The curtain has come down on series four of The Apprentice. And having heard the catchphrase “You’re fired” for several weeks, viewers may well have been expecting a variation on the theme “You’re lying” in response to exaggerated claims on the CV of Lee McQueen, who went on to win.
While some questioned whether he should have been allowed to continue, a number of commentators seemed to acknowledge that embellishment of accomplishments on one’s CV was a regular occurrence.
A study revealed that of almost 4,000 CVs, more than 50 per cent contained inaccuracies, particularly in the areas of academic qualifications, previous posts and gaps in employment.
“If nothing else, an outcome of that magnitude should alert employers to the need to avoid taking too much on trust when recruiting,” said Eileen Schofield, associate in the employment team at the Birmingham offices of Irwin Mitchell solicitors.
“Employers need to take steps to ensure that the candidates they interview and recruit are truly cut out for the role and this is a challenge given the commercial pressures on time and resource.
“The consequences of employing an individual, however, who is not fit for a role could be almost unthinkable, for example someone who falsely claims to be a qualified doctor and then proceeds to operate on patients thereby causing far more extensive problems.”
Businesses have deployed measures in a bid to identify potential employees who are right for specific roles, including contracting with recruitment consultancies who filter the CVs to arrive at an appropriate shortlist.
More recently there has been an increase in the deployment of strategies such as psychometric testing and problem solving or team-building tasks to evaluate capabilities and personalities and then benchmark those and the CV against the culture and values of the business.
Once a shortlist has been drawn up, the employer should carry out checks either directly or via a third party.
Managers need to ensure that while they process personal data they are mindful of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) as their activities should be in line with Part 1 of the Employment Practices Data Protection Code which offers direction on how to perform background checks in a lawful fashion.
“Candidates should bear in mind that if they falsify their CVs in a bid to secure a job, they could then be dismissed from that role if they are incapable of adequately performing their duties. Dismissal by their employers for this reason would be regarded as fair under the Employment Rights Act 1996.
“In addition, having been taken on, if the employee continues in post without coming clean about the creative content of the CV, he or she may be in breach of the duty of trust and confidence implied in all employment contracts and be liable to dismissal.
“Should the breach be fundamental, for example a solicitor who lies about passing the Law Society final examinations, the employee faces instant dismissal.”
Should an inaccurate statement of fact on a CV have persuaded an employer to contract with an employee, it comes under the purview of the Misrepresentation Act 1967.
If the inaccuracy was a major factor in the employer taking on the candidate there may be a case for compensation, to cover for example the cost of a replacement or training costs.
Prospective job applicants may want to bear in mind that while lying on a CV is not, in itself, a criminal offence, if they were to secure a post on the basis of a false CV and receive wages, they may be guilty of fraud by false representation under Section 2 of the Fraud Act 2006.