Fake it till you make it

Ageism is a fact of life in the work place. Once you get past 50 it’s way more difficult to find a job than it was at, say, 30. This isn’t necessarily because employers don’t like older people (though evidence suggests they don’t, they’re generally more expensive) but because there are also fewer senior roles around and most of the so-called ‘grey beards’ looking for work tend to have climbed some way up the corporate ladder. But young applicants present problems all of their own.

A friend of mine who works in HR tells me, however, she is fast becoming disillusioned with some young job-seekers she comes across. Why? Because there is so much embroidery, exaggeration and outright dishonesty in some of their CVs.

Apparently there is a growing ‘fake it till you make it’ attitude with people not just exaggerating qualifications but actually pretending to have experience that they don’t. In today’s job market, getting on the employment ladder means exaggeration is deemed acceptable and fakery de rigueur. Blatant fibbing, my friend told me, is on the increase.

Our conversation was sparked by press reports of a wannabe Silicon Valley socialite and businesswoman who fooled people into believing she was well connected by photoshopping herself into pictures with celebrities and, apparently, making up job titles that she never held.

Her flair for exaggeration was such that she even got herself onto a list of ‘most influential women investors’, published in prominent business magazines.

I’ve come across some serial fakers in my time. I used to spot them easily – they were the ones who claimed to have been advising their employers on business strategy during their three-month internships. Or who claimed to be editors when they were, in reality, just editorial assistants. Sadly, however, fibbers are not always that easy to spot.

My friend says her 50-strong company is now routinely uses a CV checking firm to go over candidates’ application forms before they make formal job offers. CV checking used to be common only in large organisations but it’s increasingly become vital for small ones too as the damage done by a wrongly-hired employee there can be really significant.

“They’re really expensive to use but they’ve become part of the cost of the hiring process because recruiting the wrong person will cost us way more over the long term,” she tells me.