Curse of the dangerously immaculate financial services CVs

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The perfect profile for a generic job in investment banking is familiar enough to be a cliché: Oxbridge or LSE followed by Goldman or Morgan Stanley or JPMorgan, followed by an MBA at Harvard or LBS, followed by more years at a big brand bank.

Peter Gwinnell clocked this and concocted the perfect CV. Gwinnell, who had never set foot inside an investment bank, claimed to have been educated at Harvard and Oxford and to have spent 20 years at JPMorgan.

He posted his fictitious CV on a website and waited until it was picked up by a recruitment firm. Recruiters Connaught Partners discovered it, got in touch with him and arranged an interview for a role as deputy CEO of Ahli United Bank. Gwinnell attended the interview, got the job and swanned around the Middle East until he was revealed as a conman and successfully prosecuted for fraud.

What this says to recruiters

There is a message in here for recruitment firms. Peter Gwinnell is now banned from posting CVs online without prior permission of the courts, but he's not the only charlatan in the universe.

It's therefore imperative to check candidates' credentials maximally.

Most search firms say they do this already.

"At all levels, regardless of how senior candidates are, we run a full education and qualifications check," says Gavin Holland, Head of the Financial Services Practice at Heidrick & Struggles. "We will go to universities and get qualifications verified in writing. All our checks are 100% watertight," he adds.

The second message to recruiters is to approach stereotypically immaculate CVs with some caution. If they do not belong to a stereotypically immaculate candidate or a fantasist, they may even belong to another recruiter.

"On several occasions, I've had people calling me up pretending to be 'A Smith' from Goldmans," claims one headhunter. "They'll want to know which jobs I'm working on and who the clients are. You can tell they're just other recruitment firms masquerading as popular candidates to get information."

What this says to candidates

To candidates, the affair says don't lie, even a bit.

Recruiters say few people go the full Peter Gwinnell. Most restrict themselves to exaggerating their own importance.

"It's more a question of some individuals wrongly associating themselves with particular transactions or trading revenues," says Ted Tracey at search firm Kinsey Allen. "They might claim P&L of 10m, when they were only directly responsible for a small proportion of that."

For experienced recruiters who know both their sector and the people working in it, fabrications have a short lifespan.

"One candidate tried to pretend he was still working for a previous employer," says Trevor Symons at Selby Jennings. "But given I knew the other members of that team, it quickly became apparent he wasn't there any more."

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