Last updated: February 3

Is My CV a Legal Document? 

Truth or LiesIf you’re new to job searching, you’ll want to know what’s important for today’s hiring process. Although a resume is not a legal document, as is a job application, its contents will be scrutinized by the many parties who read it. If you suddenly find yourself in the labor market, perhaps for the first time in your career, you will need a branded resume.

The job market has undergone monumental changes over the last two decades, and if you’re like many of my clients, you’ve never had to look for work because you’ve been rapidly promoted and repeatedly recruited throughout your career. You may have been a trailblazer in your industry with expertise and abilities that have brought value to your employer.

The pressure to assume a similarly successful role in your targeted company or industry can lead to unverifiable claims that will be tested during the selection process. Ability and success aside, if you have unintentionally or intentionally falsified information on your resume, there may be grounds to disqualify you from the process. This can have a devastating impact on your professional reputation.

The resume is the primary career tool with the initial purpose of piquing the interest of the targeted employer enough to invite you for an interview.

Resume or CV?

Resumes today are not intended to be a CV or curriculum vitae, translated to English from Latin for life’s work. CVs are often used for academic applications, research, and grad school applications and related types of work with very specific application processes. Generally speaking, in business today, it is a resume that the company wants to see.

Today’s resume is a short and compelling account of the last 10-15 years of your career history. Your resume must always be honest and truthful. However, it does not need to cover your entire work history. Generally speaking employers are most interested in the last 15 years or so.

A branded resume is used for many purposes. First of all, it is used to help open a door at your targeted organization. Once that door is open, it will be read by many audiences, all of whom have his/her own agenda. Finance, Investor Services, Operations, Administration, Legal, Marketing and Sales will each have a stake in your background.

The company will use your resume to either promote you to the board or screen you out. The resume will be read by many audiences, including the receptionist, the executive assistant, HR consultant and later by the hiring decision makers, long before it ever makes it to the board level. Your resume needs to be written to attract all of those audiences.

Your resume will also be used by the agency hired to conduct your background check. The more senior the level, the harder they’ll look, so it’s important to have accurate information on your resume so that employment dates and other details can be checked.

Ensuring the accuracy of your resume is important because of the scrutiny placed on it. It may feel tempting to stretch the truth, but it can have a significant impact on the company’s decision to consider your candidacy.

If you are one credit shy of a degree, ensure that this is clearly, but professionally stated on the resume. It may feel irrelevant that you did not finish your degree after three decades of stellar performance; however, trust is quickly eroded by a seemingly innocent omission of such information.

Professional background checking firms will read the following statements very differently:

  • Masters of Business Administration (MBA), York University. Not clear whether you finished.
  • Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree, York University. Clear that you finished.
  • Masters of Business Administration (MBA) courses, York University. Clear that you did not finish.
  • Masters of Business Administration (MBA) in progress, York University. Clear that you are not yet finished.

Ensure that you are clear about the information published in the resume document.

Although a resume is not a legal document (unlike a job application), it is important that it is truthful, accurate and verifiable.

Surprising stats:

According to Undercover Recruiter, 70% of resumes are intentionally inaccurate and:

  • 21% of applicants claim fraudulent degrees
  • 29% alter employment dates
  • 39% include inaccurate job descriptions
  • 29% provide falsified job references
  • 46% have some measure of false information

According to Business Insider, the CEO of Bausch & Lomb had to forego his $1M bonus:

“Ronald Zarrella had to give up his $1 million bonus when it was revealed that he never received his MBA from NYU like he claimed he did. He actually started the program, but never finished it.”

With more than 250 applicants vying for every open corporate role, hiring decision-makers have limited time, limited interest and limited insight into your expertise. Ensure that your resume is accurate, verifiable and justifiable. Background checking companies and corporate recruiters are experts at uncovering information that is falsified or omitted from the resume.

Don’t let an otherwise impeccable career track record screen you out by stretching the truth. Not only could this hurt your current opportunity, it could negatively impact future opportunities if you become a candidate known within your industry as a resume fraudster.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

About executive resume writing author 

Westgate - Maureen Farmer, helping C-level executives step up or step out.

Maureen Farmer is the Founder & CEO of Westgate Executive Branding & Career Consulting Inc., an international personal branding and career consulting firm delivering premier executive branding and career consulting services for high-profile leaders. Author of The CEO Script Vault: Job Search Scripts for Busy Executives, Maureen believes that when we’re doing work aligned with our values, everyone wins. Using the law of attraction to identify quality employers utilizing the hidden job market is a cornerstone of her career management strategy.

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