28 Jun 2016

CV Honesty...

My parents drilled into me during my early years that honesty was always the best policy.  As I’ve got older, I’ve generally felt quite comfortable with ‘grey areas’ and justification of the odd ‘white lie’ – but not with hugely serious subjects or in areas where there might be ‘consequences’.  Your CV is something where I would go with my parent’s view that there isn’t really any room for ‘grey’ and typically, if you are not squeaky clean, you run the risk of being caught out – and of those consequences coming out to haunt you.

In recent weeks, we’ve had a couple of situations with candidates who have left a new role after a relatively short period of time.  In the first situation, the candidate had spent just 4 weeks in the new role and upon finding their contract terminated, fortunately for themselves, secured a new role immediately.  However, they hadn’t disclosed the fact that they’d spent a month somewhere else and thought (correctly) that it would open a can of worms.  However, it’s a bigger can of worms that gets opened if your new employer finds out that you didn’t disclose it – and that taints their opinion of you – even if, there is an acceptable reason. 

Another candidate, found himself in the MD’s office 6 months into his new role.  Sadly, after 6 months, the business had decided they didn’t need someone at this level . He hadn’t wanted to find himself in that situation, having been made redundant from his previous role.  This was (meant to be) a permanent position and he was worried that on his CV, a 6 month stint following a redundancy, might not show him in his best light.  He came to an agreement with the MD to say that the position had been a 6 month fixed term contract and the MD was happy to provide him with a reference which he took with him when he left.  This candidate was pretty quick thinking and included the (glowing) reference on his CV as an appendix – he found himself a new position and is now hopefully settled for the medium to long term.

A third candidate, had a good probationary period but found things considerably tougher after a couple of other new employees joined the business. There were a few confrontational discussions and the MD then felt that the candidate wasn’t the right fit for the business (obviously I have to gloss over the details due to client and candidate confidentiality...).  But the candidate didn’t want to include the 5 months on her CV.  I countered this by saying that 5 months of nothing on the CV would come across less well – so with a previously strong work history and good references from previous employers, the candidate would have less issues in justifying a short stint at the agency. 

Everyone, at some point in their career has a ‘hiccup’.  It could be that you accepted the wrong role, your new employer decided you weren’t the right one for the job or it could be that they lost a client and sadly you then found yourself out on the job market again.  As long as you keep explanations, concise, to the point and in a positive light, most potential employers will be pragmatic and accept that these things happen but it doesn’t mean you’re unemployable.  My advice, if you have had a hiccup and you find yourself having a difficult conversation having not been in a role for very long is to try to secure a reference there and then.  This avoids any issues down the line and as long as you’re not being fired for misconduct (fortunately very rare), most bosses are not inclined to scupper your chances of another new role.

 What a lot of people forget is that this industry is a small one and paths do cross in the most unexpected places.  For that reason, I’d always give an honest account of your work history on your CV and to ensure you can counter any challenges and questions during the interview process.

Clearly these examples are where candidates have actually been working in a business and then left but there are other areas where people embellish their CVs with improved A levels, moved themselves up a degree class, skipped a year here and there – these things can all be checked – and yes, there are clients who occasionally ask for degree certificates so do be careful.

More amusingly is where candidates highlight interests and hobbies on their CV which they think might impress other people, or they wish they did....again, exercise caution here.  Fluency in foreign languages is very easy to be caught out on and the same is true if you state that you love nothing more than a night in reading Chaucer (you’d be surprised).