Little White lie on Your Resume

We all stretch the truth from time to time but adding a few little white lies to your resume is very risky.

No matter how many anecdotes you’ve heard from people who claim to have gotten away with inventing their professional or academic past, there is a strong chance you’ll get caught.

We all know people who have extended the date of when they actually left an employer to cover up the fact he or she bummed around for a couple of months. And in a job interview, many of us have bumped up our pay rate when asked: ‘What’s your current salary?’

Yes, privacy laws make it more difficult than ever for a hiring manager to probe a job candidate’s work history. It’s also true that many line managers and even junior HR people are often lax when checking out a resume. On the other hand, recruitment firms leave no stone unturned in checking candidates out thoroughly – they’re reputations depend on it.

Playing with the facts when it comes to job title, responsibilities and key achievements is playing with fire and you could get burnt – very badly.

Just last week a senior Sydney executive with a proven work track record was exposed for making up a string of academic qualifications on his resume, including a PhD.

The fiasco cost Glen Oakley a $237,000 a year job and made him a public figure for all the wrong reasons. Interestingly, it was a recruitment firm that uncovered the ruse.

In many cases, the lying is unnecessary. Extended holidays or even leaving a job because it was not right for you should not be the end of the world and can be explained. Getting caught out in a lie cannot be explained, particularly to a hiring manager or recruitment consultant who hardly knows you.

I remember interviewing an impressive young candidate who told me he was a graduate of a training program run by a well-known media company. He provided a referee who was on leave when I called. It transpired the referee was actually a former colleague so I was put through to the manager who ran the department.

April 1, 2003

Little White lie on Your Resume – cont

I was told my interviewee had actually been turned down for a place on the training program but bugged the manager so much that he was finally given a chance to do some work experience and then casual paid work. While he wasn’t offered a permanent paid role – as there were none to offer – he had gained valuable experience and proved himself. What a shame he didn’t just tell me that. I did consider hiring him anyway but I was worried about his penchant for lying.Kathryn Westall, business manager for leading call centre recruiters Hallis, says her team of consultants do everything possible to verify a candidate’s credentials and work experience.

“We do check out the whole resume thoroughly,” says Kathryn. “With academic qualifications, we ask to view transcripts and all references supplied must be verbal with referees contactable on a landline. We do not accept written references.”

Savvy recruitment consultants and hiring managers prefer landline numbers instead of mobile phone numbers when contacting referees. This follows a case in Brisbane last year when a council found a candidate’s referee was not a CEO but a former cellmate in a maximum security prison. The council had contacted the “CEO” by mobile phone and eventually hired the candiate only to fire him later when he stole public money.

Kathryn says that recruitment consultants are not only interested in finding the right candidate to land a job but in keeping their clients happy but finding people who will last in the role.

“We are interested in helping our clients achieve the best staff retention rates so we want someone who is not only honest but who is passionate about taking on the role,” she says.

Kathryn advises candidates to be completely honest with their recruitment consultant so they can work with them to tackle problems such as work experience or training gaps.

“It is really important not to lie because it will come back to bite you,” she warns.

Story by Kate Southam, editor of CareerOne. Go to for more career related articles. Job hunting and workplace questions can be directed to CareerOne by emailing:

April 1, 2003

The Perfect Cover Letter

When you send a resume, you need to send a short cover letter with it as an introduction and to grab the reader’s attention. It should be no more than a page long and, ideally, it should contain three to four paragraphs.

Now follow these easy steps to create a top cover letter and make sure you check out the sample cover letters at the end of the story. Our samples are a guide only.


For hard copies, use the same type of paper and font as your resume. The experts recommend sticking to the plainest style possible – A4 quality white stock and Times New Roman, 11 point.

Place the name of the addressee, their title, company name and address in the left hand corner. Some experts say place your own details in the right hand corner like a traditional letter with the date. CareerOne thinks this could be overkill. Your contact details are on every page of your resume – right? Just make sure you have your name below “Yours sincerely”. Alternatively, you could put your details top and centre – the same way they appear on your resume.

If you are sending your resume via email, include the cover letter and resume as one document. It’s more convenient for the recipient. When posting or hand delivering your resume, you don’t make the recipient open two envelopes so there is no reason to make the online reader open two documents.


Paragraph one of your cover letter should state the reason you are writing to this person – namely that you are interested in working for their team.

Paragraph two explains why the company in question should be interested in you. Too many people write about why they want to work for a particular company or land a particular job. Companies want to know why they should hire you.

Paragraph three should be a call to action, namely a meeting or job interview.

March 18, 2003

The Perfect Cover Letter Continued

All the experts agree that a cover letter should use short sentences and simple language. Companies receive hundreds of letters daily so make sure your letter stands out and is easy to read.Check and double-check spelling and grammar for errors. Make sure you have the recipient’s name and title right even if it means checking with the person’s personal assistant or the company’s main reception desk. Finally, get a friend or family member to then check your letter for mistakes.

