This is going to sound quite embarrassing. Especially for someone who is prone to the occasional office culture and career pulpitry. But the last time I drew up a proper curriculum vitae (CV) for myself was at least 10 years ago. Way back in those wild, hell-for-leather days before touchscreen smartphones, Carly Rae Jepsen and T20 cricket. When I had to rustle one up for my business school interviews.

Since then I’ve taken that original Microsoft Word document and made ever-accumulating amendments to it. Like some sort of embarrassing, self-promoting, cringe-inducing ship of Theseus. (Now that I think about it, some very early version of this CV is the single oldest digital file in my possession right now. This is probably true of many readers too.)

I’ve never really found palatable the idea that a document is supposed to capture a person’s personal and professional profile.

I’ve always hated making résumés and CVs for myself.

And on the rare occasion when I’ve had to hire people or been involved in a hiring process, the prospect of ploughing through stacks of CVs has always distressed me too. There is the voyeurism, of course. The passing around of terrible CVs and the giggling. Usually at the bad grammar, typos and gross exaggerations. (I always enjoy this greatly, and then inevitably feel terrible afterwards.)

More importantly there is the utter futility of the premise. The best hiring decisions I’ve been part of in the last decade or so have all been down to interviews, covering letters, sheer enthusiasm and serendipity. In fact, most of these people came with CVs that violated every rule in my CV-writing playbook. One young woman who first joined as an intern and then went on to become a gem of a staffer came with one copy of her CV…nicely crumpled into a ball inside her handbag. In another instance a candidate sparkled in an interview, but had a terrible résumé. Convinced of his merit, my then boss and I actually helped him rewrite his résumé—one of those “mine hobbies are reading Kuchipudi and dancing books" numbers—so that he could last through the mysterious “HR round".

(In the more recent past, I’ve started weighing up applicants based on their covering emails rather than the attachments that come with them. “Dearest Mr. First Name Last Name…" DELETE WITH PREJUDICE!)

An astounding development in London recently has only reinforced my views on the irrelevance of such documents. Earlier this week, London newspapers reported that a certain “Dr Dennis Thomas Delcaron O’Riordan LLB, Hons, BCL, D Phil, Oxon, MA.", had been sacked by law firm Paul Hastings. A firm spokesman later told a legal community website that this was because “Tom O’Riordan, has, in the past, exaggerated his academic qualifications".

Which is kind of like saying that Abu Ghraib is very homely, except for the customer service that needs some improvement.

In fact, it turns out that the good O’Riordan had maintained entirely fake educational qualifications on his CV for years and years. He did not have an Hons, a BCL, a D Phil, an MA, and had never studied at Oxford or Harvard, all claims he had made on his CV. It also appears that he was not a member of the New York or Irish Bars, had never received any of the scholarships he claimed to have, and was never visiting faculty at Oxford.

The only real qualification O’Riordan has, it appears, is a degree in law from the University of East Anglia. Everything else had been a lie. He never got caught, presumably, because nobody had thought to check. Thus from 1993 onwards O’Riordan used his CV to string together a formidable series of jobs in a number of top-notch banks and law firms.

The interesting thing is that by all accounts O’Riordan had been a pretty good lawyer. For the last four years he had been a partner at Paul Hastings. Which is pretty much as high as the ladder goes in such places. Sources told The Daily Telegraph newspaper that O’Riordan was well respected, did great work and received great feedback from his clients.

But now his career is in tatters and it appears that Tom O’Riordan has fled abroad.

The jokes about a lawyer being caught for lying write themselves. But I wonder how much of O’Riordan’s impressive career was down to his fake CV, and how much due to his considerable legal powers. Would his career have been drastically different if he had stuck to his East Anglian credentials? If so, what does that say about the people and companies he worked for?

What does that say about the metrics they use to measure merit and ability? So it isn’t just good enough to be great at your job. You also have to flaunt the right credentials. None of which have any real impact on your professional outcomes.

Thus being a star on a piece of paper is almost as important as being a star in real life. This is why I dislike CVs, résumés, biodatas and suchlike. They are all invitations to push the limits of truth to bursting point.

Push too little and you’re mediocre. Push too much and you’re a fraud.

Cubiclenama takes a weekly look at pleasures and perils of corporate life. Your comments are welcome at

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