CV surveys and key points of interest

These statistics relating to CVs and interviews were published in the Guardian in July 2006. The survey quoted the sources: Cubiks HR, IRS, and IAG. The survey findings serve both to remind job applicants and interviewers of warnings, opportunities and critical aspects of CVs and related preparation and approach for job interviews. The statistics also provide a basis for formulating some very useful pointers for CVs and job interviews:

Apparently 86% of interviewers think CVs and application forms (we assume all CVs and application forms) are not wholly truthful, whereas separately it seems that 35% of CVs are actually factually correct, although (for some reason, not actually explained) this apparently reduces to 23% for CVs belonging to women aged 31-35. The precise source of these statistics is not made clear, but the interesting point that comes from all this is that people who are truthful, and can convince the interviewer as such, will place themselves in an advantageous minority group, since the majority of interviews involve CVs which contain lies, and/or are perceived by interviewers to do so. So if you want to have an edge over most other CVs and applicants, tell the truth. (For what it’s worth this confirms what I’ve observed over the years – an honest solid applicant will always be preferred to a dishonest ‘star’ – integrity is considered to be a significantly vital factor among all good quality employers.)

It seems that only 8% of interviewers believe that academic qualifications reliably indicate future performance in the job. This confirms that for all but the most academically-dependent roles (NASA scientists, brain surgeons, heads of university faculty, etc), it’s important to emphasise strengths such as relevant achievements, capability and attitude, and appreciation of what is required to make a difference in the role, rather putting a lot of emphasis on academic qualifications.

Combined with the first point, these findings also confirm that lying about qualifications on a CV and/or in an interview is a completely daft thing to do, because seemingly most interviewers won’t believe you (moreover, 66% of interviewers say that they check up on professional qualifications, and 56% check academic qualifications), and hardly any interviewers regard qualifications as the most significant factor anyway.

N.B. This does not mean that you should not bother with training, self-improvement, and striving for new professional or academic qualifications, which are helpful for personal growth and for increasing your range and depth of capabilities. The point is simply that there are far more important things than qualifications in CVs and interviews.

Next is a crucial factor in CVs and interviews that’s easy to prepare for:

Apparently 59% of employers say they have to withdraw job offers after receiving poor references about successful applicants. The survey doesn’t say what percentage of applications are affected, but we can presume that it’s a significant number if 59% of employers mentioned it as being a problem. This means that lots of people are failing to prepare their references properly. It also means that some people who are initially unsuccessful stand a chance to be offered the job because the preferred applicant was found to be rather less than they claimed to be, but only of course if the second-choice applicant’s references check out well. Given the high incidence of rejection due to references, this will inevitably create a sensitivity among interviewers and a desire to avoid the disappointment and time-wasting nuisance of receiving a poor reference about a chosen candidate. Thus there is an opportunity for applicants to increase their value (as perceived by the interviewer), to be the first-choice candidate, or failing that to be reliable second-choice candidate, by:

emphasising the availability of good reliable references on the CV
taking good printed references to the interview (see the reference letters page), and
ensuring that reliable referees are prepared and able to provide excellent references when asked by the interviewer, should (when) the job is offered
The survey findings also state that 85% of interviewers seek references from at least one previous employer, which is further confirmation of the need to cover this whole area professionally and reliably.

According to the research, these are the most common CV inaccuracies (presumably from the perspective of interviewers):

employment dates (length of, dates from and to)
job titles
gaps between employment
qualifications, and surprisingly,
undeclared directorships
This is all very interesting because again it shows the opportunities for applicants to sharpen up the reliability and truthfulness of their CVs in certain key areas. It shows that interviewers will be sensitive to, and therefore on the lookout for inaccuracies, distortions omissions and funny smells generally in these areas, so again, be honest and consistent.

On which point, rather than spend time trying to create a ‘believable’ web of deceit (which most interviewers will see though at some stage anyway with the result that your your credibility will be shot to pieces, along with the opportunity or job offer), spend your time instead thinking about what you learned from the things you are trying to hide, and be proud to have the courage to be honest about your past. If you lie about it then it will continue to hang around your neck as a failure. If you hold your head high and be honest, then you will gain respect, and in many cases the interviewer will conclude that you have learned from your experience, especially if you explain how and why this is so. Remember, lots of interviewers will have considered hiding or distorting things in their own CVs – nobody’s perfect; and in fact the most impressive people in life and work are generally those who’ve learned from and accepted their experiences, rather than denying that they ever happened.

Whatever way you look at this, it makes sense to be truthful – firstly to yourself – be proud that you have learned from your mistakes and that you have the courage to admit them.

Don’t try to hide failures, mistakes or shortcomings – accept them, learn from them, seek to improve on them, and explain why and how this is so.

And as important as anything else – don’t let people judge you, and don’t work for anyone who does, because they will make your life a misery.

Your integrity, honesty and commitment are extremely valuable in today’s world – so work only for an employer who respects you for having these qualities, and don’t lower yourself to work for anyone who will not.

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