job candidate lied about his work history, not working oneself to death during a notice period, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Should I tell a job candidate that I know he lied about his work history or just reject him without saying why?

We have an open staff position and a promising applicant applied. I did a phone interview and he was great. We talked about his current job and whatnot, and I set up an in person interview for the next week with my boss.

During that time, I googled him to see if I could find any red flags. His name is pretty common so nothing came up, so I also went to the website of the nonprofit where he worked. He wasn’t listed on the staff page, and they only have 11 or so staff so it wasn’t that they just listed senior people. My boss had searched for him too and noticed this same thing, so I told him I’d look into it. While he was in the interview with my boss, I had a coworker call the organization and ask for this person. She connected with someone in HR and was told “I’ve never heard of him.” To make sure it wasn’t something strange, I called back myself and talked to another random person and asked for this guy again and they said he hadn’t worked there in a year and a half, so I now had double confirmation that he no longer works there. (By the way, if he had been a current employee we wouldn’t have blown his cover that he was job searching; we had a cover story about having a question about a blog post he has written for the organization and had some questions we wanted to ask him about it. We aren’t careless enough to risk someone’s current job.)

I know for a fact that he said he currently works there because his resume listed it as his current position and in my phone interview he said he’d have to give two weeks notice, and he told my boss the same thing. So, clearly he’s lying and we can’t hire him.

Do we just send him a generic rejection and move on or do we tell him that we know he’s lying? We aren’t going to hire him so there’s nothing he could say to change our minds; he’s clearly being deceptive and it would be more of a “you’ve been caught and need to stop this,” but I don’t know what purpose that serves. Also, do we reach out to his former organization to let them know that he is out there telling people that he’s still a current employee? I don’t know what’s courteous or proper to do in a situation like this. We definitely learned a great lesson today though about doing our due diligence on applicants!

On the off chance that there’s actually an explanation for this other than that he’s lying, I’d ask him about it. (For example, maybe there’s a second organization with a similar name, or maybe you reached a temp who had bad info, or who knows what. I mean, he’s probably lying, but you should find out for sure before concluding that definitively.) I’d say this to him: “I wanted to confirm — are you still working at Teapots Inc.?” Assuming he says yes, I’d say, “I noticed you weren’t on their staff listing, and when I called and asked for you, I was told that you haven’t worked there in a year and a half.” Then see what he says.

Not only does this let you find out if there is actually a legitimate explanation, it has the additional benefit of letting you call him out on the lie (assuming it is in fact a lie).

But no, I wouldn’t reach out to his former employer to let them know; that’s going beyond the bounds of what you have standing to do here.

2. Do I really need to include a return date in my out-of-office message?

I was thinking about removing the return date in my out-of-office autoreply. I leave the office quite frequently, and keeping this date current is a bit of a chore. By contrast, without it, it’s a static message I can just turn on and off.

I’m sure you’ll say that all things considered it’s better to have it in, but in this age of shared calendars, is it really such a faux pas to leave it out?

If the only people who email you are internal, I suppose you could have a message that said something like, “I’m currently out of the office. Please see my calendar for my availability” … but you’re asking people to jump through an additional hoop that some of them will probably be annoyed by.

Plus, if anyone external is emailing you, they can’t see your shared calendar, so that does them no good.

I vote for leaving the date in, and keeping a reminder near your desk to update it when you return.

3. Putting limits on how late I work during my notice period

I am very excited because I was just offered an exciting new job opportunity doing something I enjoy. Upon accepting my new job, I requested three weeks notice because I knew my current boss would be facing tough deadlines the next few weeks. I’ve been working late into the night all this week and I’m starting to realize that this is how the next three weeks are going to be.

On the one hand, I don’t want to leave my manager stuck with all of the work, but if I continue to to work late into the night, I’m worried that I’ll be completely burned out by the time I start my new position. The deadlines that the corporate group has tasked us are unrealistic. Do you think it would be acceptable to tell my manager that I’m happy to work as hard as possible, but ask for a firm time that I leave every day. Leaving early would require my manager to work even later, but I think I need to start looking out for myself. What is the most appropriate action I should take in this case?

Absolutely you should be able to work reasonable hours during your final weeks, especially since you gave more generous than required notice. I’d say this to your boss: “I’ve realized that I’ve been working late in the night and can’t keep that up or I’ll be starting my new job exhausted. I’m glad to give you the extra week of notice and I’m going to work hard to leave things in as good of shape as possible, but I’m going to need to work more standard hours for my remaining time and am going to aim to be out of here by (time) most days.”

If your manager presses you continue working long hours, say, “I’m sorry, but I really can’t. I’m going to work as hard as I can during this remaining time, but realistically I know that I need to start the new job reasonably well-rested.”

4. Sending a thank-you note over a holiday weekend

I had a phone interview this afternoon (finally, an interview!) and I’m a little confused as how to proceed in sending a thank-you email. I didn’t send one immediately after hanging up because it might come across as perfunctory. I noticed on your website that you recommend waiting 5 to 48 hours, but that will leave my email being sent on Friday evening or in the middle of the weekend (and this is a long weekend). Does that matter?

Nope. You don’t need to time it to arrive during business hours. They’ll see it when they return to work.

5. Overtime pay during weeks with holidays

I work in a call center and have 42 hours next week, but I do not get time-and-a-half. Are they allowed to do that? They explained to me that the only reason I have over 40 hours is because I get an automatic 8 hours pay because of the holiday.

