Do CVs contain the truth?

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Is tailoring a CV to fit a job or a company dishonest? Is it deception?

Do we as Recruiting Professionals or hiring managers not want to know that what we are reading is the absolute truth and not just a version of it?

As a job hunter I only have one stream of experience that might be relevent to the roles I am applying for so don’t see the benefit, but ……………………….


    • Trina
    • August 7th, 2011

    So as a recruiter I don’t see this as an issue EXCEPT when people forget what resume they sent and there is conflicting information. And truthfully this has only been an issue when dates and companies were totally different on one resume than the other… And thus I can assume they are lying versus showing what experience relates best to the position that they are applying to.

    • Trina
    • August 7th, 2011

    So as a recruiter I don’t see this as an issue EXCEPT when people forget what resume they sent and there is conflicting information. And truthfully this has only been an issue when dates and companies were totally different on one resume than the other… And thus I can assume they are lying versus showing what experience relates best to the position that they are applying to. There is a big difference btw tailoring and lying.

  1. As CV is a sales document it is really down to the individual on how they choose to market themselves. Bespoke or mass market, customised or generalist etc.
    I do agree that as a candidate you only have one story to tell but the nature of marketing/branding means that (particularly in an age where customisation is so much easier than the typewriter era) aligning your story to the needs of the hiring organisation should increase the chance of generating a meeting (which is why we send CV’s in the first place).

  2. From a candidate’s perspective, the point of a CV is to provide an overview of what you’ve done and articulate the potential value you can bring to a possible employer/vacancy – with the aim of securing an initial conversation. From a recruiting professional’s viewpoint it’s similarly about helping them quickly understand someone’s background to assess who should be shortlisted for an initial conversation – be it an phone conversation or face to face interview.

    With that said, if “tailoring a CV”…

    a) helps the candidate clearly position how they could add value to a particular role (e.g. highlighting relevant product/market knowledge, quoting results relevant to a specific role etc)


    b) helps the recruiting professional clearly see how you’re relevant to their business & vacancy and worth speaking with

    Then that’s well and good.

    But the minute the “tailoring” becomes “bending the facts and truth” – then, as Trina says above, it’s plain lying

  3. As soon as we start tailoring a cv we are making assumptions about what you want to see. The time you let slip what you want to see, that’s all you’ll see – in spades, and whether or not it is true for that individual.

    As one person said (from Li) “Let me write you a reference to fill up your gap in employment. It can be for company X (from his cv) – recruiters never check X, Y, Z. It’ll get you an interview and you’ll have a month’s work before they check up. You could use a month’s pay, right?”

  4. Gary

    For me the CV is like a product technical spec. It is what it is; nothing more nothing less. It should not change.

    However, what does need to be tailored for each situation is the cover letter. The discussion. The matching of skills versus needs. No different to selling/buying an ATS. The spec is what it is but a good salesperson will make sure they know what the pain points are and highlight how their product addressed those needs.

    The interview is no different. If you apply for a job with e.g. Apple then what recruitment issues do they really have and how can you help them solve them?

    That’s my view anyway 🙂

    Good luck buddy……

  5. Hi Gary, a great question, and like your post I’ll keep this short.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with tailoring / tweaking your CV to match the needs of a job description as long as you aren’t lying. If you need to bring certain skills and experiences to the fore then why not? As long as you actually possess them and can add substance when questioned further.

    On another note. Good luck with your new job search. Really enjoying reading about it. Please let us know how your recent interviews went.

    (typed this on my mobile. Please excuse any mistakes)

    • Emma Fulton
    • August 7th, 2011

    I agree that it’s up to the individual how they choose to market themselves and as long as you aren’t lying in your application, then for me, I think it’s really important to tailor you covering letter to your job application, not so much your CV, but that might depend. I want applicants to show me in their covering letter why they are applying for my role and how they meet the requirements I have highlighted in the advert or they can see from the job description. I want them to have bothered to read it and have thought about it for a start! Also if I have a ton of applications then I don’t want to have to try and read between the lines on every CV.

    The number of blanketed application I see that just contain the line at the beginning ‘please find below my CV in application for your role…’ Meh.

    Tailoring your CV is less important if you have been doing a certain role which you are applying for for some time, but if you are trying to apply for a role which you haven’t directly been doing but your previous roles have contained elements of then you need to tailor your CV to emphasise these skills.

  6. Everyone should have a master resume for general use, but if you are applying for a specific job, you should tailor it everytime. That doesn’t mean lying. It just means highlighting the most relevant parts of your experience.

    When I give people CV advice, I tell them to assume the person reading it is stupid, lazy and doesn’t know anything about their particular specialism. Spell out why you’re a great fit for the role. Ideally you should use the same language and keywords used in the job ad. Make it blindingly clear in the first half of the first page.

    It’s not dishonest – unless you’re actually making stuff up. It’s just good marketing.

