Mary Dejevsky: Stop blushing and start lying about your career

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The Independent Online

Deep down we always knew it, didn't we, girls? The reason men get all those fancy jobs with all that power is that we women are more inclined to tell the truth on our applications. You have only to think of Jeffrey Archer to realise the irrefutable truth of this statement.

Even now that the scoundrel is in prison for lying to a court, people are still unpicking the fantasies that adorned his CV – and opened the door to the boys' clubs that matter. Can you imagine a woman getting away with it for that long? Or at all?

But Archer, it turns out, is merely the latest and most egregious example of the genre. A survey conducted by the polling organisation Mori, released this week, found that more than one-third of men admitted to lying on their CV, compared with less than a quarter of women. Regrettably, the habit seems to be growing. Proportionately, far more under-35s than over-35s admitted to inflating their accomplishments – but maybe that was because their elders have so identified with their fake lives that they now believe them to be true.

Striking though the figures are, you can bet that they underestimate not only the problem, but the gender and age distinctions. If men are more likely to lie on the CVs, are they not also more likely to lie to the pollster? Adjusting for "inflation", you can be pretty sure that a good 50 per cent of young men are hyping their qualifications for the benefit of potential employers, and – what is more – getting away with it. We know that, because the same survey finds quite a different picture when they turn to employers – who reckon that only about one in 10 applicants lies about their CV. Given that at least 30 per cent of these bosses doubtless exaggerated their own achievements to get where they have got, how gullible, or delusionary, must they be?

There are, of course, lies and lies. No, not the "white" ones and the others, but the ones people admit to and the ones they don't. So hard are Britons now working that the CV lie they most often admit to is inventing some leisure activity for themselves. One in four try it on for the cash, overstating their present salary in the hope of being offered still more (more fool the recruiter). But when it comes to the serious stuff, a mere 3 per cent – can you believe that? – say they have covered up a criminal conviction or claimed a non-existent qualification. What is more, the liars claim, recruiters actually expect little inflationary fibs, and adjust for it.

They may not quite have adjusted for the teenager who posed as a doctor in the casualty department of a south London hospital for months without being rumbled, or the American weather forecaster who lacked any qualification, but still did no worse a job than his qualified colleagues. But such instances only go to show what proportion of perceived job performance is chutzpah and how little is actual expertise.

Which is probably where we women come a cropper. We are just not as practised as our menfolk at forging our way through the crowd; we still have a tendency to blush when we broach the untruth for a professional purpose. For better or worse, the apology is more our style.

Now, we women must learn that the key to getting that job is to claim that you are already doing it; the key to earning that salary is to imagine it already in the bank, and the key to winning that promotion is simply to plant it on your CV.

Alas, we may have started to acquire those CV-burnishing skills just as the deceit is being found out. Mori's poll was commissioned by an organisation called CV – a venture that assists employers in checking out the truth of applications. It believes that CV-inflation is a problem that recruiters are now ready to recognise – and scotch. Isn't that just our luck?