, Leigh Johnston. Thanks again for listening, and tune in again next time when we tackle another big issue in the world of employment relations.

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