Is prison the solution to CV lies?

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Nowhere on my CV will you find a lie. There are no embellishments, no subtle grade inflations, and no fake references. To me, the art of successful CV writing – and it is no small art – is about careful phrasing and meticulous prioritising. I have actually done every single thing on my CV and this not only saves me from awkward moments in interviews but also, it turns out, from a criminal record.

In early July, CIFAS, the UK’s fraud prevention service, released a guide warning against ‘white lies’ on CVs, with consequences ranging from information being recorded on a database for six years, to incarceration for up to six months. The guide has been distributed to universities across the UK and serves as a warning to graduates entering the ever more competitive job market.

Jail time for changing that 2:2 to a 2:1 might seem a little exaggerated, but to be honest, I’m all for it. The way I see it, it’s there to serve as a much needed warning – and for those who get caught, there’s a lesson that needs to be learned. It’s not fair to the people that actually worked hard to get that 2:1 and even less so to those who lost out on a job because of someone else’s lie.

Yes, for some people it might be difficult to accept that their 2:2 won’t get them that dream job in investment banking. My own dreams of pastry chef fame at Pierre Hermé probably won’t manifest themselves anytime soon either. But that’s very much a good thing: my knowledge of patisserie is rudimentary at best and, as shown by my CV, I would be much better suited to a career in a marketing-related field.

Even if someone manages to make it through the application stage, a lack of qualifications and experience immediately becomes apparent on the job. Recruiters have requirements for a reason and it’s in everyone’s best interest for CVs to be honest: graduates can start on a much more solid footing without having to worry about being caught out, while employees can save the time and money that comes with having to find a replacement.

When we start university, we are all free to join the same societies and work as hard as we choose on the subjects we study. If at the end of those three or more years people look at their CVs in disappointment and feel the need to embellish, all I can say is, why? Those with truly great CVs have them for a reason – they worked hard, joined those societies and were, on the whole, more proactive.

And if they can do it, what’s to say others can’t?

In the end, for those who haven’t achieved the grades they wanted or haven’t been able to get the required work experience, starting out in the fiercely competitive job market might be a little challenging. But that’s life. Regardless of jail time, a CV can and should be kept honest no matter what, because the best job someone can get with the CV they have is exactly where they need to start.

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