WORKSHOP: Personal Trainer

STEPHEN BUBB, chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo). Send your questions to:

I am told people fib on their CV. Does this matter? How can I check?

We all probably remember cases of people who got jobs on the basis of false claims about their qualifications or experience. I remember a local authority chief executive who claimed he had a doctorate and, when it was discovered he had not, he was sacked.

We rely heavily on people telling the truth in their job applications forms or CV. It would obviously take time to check that the claims about professional memberships, qualifications and job histories are accurate.

There are a number of companies that will check out CVs and application forms. The evidence from such companies is not terribly reassuring. One company has said that about one in four of the applications they look at have been found to contain false information.

There is a lot more evidence from the US.

A leading American head-hunter has found that at least 23 per cent of the 700 forms submitted for boardroom jobs had been "at least a little cooked".

Here, employers who use verification services find that something like one in 10 applicants withdraw their applications when told they are going to be checked.

This is all a bit horrifying. Most third-sector organisations will take application forms and CVs at face value. Should we now all be getting them checked out? The answer is no. I think we still need to rely on people's basic honesty and integrity. There might be a little embellishment but by and large I don't think people lie over the really major things.

The employment facts tend to be accurate because these can be relatively easily checked. It is the area of professional memberships and qualifications that are sometimes embellished. But are you actually making the employment choice because someone has been at a particular university or is a member rather than a fellow of their professional institute?

My legal friends tell me that a CV or application form does have contractual significance as a "representation", breach of which can give rise to a claim for damages. So for a serious misrepresentation, you can dismiss without compensation and also seek compensation for costs such as re-advertising.

The reality is that to hire a professional company to do a qualification check is an expensive burden. But the question reminds us that recruitment is not an exact science. There is a lot to be said for good old intuition.

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