Darren Tay is director of BTI Consultants Hong Kong.
Is it OK to embellish my CV just a little bit?
I am hoping to find a new job soon and have been updating my CV. Apart from my current role, as a marketing manager for a retail group, my jobs have not been very impressive.
I am wondering if it is OK to embellish some of my previous positions, such as vaguely calling myself a junior manager in one of them. What do you suggest?
A CV is your personal marketing literature to showcase yourself to prospective employers. Its key purpose is to convince them as to why you are the best fit for the hiring position. As such, candidates are always encouraged to customise their CV to fit particular roles that they are applying for. Customising does not mean “embellishing”; it is simply further highlighting relevant points – position, skill set, experience, aptitude – related to the role.
Wanting to make one’s CV look as attractive as possible to prospective employers creates the temptation to embellish or even exaggerate some of the details. Rather than embellishing the content, focus on the use of powerful verbs to describe the previous job scope and achievements. Ensure that you are able to back up each claim. Remember, you can “pad” the facts and leave out what is untrue.
Your work history is yours and yours alone. It should contain accurate information (timeline, title, responsibilities, achievements, and so on) and all this should be verifiable through any background or reference check. Titles are also very organisation-specific. The role of manager or a director in one company may not be the same as its counterpart in another. Any good hiring manager will understand this and will be less concerned about titles. Regardless of the titles, explain more about your responsibility and achievements.
In some cases, getting caught with an inaccurate CV just causes some embarrassment but in more serious cases, the falsifying of information can lead to grave consequences. It is technically a fraudulent offence and, aside from being grounds for immediate dismissal, in some situations, it has led to people going to prison because of it.
Some actual well-documented cases include one involving a former Yahoo CEO who was ousted after four months in the job when incorrect information in his CV came to light. Another high-profile case involved a former CEO of Samsonite who was forced to resign after he was exposed for misstating a PhD qualification, which he did not possess.
In each of these cases, the information that was the point of contention should not have had any effect on their ability to perform the roles. Ultimately, it was the question of integrity that mattered. Employers almost always value integrity above anything else and thus demand honesty and openness in their employees.