Don’t lie on your CV

You can never get away by claiming patently untrue credentials while applying for a job. Even if an HR team fails to see through the lies, verifications and reference checks will give the game away.

Of late, politicians are in the news for allegedly lying about their education qualifications. If you are not one of them, do you still need to be concerned about the claims you made on your resume? The answer is a resounding YES! Many employees make the error of being creative on their resumes without worrying about the consequences. Employers across India are increasingly concerned about the cost of a wrong hire and do not mind a little bit of extra effort or cost to get background verification done from reputed agencies either while rolling out an offer or after you have joined. Lies, half-truths and misleading statements on your CV fall under three categories as far as your new employer is concerned.

Lies that get you into trouble

Forged certificates, grade sheets, employment letters or salary slips are false instruments in the eyes of the law. They could land you behind bars. Claiming a false qualification, stating wrong marks, incorrect past salary ,designation,work experience profile references without providing proof may not attract legal provisions but are equally bad in the eyes of the employer. The consequences include getting fired, a permanent negative record in the employer’s database preventing future opportunities with the same employer and others who do a reference check with them and a negative reputation in the industry. At best, if the margin of error is low, your employer may give you the equivalent of a rap on the knuckles by having you own up your misdemeanour.

Lies that appear harmless

Saying that you are an experienced Android developer after having worked for just one month on a single app or claiming that you are a marathon runner because you went for a 3 km jog last month may appear to be harmless bragging.Sometimes the lies are obvious. If you understate your age by a couple of years, it would appear you completed your engineering degree at 17. Employers will sniff out inconsistencies based on the overall image projected in your CV and may ask related questions. If you are lucky, they may choose to ignore minor lies and offer you a role. If you are unfortunate, a small fib could cost you the opportunity.

Implicit lies

These are lies because you choose not to put them on your CV. If there is an employment gap, one may be tempted to cover it up with a false job on the resume. This will be caught during the verification process and become a serious lie.Think about how best to answer questions on negative aspects of your life that are not on your resume. If your employer perceives that you have lied by omitting a fact, he will doubt whether you can you be trusted for the role you are being considered for.

How is verification done?

ADDRESS VERIFICATION

A verifier goes to your current or permanent home address without advance warning, to check whether you live there, for how long and whether there is anything fishy. If you are not around, he will note who answered the door and what the person said about you. He may note details about the house, its surroundings and seek inputs from neighbours, security personnel and shop keepers.

EMPLOYMENT VERIFICATION

Your new employer will contact the HR department and line manager at your previous organisation on email and telephone to verify facts stated by you. These include date of joining, date of leaving, appointment, salary and reason for leaving. A copy of your salary slip may also be shared. A final question asks whether you are eligible for re-hire to check whether you left under negative circumstances.

EDUCATION VERIFICATION

The verification agency checks for degree mills on your resume. These are unaccredited higher education institutions or businesses that offer degrees or certificates for a fee. Some give credit for prior relevant work or life experiences. However, the market prefers formal, certified learning programs. In case all your institutions appear genuine, the verifier seeks to confirm your grade sheet with your name and roll number. Either the verifier will obtain a transcript or send your grade sheet across to check against official university records.

CRIMINAL VERIFICATION

Court databases are checked for involvement in cases and judicial processes. Local police stations are visited to ascertain current charge sheets or FIRs against you. National and international databases are searched for news reports, fraud, drug cases, political sensitivity etc. Apart from your name, date of birth, father’s name and social security number are used to avoid confusion of identity.

OTHER VERIFICATIONS

If you have provided a copy of your identity document then the same is verified at source. Some companies may ask you to undergo a medical test to check for substance abuse. A detective service may keep an eye on your social dealings.

What’s a reference check?

A reference check, though strictly not a verification, is usually done during the verification process. This is done by speaking to referees who are usually suggested by you but it could also be your colleague, vendor, client, HR or ex-boss. Unlike an employment check, which is objective and deals with hard facts, a reference check is subjective and seeks to understand the opinions of the referee about you. Your employer will ask about skills, achievements and other claims you have made on your resume or during the interview. Were you really among the top three sales people for the year? How were you rated vis-a-vis your peers on customer orientation, work ethics, team communication, ability to manage stress, professionalism etc? Did you actually work on Java, Oracle and angular JS in your projects? Did you have a record of being punctual and delivering on your deadlines? What was your overall impact on the organisation and its stakeholders?

Even where companies do not have a formal verification process, a reference check is usually done as a proxy for verification. Other objective details like tenure, profile and job description are also sought from the referee. If you have been asked to suggest names of referees, have a chat with them first and take them through your work history and the achievements that you are planning to claim to clear out gaps in communication or perception. If you haven’t been asked to suggest referees, assume that your new employer will contact your manager, team members and the HR department. Think through possible replies that these referees may share. Accordingly, reframe your achievements so that your descriptions closely match what they are likely to say. In case your ex-boss dislikes you and has a vindictive streak, make sure you share your apprehensions in advance with your new employer. Do note that providing a false reference like showing a friend as a boss, will invariably cost you your job when your friend is unable to provide proof of your professional relationship.

Who is verified?

BY LEVEL

Employers have a greater tendency to verify details of senior employees where the reputation and salary cost of a wrong hire is very high. Thus if you are being considered as a CEO, Director, Vice President or General Manager, expect a detailed verification. Make sure that you scan each word on your resume thoroughly to avoid any mis-communication. Similarly, mid-level employees can expect an employment verification and education verification at least, especially where qualifications are a necessity for the role or for determining com pensation. At the junior level, common verifications include address and criminal checks coupled with previous employment check to guard against an employee absconding with money, materials or information.

BY SECTOR

The sectors which are most pro-active about employee background verifications are those where criminal or legal liability is high, where international clients are involved or where the cost of hire or replacement is high. Banking and financial sectors lead the pack in doing comprehensive verifications of all candidates. Logistics and retail where employees handle goods and cash are particular about verification at the junior levels too. IT and BPO sectors are keen to confirm demonstrated skills at your previous role. Consulting companies, where client trust and credibility is paramount, are extremely thorough about knowing more about their employees.

BY FUNCTION

For accounts and data management roles, the verification process is intense. If you are in sales, creatives or marketing, your employer is more interested in what you can deliver and may not be too keen in examining your past. If you have access to company funds or are the decision maker on high value contracts or handle expensive goods, your employer will exercise extra care. Similarly if you are an entrepreneur, VC firms are likely to carry out due diligence to ascertain your entrepreneurial ability.

Source: The economic times

Date: 6 July, 2015

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