Turning your C at GCSE maths into a B for a job application may not seem the most heinous crime you could commit, but CV fraud is something more employers appear keen to crack down on.
Instances of applicants lengthening employment periods, bumping up university degrees and enhancing work experience are commonplace, according to the Rochdale based pre-employment screening firm Secure By Integrity Ltd (SBI).
The firm, which has been in business since 2001, helps employers check on candidates' credit histories, their eligibility to work in the UK, education and employment records.
Diane Webster, director of business development at SBI, said that as well as checking what job a candidate puts down, the task can also entail investigating those unexplained gaps in CVs which sometimes hide an embarrassing secret.
She said: "We encounter it all the time. It's human nature that people want to make out they're better than they are. People are inclined not to tell out-and-out lies but to bend the truth, like saying they've got a better degree than they have or a better former job title. They have just slightly bent the truth but it is still a lie and it says something about their honesty and integrity. From a business's point of view, it's their reputation, and bad publicity will affect the company."
Webster said SBI had seen an increase in the amount of work from smaller companies new to pre-employment screening, who have decided it is cheaper to pay an outside firm to do a full background check, which can cost from around £100, rather than fork out on recruitment costs, training, wages and national insurance contributions, only to find the person isn't actually suitable months down the line because they've lied about their past.
Research carried out by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development last year found a quarter of firms in the UK had withdrawn job offers after discovering a candidate had lied or misrepresented themselves on their application. The pressure on companies to make the right choices at the recruitment stage is clear, with the CIPD's annual recruitment, retention and turnover survey suggesting the average cost of recruiting a manual worker stands at £700, while recruiting a senior manager or director can cost an average of £10,000.
There have been a number of high profile gaffes in the recruitment process, such as in 2000 when Manchester United announced it had appointed a new director of communications.. The club withdrew the offer days before the chosen candidate's official start date after it emerged she had changed her second class degree from Cambridge to a first and submitted false references.
Mike Wright, managing partner at the Manchester office of BTG Intelligence, said they were finding more CVs containing "exaggerations" but said companies in the UK were now being more pro-active.
He said: "Pre-employment vetting has always been there and is very prevalent in the US. It's something more companies are now aware of here and something they're making use of, which is about time."
Wright said firms were taking the issue a lot more seriously when it comes to the appointment of senior executives or partners and during mergers and acquisitions, where people want to know the backgrounds of the people behind a company.
Julie is a law graduate who qualified with Price Waterhouse in 1994. Julie joined Smith & Williamson in 1997 and became a partner in 2001. With Mike Stevenson, Julie set up Middleton Partners offices in Salisbury and Southampton, both of which are now part of Begbies Traynor.
Julie is a member of the Insolvency Practitioners Association and is a Fellow of The Association of Business Recovery Professionals. Julie deals with all aspects of Corporate Recovery and turnaround work and takes all form of personal insolvency appointments.