Degree deceit: does it pay to lie on your CV?

With around a third of jobseekers embellishing qualifications to land a role, we look at whether graduates should take the risk
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Every summer, the Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD) surveys students and graduates about degree fraud. The annual results are pretty consistent – about a third of people embellish or exaggerate their academic qualifications when applying for jobs. It’s also consistent when matched with other surveys in the UK and in other countries.

This is old news, you say. But when you really think about it, one third is a shocking figure. Look around your office. Can you pick out that third from the colleagues around you? Let’s not beat about the bush: it’s lying, it’s fraud – and what’s more, it’s illegal.

Recently in Manchester, Wade Jordan was jailed for three years for fraud and perverting the course of justice. Jordan landed an HR role at biotechnology firm, Qiagen’s, Manchester office by claiming he had an MA in human resource management from Manchester Metropolitan University. He went on to swindle almost £50,000 in fraudulent expense claims between 2010 and 2013. This is no honest candidate, just trying to get ahead.

The prevailing view seems to be that it’s OK to get a little creative with your CV if you can actually do the job. Why should you be discounted because your skills and qualifications are from the University of Life? Jordan is a worst-case scenario. In our survey, only 11% falsely claimed to hold a degree, whereas 40% had inflated their grade. In my day, a Desmond (2:2) was the majority degree result. These days it’s in the minority, with two-thirds of graduates getting a 2:1 or above. As you rise the corporate ladder, is that certificate gathering dust in a drawer rather than being proudly displayed on your office wall?

Barrister Dennis O’ Riordan was dismissed from his top city firm last October and barred from practice after falsely claiming degrees from Harvard and Oxford. In truth, he was a qualified barrister with a degree from the University of East Anglia, but in his mind that didn’t fit with his senior position. His exposure came about by pure chance, not as a result of a routine HR check. Clients and colleagues had nothing but praise for his abilities, but his vanity was his downfall.

The lengths people go to to cover their tracks are becoming much more sophisticated than tweaking a CV. HEDD has uncovered candidates who have supported their claims with fake degree certificates and official-looking letters of reference. They have even fabricated breakdowns of course modules, all of which appear legitimate. For as little as £30, you can purchase a novelty degree certificate online. Pick your university, course and qualification and within 48 hours it’s yours, complete with seals and crests. The purveyors of these documents often offer a verification service, where their provenance can be confirmed online, by email or phone, if employers choose to check.

Unfortunately, chancers rely on the fact that most employers don’t check qualifications with the issuing university, taking CVs and certificates at face value. This becomes even more prevalent the further away from graduation you get. Recruiters assume previous employers would have made the checks and that experience and skills, as demonstrated by an exemplary work track record, carry more weight. Figures from HEDD verification checks show many more fraudulent claims from candidates who graduated more than 10 years ago, than from recent graduates.

There’s no getting away from the fact that people are applying for and getting jobs that they aren’t qualified for, at the expense of those who are. I would urge businesses to dig a little deeper and not take CVs at face value. Make it part of standard HR policy, regardless of the seniority or credibility of the applicant. High-profile cases like those of O’Riordan and Jordan should help to achieve that. The fact that Jordan was recruited into an HR role only adds insult to injury, although it could teach Alanis Morrisette a thing or two about irony.

Jayne Rowley is a director of Graduate Prospects and leads the government-backed Higher Education Degree Datacheck (HEDD) service. HEDD is a secure online portal that enables enquirers to verify the degree qualifications of UK graduates.

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Do Hungarian jokes translate to English?

Lost in translation? Do foreign jokes work in English?

What makes Generation Y laugh in Germany, India, Hungary, Mexico and Brazil? Do these jokes work in English or is the humour lost in translation?

Here is a selection of jokes submitted by Guardian readers across the globe, told by Guardian staff in the original language and then in English.


Is this the worst ever infographic?

This graph advising job hunters which sort of startup company to approach does just about everything wrong. Includes chickens



As data visualisation has grown more and more popular it has become more likely that among the brilliant examples of how to display numbers there are also going to be some naff ones.

We’re not going to pretend it’s easy to visualise data well and there are sometimes situations where people can be too rough on creators. However, when you stumble across a visualisation like this, it’s clear that there are some people who are simply doing it wrong.

We saw it featured on the amazing It was taken from this fullinfographic uploaded to

Data visualisation has a few golden rules to it at whatever level of complexity but this one actually seems to break every single one in a crescendo of brilliance. This is how:

Spelling and grammar

We’ve all done it before at some point but when you make a mistake do not make it in the title.

The infographic is looking at the startup community and is advising workers which sort of company to work for. Regardless of all that it asks “What stage startut should I choose?”.

And although it says “fever than 10 employees”, which besides the typo is grammatically correct, it goes on to say “less than 5 million employees”. It was almost there.

Don’t use the wrong type of graph

This has effectively been laid out as a pie chart when it is exactly what you’re not supposed to show in that form.

Although many people do make this mistake, a pie chart should only be used for comparing parts of a whole. However, they are looking at four different things.

It seems that the creator never intended this to be a pie chart. If they did then something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.

The segment with 36% is smaller than the one with 19%, the others aren’t sized proportionately and the centre is not in the centre.

Don’t get it wrong

The chart tells us 41% of startups have fewer than 10 employees and 19% have 10-24 employees. This means that 60% of startups have fewer than 24 employees.

However, the other segment tells us 38% have “less” than 5m employees. 60% plus 38% does not equal 100% so that means 2% of companies have more than 5m employees.

That is assuming that the “less than 5m employees” is a subbing error and actually means companies with workforces between 25 and 5m.

If not that would have meant that in the last year 62% of startupsovertook one of the world’s largest employers, the US defence department which has 3.2m people working there. Funny that does not seem to show up in the employment stats…

Some more weird kinks

Why is the segment with 38% slightly shaded when all the others are not? Anyone have any ideas?

What does the number of chickens in each segment mean? There are five in the “less than 5 million employees” category, which has a value of 38% but just one in the “are pre revenue”, which has a value of 36%.

My only guess for this is that it’s attempting to show, which are the best measures for places where you would get a job. In which case, the five chickens say “go for a company with less than 5 million employees”. Probably a good move.

Finally, I’m pretty sure that barn would not be structurally sound. No wonder those chickens are attempting to hitchhike out of there.


Why are there chickens in this graphic? Why do the chickens have thumbs? Is the barn a startup? Are they referencing the chicken and egg startup problem? When you look at the full graphic, as Sion Palmer at Tech City News points out, it’s a journey from hatchling through to fledgling. Maybe. Sort of. I don’t know.

This is not to vilify one designer but to give a warning to all. It would be hard to find someone who had done work that could not be mocked and looking at her site she’s actually done some brilliant stuff.

We’re just looking at one segment too, the full graphic also has plenty more gems in it.

Please tweet us any examples you have of bad data visualisation or let us know in the comments below.

This article was amended on December 18 to distinguish between the 2% figure and the 62% figure in the “Don’t get it wrong section”.

Original article can be found on The Guardian website.