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Annie Hayes



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HR Tip: Dealing with CV liars


These questions are being answered by Learn HR, a market leader in the provision of HR and payroll training and nationally-recognised professional qualifications.

Q: We have an employee in our sales department who stated on his application form that he has GCSEs in English and Maths. We have subsequently discovered that he failed English. Can we fire him for dishonesty?

A: If he has less than one year’s service you can dismiss him quite easily but this might be seen as an over-reaction. Many people feel quite at ease telling a little white lie if they believe it will do no harm. And that really is the point. Does it matter? Judge the person’s performance in the job. Is his use of English up to it? If not, discipline him. You should not condone dishonesty and it is understandable if you treat your employee with suspicion, but if his use of English is satisfactory I would take no action against him.

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11 Responses

  1. Degree of Trust or Degree of Reason?
    I agree that employment should be a contract of trust but I would suggest that dismissing an employee who you have recruited and trained and that is performing the task adequately might be going too far.

    A warning is definitely in order for an employee in this situation but the only time I would move to dismiss was if the employee was just no darned good at the job or if the qualification was a legal mandatory for performing the role.

    But in balance it is time that employers stopped seeing qualifications as essential – it shouldn’t be an enormous burden on the business to ensure that a candidate can communicate adequately and add up during the recruitment process – because someone failed a GCSE doesn’t make them incompetent.

    And the number of dead end jobs that require a degree now is a joke – postroom clerk (yes sorting letters and delivering them to internal departments) was the most recent joke graduate role I’ve seen. No wonder your candidates are lying to you if you can’t set reasonable expectations for the job yourselves.

    And a final word of warning – the quest for qualifications may well soon prove to be discriminatory under the new age discrimination laws as well.

  2. Mutual trust and confidence.
    I have experienced a situation where an employee told us they had a degree when they did not. I approached the employee to ask them why they had given false information and followed up with a disciplinary interview. The employee resigned and refused to attend the disciplinary interview, which went ahead in their absence. The outcome – dismissal.
    Can you really split hairs between a GCSE and Degree and as already mentioned, other applicants were better qualified and therefore our recruitment was now unfair.
    The whole employment contract is based on mutual trust and confidence and our employee was therefore in breach of contract.

  3. Are we all missing the point?
    The integrity of the employee is the point in question? Did they get the job because they had the higher grade in English or was it based on previous experience? Surely dimissal is a drastic action to take and performance will be the deciding factor, but a discussion should be had so that the employee knows that they haven’t fully got away with it and you will be monitoring performance. this way if they shine in the job you have not lost on your investment.

  4. A Pass is a pass
    Mr Loxley’s comment is quite accurate as to what a pass is in GCSE, any awarding grade is in fact a pass therefore, other than closing this loophole in future, I would be careful about any draconian action. You may find yourself without a leg to stand on later on when he produces a certificate with a passing E grade and you have diciplined them for lying, they have mislead you and others but have not lied. So this is where any disciplinary action could come unstuck. You need to aware that our ideas about what constitutes a pass may not always correspond to the technicalities of the qualification system. When clarifying with the person what actual grade they got, you can point out that this doesn’t meet the company’s standard of honesty and disclosure.

  5. What is a pass at GCSE?
    The question that does not appear to have been considered is: what is a pass at GCSE?
    I guess the employee may have implied that he had higher than a grade C. Originally there was no pass or fail at GCSE, so technically, as long as he achieved a mark high enough to be graded, he has a GCSE.
    Having said that, in this situation I would suggest a discussion to clarify the position and set out the employers expectations about honesty.

  6. You should at least investigate
    This reminds me of a case I had many years ago when we recruited a school leaver. they had declared that they had had no sick days off school. The school reference cited 42 days.

    When we confronted the individual she asserted that she had told the truth, she had no days sick, the 42 days were when she was playing truant!

    Whilst we did keep her on, this did provide us with an opportunity to advise her that plaaying truant from work would not be tolerated!

    In the current situation, I believe you would need to investigate the situation, even if just to make it clear that such deception would not be tolerated. However, the individual may be able to provide proof that he did, indeed pass his English, and that it was the other information that you obtained was wrong.

  7. Check them first to avoid later difficulties
    For us the issue is not whether to fire someone or not because their lies have been discovered but to make sure liars are not been offered a job in the first place.

    Our simple mission is to empower organisations to make the most informed and mutually rewarding long-term recruitment decisions. We offer a range of professional services which are quick, easy to use and affordable for businesses of every size. That’s why so many customers use us as a regular part of their recruitment approach.

    • Personal Identity • Personal References • Work Experience • Qualifications • Professional Memberships • Directorships • Criminal Records • Credit History •

    You should protect your organisation against the potentially serious effects of recruitment fraud. Have a policy in place to check any candidate who is about to join your organisation – whether as a full time, part time or even contractors. It is all about risk management and good HR practice.

    You may contact me for more information at [email protected] or 01234 766772


  8. Punish liars and cheats
    I have to agree with John on this one. Some form of disciplinary action is required in my view. What has happened to the meaning of moral values: the difference between right and wrong. In my opinion, the psychological contract has now been broken.It must be dealt with and an appropriate level of punishment administered.I don’t believe we should encourage this type of behaviour.

  9. Two Considerations
    The two considerations are first does it matter for practical purposes that he does not have the claimed qualification? That is a question of fact. And second to what extent does his dishonesty affect the bond of trust that is required in the employment relationship? That is a question of opinion and, whatever is your view, should not be criticised by a third party.

    Obviously you would need to avoid unlawful discrimination in any form. And whilst many skills may be tested at the recruitment stage, many are not and are accepted as claimed, with any shortfall being handled subsequently by training or disciplinary processes.



  10. Don’t condone deception
    I think you would be ill-advised if you do nothing. The person has misled you and I think it unlikely that they did so unknowingly [I may make an error in what O grade I got 30 years ago but not what subjects I passed]. If you do nothing about it then on what basis do you take action against either further deception by her/him or future CV liars? Don’t forget that the action you don’t take may become the basis of a future claim against you. By that I mean if you don’t take action in this case but do take future action against somebody for deception and the second individual is of a different ethnic group, gender or disabled status then they may say the difference in treatment is due to that fact.
    Simply treating this case as gross misconduct and dismissing may be over-reacting but I do believe that some form of diciplinary action is needed even if the final sanction is quite lenient.
    After all, if you knew that s/he didn’t have that qualification would you have interviewed? Might you have appointed another candidate?
    [As for the question of whether their english is good enough, that simply means that next time you should be clearer when devising your person spec. A test rather than requiring a qualification for instance. It is irrelevant to the question of deception.]

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