The Lying Game

Men and women lie fairly equally in the race for jobs (54% and 46%, respectively, to be precise). And, in some cases, like in providing information on secondary qualifications, women lie more.


Wednesday, 04 September 2013


It’s official! Men and women lie fairly equally in the race for jobs (54% and 46%, respectively, to be precise). And, in some cases, like in providing information on secondary qualifications, women lie more. This is according to the latest Background Screening Index by Managed Integrity Evaluation (MIE), Africa’s leading background screening company.

The index clearly shows that, where risk is involved (nearly one in five jobseekers lie on their CVs), there is very little difference between the sexes, with 54% of women fudging their secondary qualifications and 42% falsifying their tertiary qualifications.

In the area of criminal records and drivers’ licences, men represent 83% and 59%, respectively, of the cumulative risk. Ina van der Merwe, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of MIE, says that while these figures are less surprising, the drivers’ licences are concerning since 41% of women are faking in some way. “Considering the growing popularity of women ambulance, bus and truck drivers; this figure is a warning bell to the industry. Insurers offering special deals to women drivers should also take note.”

The high percentage of secondary qualification fraud (54%) is indicative of the many women who are trying to secure roles, where the barriers to entry are relatively low, in positions like call centre agents, receptionists and sales clerks. While the frequency of lying diminishes slightly in the tertiary space (42%), giving men the edge in this regard, the propensity to mask reality is worrying.

Fortunately for honest jobseekers, prospective employers and recruiters, MIE has a number of fraud-busting resources in place, such as access to Umalusi’s database, the statutory body responsible for verifying the authenticity of national secondary qualifications, as well as the National Qualifications Register (NQR), which was developed by MIE to verify the legitimacy of tertiary qualifications, including the issuing institution and year of graduation. Presently, there are 3.1 million qualification records from 26 tertiary institutions on the system. As a result, MIE is able to flag academic fraud very quickly, easily and cost-effectively.

Tertiary qualifications from institutions in the rest of Africa pose the highest risk, which is why MIE is working hard to cultivate partnerships far and wide. The Polytechnic of Namibia subscribed to the NQR recently.

“Assuming women are less inclined to lie is dangerously misleading and desperately naïve,” says Van der Merwe. There are a number of high-profile cases overseas, where senior women executives have been fingered for lying about their tertiary qualifications. In the US, Marilee Jones, the former admissions dean at the world-leading Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), claimed to have various degrees, including a doctorate, when she’d never even finished college! After 28 years of service, she was forced to leave when her lies were uncovered. In the UK, Alison Ryan, the former head of PR for the globally renowned Manchester United soccer club, claimed a first-class degree from Cambridge University, as well as a pass with distinction in her professional exams. In reality, she had a second-class university degree and was disbarred after being charged with nine counts of professional misconduct. “Closer to home, there are many cases of women committing fraud in blue-chip boardrooms and small businesses. No one is immune from this terrible scourge.”

Van der Merwe adds that there are many reasons why men and women lie about their qualifications. “They may have a poor academic track record. They may believe that by embellishing what they do have, they stand a better chance of getting noticed and moving up in the world. While ego and vanity are known to play a key role, there is also the over-riding need to survive in an increasingly competitive economy. Relying on face value is really the thin end of the wedge. Thorough background screening is the only real way to authenticate claims and validate hiring decisions.”
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