Lying By Omission on CVs: The Undeclared Self-Owned Practice Role
in Articles, Careers, CV Writing

Lying By Omission on CVs: The Undeclared Self-Owned Practice Role

Our experiences with fabricated CVs in the accountancy sector are well-documented. Unfortunately, making things up as you go along seems to be part and parcel of recruitment in accountancy practice. In our previous post, we outlined some of the most common lies found on CVs. These include:

  • Removing employers
  • Removing or adding practice or industry roles
  • Education alterations
  • Claiming qualified ACCA status instead of part-qualified

However, today we’ll be taking a look at a grey area when it comes to honesty on an accountancy CV – lying by omission: the undeclared self-owned practice role.

Self-Employed Accountant Status – Is this an Issue?

To clarify, being a self-employed accountant is neither an advantage nor a disadvantage when applying for roles. Some firms are looking exclusively for freelance/self-employed accountants and since the start of the pandemic, we’ve seen a rise in this type of recruitment. Other firms are looking for candidates coming straight from a specific industry or type of practice. The trick, as always, is to have your CV match with what the firm is looking for. In the pursuit of this goal, however, some candidates have taken to passing off their own companies as practices that they have worked for.

A good (or bad) example of this landed in our inbox last week. The candidate in question had, on the face of it, 12 years of experience in practice across two firms. The CV specifically stated ‘Employer’ before the name of each firm and there was no mention of either of these being the candidate’s own firm or of the candidate being self-employed. A Google search turned up next to nothing about either of these businesses except for the fact that the most recent one was ‘permanently closed’ – this despite the candidate stating that they were still working for the practice. When questioned, the candidate admitted that both of these roles were self-employed and that the most recent company had been closed down ‘a while ago.’

While this candidate may not technically have lied on their CV, there are several issues here:

It’s misleading to pass off your own one-person company as a larger practice

While the candidate may well have been working through their own company and while that company may have had the name listed on the CV, the reality is that by not declaring it as a self-employed role, an impression is created of a salaried position in a larger practice. If this is what the hiring firm is looking for, then this approach may well land the candidate an interview – but probably not the job once the truth comes to light.

Disguising a self-employed role suggests there is something to hide

When the candidate in this case replied to say that both of the ‘practices’ they had worked for were, in fact, merely the names of companies they had set up to work through on a self-employed basis, further information was requested. How many clients did they have? What sort of clients? What was the turnover range they dealt with? How many hours/days per week were they working? What sort of work did they do? Had they done any subcontracting in accountancy practice at all? We are yet to receive a response. Someone who tries to pass their self-employed status off as a practice role and then declines to provide detailed information about their self-employed work rings a lot of alarm bells and suggests they have something to hide – probably a lack of relevant experience for the role they have applied for.

Lying by omission can actually cost you the role

We represent and successfully place many self-employed and freelance accountants. However, these candidates are upfront and explicit about the fact that they are self-employed, the names of their companies, the number of clients they have, and any subcontracting work they have done. Being self-employed is not a barrier to landing good-quality accountancy roles. Lying by omission about it may well be.

This candidate was fairly easy to spot as there was very little online presence for either of the companies listed on their CV. These days, that tends to be a red flag in itself. However, this is by no means the only case we have dealt with – we see candidates passing their own companies off as larger practices on a regular basis. Some are harder to spot – those with websites and references to ‘our team’, for example.

While over-egging or misrepresenting your experience may win some gains in the short-term – a call to interview or even a job offer – the truth will eventually come to light. Lying explicitly or by omission on your CV is self-sabotage in the long run. Instead of enjoying a lucrative and fulfilling career as a respected self-employed accountant, you may well find future doors you didn’t even know you’d want to walk through are closed in your face.

Emma Ireland

Emma Ireland is a failed novelist and accidental poet who writes mostly about politics and social issues. She's either a bloody commie or a bourgeois sell-out depending on whether you listen to her Dad or those who strongly disapprove of Waitrose trifles. After studying law at university she chucked it all in to move to Italy and teach Italian business people how to do their jobs in English. After ten years of wine and sunshine, she returned to the UK and is now a recruitment consultant and freelance writer. At least until that unfinished novel makes her a millionaire.