A reader writes:
There is at least one coworker with whom you hit it off with since day one and you trust and help each other. I have a coworker like this.
Last week, this coworker took me out to lunch and told me he was planning to start interviewing, because he found that he is being severely underpaid. He said he was making $30k versus others in the same field making $60k. I am in a similar situation, so I can empathize.
He wanted to know if he could use me as a reference and claim that I was his supervisor, and that he was making $60k, believing that the new jobs would offer between $65-70k. He has my home address, and promised to thank me and send an offer my way if he gets in somewhere.
I like and trust the guy, but something sounds a little weird. I feel bad that he is getting screwed like this, and would like to help him if this is a legal and moral way to do it. I told him I would think it over the weekend. What are your comments?
You can’t do this.
First of all, it’s hugely unethical. I assume you know that though — I mean, you’re talking about directly lying. Are you someone who tells bald-faced lies? Premeditated bald-faced lies, no less? Who conspires with others to tell these lies? I’m going to assume that’s not someone you want to be.
Second, this could come back to bite you in the ass, in a big way. If your company catches you doing this, you could get fired over it. If you’re thinking you’re not likely to get caught, realize that it could happen very easily. Thorough reference-checkers don’t just stick to the references a candidate hands over — they also do their own research. And in this case, it wouldn’t even take that much — the reference checker could simply decide to call the company’s main switchboard and ask for this guy’s manager (since he’s telling them that it’s okay to contact his current manager). When they put through to the manager, they’re going to notice the name discrepancy, and it’s easy to unravel from there. You’d have a decent chance of getting fired at that point, because it’s an integrity issue — you’d have shown you’re willing to lie and misrepresent the company.
Moreover, it’s not even in this guy’s interest to ask you to do this. Plenty of companies that make offers based on past salary history ask for salary verification late in the process (such as by requesting W2s or paystubs), and will yank an offer if it turns out that the candidate lied. So your friend could get an offer, resign his current job, and then have the offer pulled when they discovered he had lied.
A far better bet is for him to simply make a case for his desired salary based on the market value of the work, leaving salary history out of it entirely.
Either way, tell him you can’t do this.