Published 18/10/2013 on GoThinkBig
We have a brand new recruit in the Pyjarmy this week, a Mr Dennis O’Riordan. You may have read about him in the news, the top city lawyer who they discovered had lied on his CV.
These weren’t little porky-pies, either. These weren’t slightly beefed-up credentials, or grades with a bit of mascara on them (“Hmm. C isn’t the best grade. Shall I say I got an A, or just a B*?”). No, these were some hefty fabrications.
On his CV, he claimed he had a first from Oxford as well as a doctorate in philosophy, won the Eldon Scholarship, got a Masters at Harvard, was on both the New York and Irish Bars, went to Radley College, and got a first from the University of East Anglia.
The truth? He went to UEA, but didn’t get a first.
One colleague described him as charming – and “clever”. Not to cast aspersions, but how clever could he be to think the story of his career would go, “…then I told about seven absolute whoppers on my CV, got several jobs far beyond my real credentials, no one ever checked, and I lived happily ever after”?
I got chatting to a girl in Madrid once (bear with me, I’m almost definitely going somewhere with this). She told me she was about to travel to Pamplona to join in with The Running of the Bulls. It’s a festival of music, fireworks, processions, dance – oh, and everyone runs alongside a bunch of bulls, who are no doubt bewildered and annoyed that they’re being crowded by hundreds of (very breakable) humans. As you might imagine, some of these insane people die, or more often get horribly injured. I asked her the natural question, “Why would you do that?”
“Just to say I’ve done it.”
“If it’s just to say you’ve done it, why don’t you just say you’ve done it?”
She laughed for about ten minutes. I think I had a point.
The truth is, a lot of what we put on our CVs we only did so we could put it on our CVs. I wonder how many African schools were built for the benefit of some anonymous future employer looking to be impressed? While that’s possibly the most horribly cynical thing I’ve said since breakfast, it’s a universal truth that a bit of CV-beefing is not only common, but expected.
Part of me understands: education is expensive. Harvard education is like buying a house. Fake education is free, and it gets you the jobs you want. The amount of education he claimed to have would run into the hundreds of thousands if he actually paid for it. He would only have done it just to say he’d done it…so why not save a few quid and just say he’d done it?
His CV dazzled them so completely, they didn’t even check if the glittering claims were true. Maybe they thought it didn’t matter, he must be an incredible lawyer even to have imagined such credentials! What’s a CV truly worth anyway, if he was able to practise as a high-powered city lawyer for years without the qualifications he was hired for having? Could it be you don’t actually NEED a ream of degrees to practise law?
Even I’m not cynical enough to say he didn’t go too far. He went laughably too far, and I’m mildly furious it worked for him for so long. The rest of us forked out for our education and got diddly squat. Which is probably why the Pyjarmy soldiers have been messing with him a bit since he arrived. After they heard the story they started calling him Porky, as in porky pies, which he took as a fat joke, so now he won’t eat pork…it all got a bit messy.
Anyway, after we made him cry for the seventh time, we decided to stop teasing him and run a quick seminar on how to lie on your CV – and get away with it:
Keep the fibs small
A doctorate from Oxford is a big deal. If you have one, well done you. If you don’t have one, don’t say you do. You’ll look like a totally wally – much more of a wally than a person who simply doesn’t have a doctorate from Oxford.
While not a hundred per cent ethical, small fibs like an extra GCSE or a quiet omission of a D grade are less likely to end in a humiliating, career-ending, public unveiling of you as a fraudface.
Keep the fibs uncheckable
It is so incredibly easy to check if you did or did not attend an institution. The likes of you and I have our lives mapped out on Facebook, so for us it would be unthinkable to invent years of attendance at a university or two we’ve never set foot in. But in case that hasn’t occurred to you – don’t do it. For every lie you tell, consider how find-outable you’d be once it finds its way onto your CV. If it would take someone under five minutes to find out you’re full of shit, don’t fill yourself with shit. That’s what I always say.
Give the truth a makeover, not plastic surgery
Lies based on truth are the best way to go. It’s normal to put forward tarted-up versions of your achievements. You can say “I wrote for ShortList”, no one needs to know you were an intern, for two weeks, and they never even bothered to mark your email address as “not junk”.
Or…be genuinely awesome
There is also the option most of us opt for by default: get as much education and experience as you can, and tell the truth about it.
My faith in the professional world would be completely restored if Dennis would now use his fake CV as a to-do list. Better get your face in the books, Dennis. Real life Harvard and Oxford are quite choosy.
Can’t wait to see what he puts on his UCAS form.