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August 21 2018

Can You Actually Still Speak The Languages Listed On Your CV?

Are employment candidates adding language skills to their CVs and resumes that they have no applicable knowledge of?

Several years ago, Facebook started allowing users to add ‘languages spoken’ to their profiles.  All at once, everyone started to clai thay they wereemultilingual!

This trend doesn’t end with Facebook profiles either. The embellishment seeps into the workplace, surfacing when people apply for jobs. On LinkedIn and in job applications, many people don’t think twice about slapping down a greatly exaggerated foreign language ability.  But can this backfire?

Language skills are easy to lie about

Of course, CVs have been riddled with little white lies practically as long as the modern labour market has existed, so this isn’t new. In a 2015 survey by CareerBuilder of 2,000 full-time hiring managers in the US, 56% said they had caught an applicant in a lie, like bloating past job titles and responsibilities to even listing an imaginary university. What’s more, they specifically said that 63% of applicants embellished a skill on their CV.

Another survey of 2,000 hiring managers by Hloom, a company that provides templates for cover letters and CVs, found that the second-worst lie an applicant could put on their CV was foreign language fluency – topped only by lying about the university they graduated from, and followed by academic major.

A premise known as 'elastic justification' appears to be the fundamental reason as there's no clear standard to hit to determine language skills. It’s a sort of self-delusion that might seem harmless at first, but it can rebound once the liar starts applying for more prominent or public positions.