Young people are being warned of the consequences of lying on job applications as thousands of recent graduates enter the job market and make their first attempts to get on the career ladder.
“Don’t Finish Your Career before It Starts,” a 2014 publication by Cifas, the UK’s fraud prevention service, targets students and graduates. It aims to inform young people about job application fraud and dispel the myth that lying on a CV is harmless, acceptable and even expected when looking for work. In fact, applicants who submit false or exaggerated information run the risk of dismissal, a criminal record and even imprisonment, as real-life examples featured in the publication show.
“No Idea She Had Committed a Criminal Offense”
“Ignorance isn’t an excuse if you’re caught out,’ said Simon Dukes, chief executive officer of CIFAS. “One young woman whose case features in the publication said she had no idea she had committed a criminal offense after wrongly claiming to have two A-levels and making up false references. She was still jailed for six months.”
Simon stresses that the aim is not to portray young people as fraudsters and liars, but to educate them in the risk they are taking if they are tempted to embellish their experience and achievements. CIFAS research shows that many are simply unaware that job application fraud is even a crime. “We understand that it is a tough job market and that even the most honest graduate may feel a lot of pressure to make his or her CV stand out from the crowd,” said Dukes. “But it’s better to be straightforward and keep your integrity. Not only do employers value these qualities highly, but they are essential for career success.”
“Employers Do Check Information”
Steve Girdler of HireRight, a global background screening firm, agrees. “Complacency can be common in graduates who often hear in the media or from peers that it is standard practice to inflate claims on a CV. However, employers do check information that’s been provided by candidates, especially in graduate roles where there can be little to choose between different candidates. If, for instance, an error is found in employment or education details or that the telephone number for a reference belongs to a friend, then it could be the difference between getting to the next stage of the recruitment process or being sent home”
CIFAS also has an Internal Fraud Database, which allows member organizations to record cases of actual or attempted job application fraud and other types of employee fraud (such as stealing money, as well as bribery and corruption), and to check their own job applications against the database. That means if the applicant attempts to gain employment with other member organizations after being recorded to the database, then their previous fraudulent application will be uncovered—even if their most recent application is genuine.
“Members have to meet strict standards of proof to place a person on the database, and just because you are on the database does not mean that you will be automatically rejected for a role,” said Sophie Keen, internal fraud recruitment manager at CIFAS. “But it usually means your application will be scrutinized closely, and once the record has been filed, it remains there for six years. Six years of being on file as a potential fraudster at the start of your career can have very serious consequences for your future.
“Because our Internal Fraud Database can save organizations of all sizes a significant amount of money and time, new organizations are joining all the time, and it is important that people are aware it exists and what it could mean for them.”
“Don’t Finish Your Career before It Starts” has had a positive response since its release. Helen Kempster, careers consultant for The Careers Group, University of London, and currently based at Goldsmiths, said: “It can be tempting to tell a ‘white lie,’ but this leaflet makes students aware that there can be serious legal repercussions. If they feel their CV or application lacks something, we encourage them to reflect on the skills they’ve gained through work, volunteering and extracurricular activities, and support them in finding more experience if they need it.”
This article was originally published in LP Magazine EU in 2014 and was updated May 5, 2016.