Exaggerating on CVs – a good idea?
in Careers Advice, CV Writing, Interviews

Exaggerating on CVs – a good idea?

When you write a CV of any kind, particularly in the area of work we are based in, which is for the legal profession, it is important not to exaggerate any detail on the CV, regardless of how irrelevant or insignificant it may seem at the time.

Exaggerating can come back to haunt you at a later stage and if there is no reason for the exaggeration then it’s only resulted in creating a problem for you.

Let’s give you a quick example. You are an employment solicitor going for a 2 month locum contract with a solicitors firm in need of assistance with a number of litigated claims.

The role is particularly well remunerated and it is going to be of great value to you if you can get the job. On your CV you have written that you are able to assist with advocacy work and you are happy to do all levels of advocacy regardless of what it is. In fact, you have gone to the extent of including on your CV details of some of the cases you have worked on, and you might have slightly embellished just how much advocacy you have done – in reality for a couple of the things you have mentioned actually you were sat behind counsel (sitting behind counsel means that you generally get to write a note of what is said and pass the barrister files from time to time).

For the vast majority of times you use the CV, this little fact has not made any difference at all to your applications for employment, and it has not been questioned before.

But for this particular role you are going for, the type of advocacy you have indicated is of immense importance to them because it is going to be a key part of the work you do whilst you are with the organisation.

As such, a couple of words on your CV has swung the job in your favour and during interview you are specifically asked in detail about your advocacy experience and in particular, the two types of matter you have indicated were something you had worked with before. What started as a slight exaggeration has potentially turned into a criminal act of actually obtaining a job through deception, because to the potential employer the small bit of information is crucial to their decision on whether or not to recruit you compared with others at a similar level.

If you had, from the outset, put on the CV that you have been involved in these types of cases but perhaps mention generally that counsel had been instructed for some of them, then you would not have been exaggerating and it would have given you some space to move into during interview to indicate the things you were able to do and those that you had only observed others doing.

So on this occasion your exaggeration could a) land you in serious trouble, b) get you a job doing something you are not particularly qualified or experienced to do, and c) lead you and the employer into a very difficult corner that it would be hard to get out of without some sort of negative implication.

To give another example – if you indicate that you’re able to speak a language, regardless of how exotic and rare this language is, you can almost guarantee that at some point in your career you will meet somebody capable of speaking that language who starts conversing with you.

Things like this can be a nightmare and a bit of a shock because they invariably happen out of the blue when you are least expecting it.

Think carefully before exaggerating on your CV under any circumstances, because it may well come back to haunt you in worse ways than you could possibly have imagined..

Jonathan Fagan

Jonathan Fagan LLM FIRP is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He has been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 20 years and handles roles from junior fee earners through to partners and law firm sales/purchases. A non-practising solicitor on the Roll since 2000, he is also the author of a number of legal career books, which are available at www.ten-percent.uk. You can contact Jonathan at cv@ten-percent.co.uk