    Peter’s comment about cover letters is fair enough. But I’m going to go out on a limb and say that very recruiters read them.

  7. I agree with Katie.

    You need to take into account who is reading the cv’s – aside from whether they are the right people reading the cv’s, they are no doubt very busy and will only spend a minimal amount of time on reading them. [No I don’t believe Recruiters read cover letters either – or many clients for that matter either!]

    Think ‘feature and benefit’ selling as Peter suggested. For me it is essential to tweak the cv for the role you are going for – just to make sure the person reading it understands your skills and the benefits it can bring their company.

    No lying here, just making it easier for the reader.

    Everyone should have a vanilla flavour cv, which they can then add a couple of lines to to ensure it is focused on the specific job they are going for.

    Easy to do and gives more relevance to jobs for candidates.

    • Vicki
    • August 8th, 2011

    As a job seeker rather than recruiter most recently, I always aimed to ‘tweak’ my CV for every role – I agree wholeheartedly that this is not about lying or making stuff up – I aimed to put (what I thought) were the most closely matched skills of my two recent jobs at the top of the CV – always in the knowledge recruiters have a lot to sift and want to see what’s most relevant immediately.
    I don’t think its wrong or dishonest to do this – after all, if we get the job, don’t we amend and tweak our skills to suit the employers culture and skills anyway? I have moved sectors and roles (public – private) in the last year – although similar roles, skills + culture very very different – there was no way if I’d kept my CV very generic that private sector roles would have looked at me – I was asked every time by recruitment agencies to ‘make it more commercial’ – which leads to another discussion about recruitment agency roles in amending/tweaking CV’s…. which, although they may claim they don’t, most definitely do….

  8. Bulls eye Katie. I’ve just helped a lady in the States – She contacted me through my blog to say people just weren’t getting the fact she had loads of experience in marketing and business development – She had ran her own business so although her official title wasn’t “Business Development…” or “Marketing…” the recruiters she was approaching just weren’t connecting the dots in their brains when screening her details.

    My advice was to really focus on everything she had achieved that related to business development and marketing – really make it obvious so it glares out at the reader and smacks them between the eyes.

    Most recruiters, in the first instance, will skim read a CV so you need to ensure the relevant skills jump out for the role you’re applying for.

    Take as an example an HR Generalist. They’ve reached a stage in their career where they would be happy to advance in the generalist field of specialise in an area such as L&D. She wants to apply to two roles in both fields. If she sends her generalist CV to the L&D role without bringing her L&D experience to the fore the chances are her CV will be overlooked.

    Agree with the “hub’n’spoke” approach – At the centre you have your core CV which you can tweak to draw attention to skills necessary depending on the role you’re applying for.

    The only time I see cover letters being used is for very senior roles where the lower volume of applicants means the recipient of CVs actually has the time to read them. Another concern I have with the cover letter approach is when the content within doesn’t match that of the attached CV? In this instance I think to myself, “why didn’t you just put all this in your CV?” 😉

    • Soosie
    • August 8th, 2011

    There’s nothing wrong with tailoring as long as you’re not lying. However all the tailoring in the world makes no difference unless you can get the recruiter to read it in the first place.
    I’ve recently applied for a job where I could more than match everything in the job spec. Within 10 minutes I had a rejection email. Hardly time for anyone to actually read my CV let alone match it to the job spec for the client.
    I then called the agency asking for more information, ( not letting on that I had already applied) asking where the company was based. They asked me what experience I had and we spoke for about 10 minutes about my skills and experience. She then asked me to send my CV as my skills matched. THEN I told her I already had been rejected.
    You would be better off searching the internet for the job description and see if you can find the company and apply direct.
    Good Luck with the job hunt.

  9. I’ve always been on contracts since I left uni so my CV gets updated every 6 months or so as I move from one role to the next.
    I am generally an honest person and have tried to do my CV to cover all types of role.
    Cover letters on the other hand I do change to reflect my experience from my CV that is relevant to the role I am applying for.

    Its not so much dishonest maybe someone who has got to the point of desperation for believes they are in fact better then they say that are.
    Chances are depending on how crazy a version of the truth you go for (if you go for the truth at all) Somewhere along the line you get found out.

    • NatalieJayW
    • August 8th, 2011

    Great discussion point!

    I would always tailor my CV to the job I was applying for. Deception? Not quite. To get your skills and qualities across to an potential employer ypu have to tell them what you have that fits the bill to get to the next stage, with a limited space in order to do so. Dishonest? Only if you are lying.

    At interview stage is when they can find out what is not on your CV.

    When I recruit I get references before inviting in for interview. That can help to ascertain Billy BS’er from the rest.


  10. great comments here – thank you all for taking the time and of course you are all right in your opinion and thoughts. There is no right or wrong. Rather than reply i have created another post The Discussion Continues

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