In a competitive jobs market, people tend to think ‘does a little white lie in my CV matter if it helps me get the job?’. The answer to this is that it very well could, and the consequences could very well be serious.

Your CV may well be a critical document when the prospective employer decides whether or not to offer you the job. If he relies upon it, and it contains untruths which are believed, you could be in big trouble apart from just losing the job if you are found out. In the eyes of the law this could well be obtaining a financial advantage (being what you are going to get paid) by deception. This is fraud and a criminal offence, which could result in you ending up in court. A criminal conviction on your next CV will not look good.

Over and above the possibility of having committed a criminal offence, false information on a CV which induces the employer to give you the job will be a misrepresentation. A contract (here an employment contract) based on a misrepresentation is voidable, and can be set aside if the misrepresentation is ‘material’ and had the effect of ‘inducing’ the contract. Not only would that result in you losing the job, you could face a hefty claim for damages.

The law says that when a contract is set aside, the parties must be returned to the position they were in before the contract was made. For you that will mean being without a job and with the problem of explaining to a new employer why this job was lost and why you cannot obtain a reference. Your ex-employer, however, would be entitled in law to come after you for the return of any wages paid, and you could also be liable for the costs of any training provided and finding a replacement for you, including paying a recruitment agents fee. Not nice.

As I said above, for an employment contract to be declared void by reason of a misrepresentation contained in a CV, the misrepresentation must be ‘material’ and must have induced the employer to give you the job. Some people may say that the purpose of a CV is only to get you to that first interview and it is how you perform at interview which decides whether you get the job. Cases which have come before the courts, however, show this to be a risky argument. There is a wealth of legal authority that ‘promoting’ academic qualifications over what you have can be an actionable misrepresentation. Thus, if you say you have a first class honours degree from Oxford when you do not, and the employer relies upon this without checking it out, you will be guilty of a misrepresentation, as it is likely to be held that academic qualifications are material to the job you are applying for.

What if your ‘naughties’ on your CV are not discovered, all goes well for a while, but you then have a falling out. If you have worked for more than a year you can only be dismissed, if there is a ‘fair reason’ for dismissal as set out in the Employment Acts. If you lied on your CV, this could very well be considered gross misconduct sufficient to justify a dismissal. It may well be that if you have worked well for some time and proved yourself to the employer; an inaccuracy on your CV would not constitute sufficient misconduct to dismiss. But it could and do you really want this hanging over your head.

The legal advice is therefore clear. It just isn’t worth it.