Why do job applicants lie?

While many South Africans see the New Year as the perfect time to look for a job, temptation to throw a few exaggerations - and lies - into your resume in order to stand out from all other applicants may be at an all-time high.

“With a national unemployment rate of 26.6% and increasingly tough competition to secure work, even for highly qualified graduates, desperation among job-seekers can unfortunately lead them to dishonesty and blatant fraud in terms of their CVs and qualifications,” explains Ina van der Merwe, Director and CEO of African background screening market leader, Managed Integrity Evaluation (MIE).

“We have found that candidates mostly lie about their past responsibilities, skills, period of past employment, companies they have worked for, their reasons for resigning and their titles – usually inflating them in order to come across as being more experienced.”

Van der Merwe highlights that while CV fraud is just that – fraud - consequences for such an offence are serious and long-lasting. “In a bid to increase your chances of employment, you are putting yourself at risk of being found out, ruining your professional reputation and lowering your odds of finding similar employment in future.

“With this in mind, it is important to note that more and more businesses are implementing mandatory vetting and background screening when hiring. Demand for qualification verification alone has increased year-on-year with MIE verifying the qualifications of over 500 000 candidates in 2016 to-date. So, if you lie, you are probably going to be caught,” she says.

MIE works with the Southern African Fraud Prevention Service (SAFPS) to combat fraud by populating their database with individuals who have committed qualification fraud.

“This information is shared with member organisations who use the database to guide them when hiring or granting credit to individuals,” says van der Merwe.

In order to keep your name ‘clean’ and not make it on to this database, MIE urges job-seekers of all ages and from all walks of life to simply be honest on their CVs and in interviews.

“Go through your CV with a fine comb and double check your work experience, periods of employment, titles, experience and skills, reasons for resigning and reporting structure. And make sure that you haven’t inflated any points or added incorrect information. If you are required to be affiliated with a particular industry body such as the SA Nursing Council, ensure that your membership has not lapsed.

“It is also vital to be transparent in terms of your qualifications and criminal or credit history. If you have not yet completed your qualification, state it on your CV as incomplete or ‘still busy studying’ rather than implying that you have already graduated or completed the course. Likewise, if you have a criminal record or default credit history – for those working in finance - include an explanation of the circumstances rather than omitting the truth,” she adds.

Van der Merwe concludes that applying for a job and going for interviews can be daunting and, in the current market, competition can be really intimidating. “However, lying about your experience, skills and qualifications will do more harm than good and will make you stand out for employers, but for all the wrong reasons.”