Don’t make the common mistake of summarising your resume in the cover letter. See our resume stories for more details.

For those approaching companies cold – in other words you are not applying for a specific job or responding to a job ad – it is a good idea to ask for a “meeting” in your last paragraph.

A “meeting” is less pressure than a formal job interview but all the basic rules of presentation, eye contact etc still apply (see our stories on job interviews for tips). Companies will meet with interesting candidates even when they don’t have a job on offer right away.

Cover letters are essentially sales letters so they must be written for the customer – the prospective employer – and not be based just on what you want. Stress what you can do for the company you would like to work for – not vice versa.

Finally, when preparing a hard copy, ensure your resume is on white A4 paper – the same as your resume – and that you use the same typeface and font size. Again, keep it simple. No fancy fonts or coloured paper.

Story by Kate Southam, editor of CareerOne. Go to for more career related articles. Job hunting and workplace questions can be directed to CareerOne by emailing:

March 18, 2003

Resume Writing Tips Continued

Ms West says that employers taking part in the Aussie R?sum?s survey claimed that “personal” information was not used to make a final decision as to whether or not to employ the candidate.”For recent graduates, your r?sum? needs to demonstrate your educational development and achievements, in addition to highlighting any transferable skills you can apply to the position,” says Ms West.

“As your r?sum? may not demonstrate a vast amount of experience, it will be vital that your application includes a covering letter addressing the advertised criteria,” she says.

“Both the r?sum? and covering letter will be a strong marketing tool.”

“No application is complete without a dynamic covering letter,” says Ms West.

“This compliments your r?sum?s and briefly outlines your expertise.

“Unless addressing selection criteria, your covering letter should be no more than one page, typed in a clear readable font with full justification.”

Should I send my r?sum? by email or should I post a hard copy?

“Overwhelmingly, employers prefer applications by email and in most cases do not require a follow-up in hard copy,” says Ms West.

Most employers advertising a position will say in their ad how they want r?sum?s to be sent to them.

“If you are sending a r?sum? by email, it’s important to email your cover letter and r?sum? as one document and not as two separate attachments,” says Ms West.

Story by Kate Southam, editor of CareerOne. Go to for more career related articles. Job hunting and workplace questions can be directed to CareerOne by emailing:

January 14, 2003

Resume Writing: What Employers Want to See?

Contemporary advice on resume writing appears to fly in the face of what employers actually want to read in a candidate’s CV, according to a survey of employers.

Aussie Resumes, a professional CV writing service, surveyed 2,000 organisations specifically to ask employers what they wanted to see included in an applicant’s resume.

Senior writer Tara West said key areas included resume length, including a birth date and how referees should be presented.

The majority of employers rejected the accepted wisdom that CVs should be no longer than two pages. Ms West said 82 per cent of respondents regarded the two-page resume as an American format that did not provide Australian employers with the detail they required. She said that the preferred length was three to four pages and up to six pages for a top-level executive.

Birth date is another prickly issue. A growing number of job seekers are choosing not to include their date of birth on their resume, as is their right under privacy and anti-discrimination legislation.

However, only three per cent of the employers surveyed said they didn’t want to see a candidate’s birth date.*

The rest most certainly did. One employer said the reason was that “if applicants don’t supply their date of birth most employers assume they are hiding something negative.”

The Aussie Resumes survey also revealed that 75 per cent of the employers like to read an applicant’s “career objective” in their resume but only if it’s the “right” objective for the role on offer.

The inclusion of full referee details was another issue raised by the survey. Despite the fact that it has become commonplace for candidates to write “referees available upon request” to protect the privacy of those willing to provide them with references, this does not suit many employers.

Ms West said that of the 2,000 employers surveyed, only one found this practice acceptable. All the others wanted to see a list of referees spelt out clearly on the resume.

Finally, you should create a new version of your resume each time you apply for a job to ensure it’s tailored to the specific requirements of the role you are going after. “Employers have told us they don’t like to receive generic resumes,” says Ms West. “They do like an applicant to spend some time structuring their resume to suit the position being advertised. Of particular interest to employers are the applicant’s key competencies and career objectives,” she said. “These details should directly relate to the position being advertised.”

“Also, the cover letter needs to address the specific requirements in the actual advertisement but at the same time be brief and to the point with no waffle. “It is very important that candidates check the job ad carefully to see if a job description or selection criteria is available,” advises Ms West. If these documents are available Ms West urges all job seekers to take the time to get them and then carefully tailor both their cover letter and resume to the key points outlined.

By Kate Southam, editor of

* Editor’s note: HR managers know the law about including personal details such as your birth date. If you want to leave your birth date off your CV, then go for it. Sadly, it’s a fact of life that some employers do discriminate along age lines. Shame on them!

Job hunting and workplace questions can be directed to CareerOne by emailing:

November 5, 2002