Yes, if you’re not actually working eight of those hours, then they’re right. If you’re actually working over 40 hours, they’d need to pay overtime. Overtime pay is just about how many hours you actually worked, not how many you’re getting “credit” for.

{ 193 comments… read them below }

  1. K. Linda*

    Re: #1 – Be sure, if the applicant applied through a webform application system, it included an option to note if his current work (or any other work) is/was as a contractor or consultant. Perhaps more often than not, people in such situations aren’t able to clarify the distinction, or don’t realize otherwise that they need to. They may have been working at Chocolate Teapot industries for 2 yrs, but not in the staff capacity you presume. If you accept cover letters and resumes/CVs he should make this clear easily enough, but the typical web application can be all but impossible to clarify things within. Thus, such a candidate will expect that you’ll vet them through whatever reference they’ve given—which would be their actual client or colleagues—but you’re instead contacting an office they have no contact with, per the norm of that work scenario.

    When I’ve worked as such (I’m an “expert” in a particular area) I have never once met or communicated with any HR person. I know the colleague who contracts me and any team I may work with or advise on a work site. But no one else in the company is likely to know me, nor I them. And they wouldn’t list consultants or contractors on their own website.

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      I was thinking the same thing. I can imagine that not all of my staff would recognize the names of some of our contractors. I do think it’s likely he is lying, but check it out further by asking the candidate.

      1. Ama*

        Yeah, my department employs an occasional part time contractor to help with a particular annual project, and has for four years now, but no one except the payroll/HR staff and those of us who work on that project know who she is. I’ve had to field more than one query from someone updating their internal contacts who want to know why she’s on the “All Staff” contact list.

      2. Chinook*

        “I can imagine that not all of my staff would recognize the names of some of our contractors. ”

        I am another one that says he might be a contractor. I am one here and HR and Reception do not know who I am (well, Reception does but I take the bus with her) because they aren’t involved with the department I work for. That being said, I plan on noting on any future resume that I am a contractor to circumvent this exact issue.

    2. Suzanne*

      Contract positions are a royal pain in online apps. I did a contract position for about a year once. It was through Manpower, but all they would be able to do was verify the employment, nothing about my work habits, etc. The online apps always want supervisor name & phone, which I don’t have because I didn’t have just one supervisor and we were never given a phone number for the company (it was a wholesaler type company with no local number in the phone book. If we had to call in sick, we called Manpower). Yet another reason I hate online apps.
      So, yes. If the OP is a contractor, the company may have no information.

      1. Vicki*

        I’ve had a number of contract positions. In each case, my resume lists the company I did the work for.

        The managers I reported to as my clients have left those companies. (Although I could find them, a call to the company wouldn’t turn up their names or mine). I don’t remember the names of the contracting companies (I had no relationship with them). All of the checks came through ADP and were electronic.

        Please ask; never assume.

    3. AnonAnalyst*

      Yes, this was my thought too. When I resigned my last job to go back to school, my manager asked me to stay on as a contractor/freelancer doing part of my old job. As part of that role, I was really only interacting with her, and I was working remotely so our contact was mostly through email, so most of my former coworkers may not have known I was still doing work for them. I also wasn’t on the staff list on the website, or on regular employee payroll – for this position, my employer’s policy was to submit an invoice that went through accounts payable after being approved by my manager. So I can totally see a situation where the candidate isn’t lying and whoever answered the phone may not be aware that he is still doing work for the organization. (For the record, this was also a small organization.)

    4. Sadsack*

      I cannot understand why OP writes that they have learned an important lesson about conducting due diligence, but then questions whether or not they should follow through and ask the applicant about something they found in a his work history before writing him off.

    5. T*

      I was let go from a job once so I had to deal with this issue. It was actually more of a “mutual parting” but the end result was that I was interviewing for a job without a job which is almost never good. And it was at the start of the recession so getting a new job was no picnic. A staffing company (who I was bluntly honest with) sent me on an interview for a contract-to-hire job and it became clear very quickly that the company interviewing me thought I was still employed. I saw a copy of my resume the staffing company sent over and it was a hot mess. Not only was it rearranged (a common practice among staffing companies) so it was tough to follow but they also faxed it which made it barely legible.

      Anyway, I went with it and they never asked me any direct questions about my current job except how much notice do I need to give. I casually walked over to a calendar hanging on the wall, pointed to a Monday about 2.5 weeks in the future and said “does this work as a start date?” I knew if I said I could start tomorrow it would throw up red flags but if I said I needed to give 2 weeks notice I would be telling an outright lie. They accepted that date and I never heard about it again. Since I was a contractor, it was up to the staffing company to vet me so all of my paperwork was done through them. By the time I was converted to FTE, I had already proven myself so the paperwork was just a formality and no references were checked.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hmmm, I don’t think even in California, for once! (See #8 in the state’s overtime FAQ here and #3 here. That said, maybe you know something that I don’t; I am no expert on California laws.)

      1. Dan*

        Hm. Could be the law changed in the last eight years or my employer actually screwed up in our favor, but I’m fairly certain that I could take a vacation day and then come in on my day off and get time and a half for the whole day.

        My recollection is that California pays out overtime for pretty much anything, and I took liberal advantage of it. But that was a few years back and I could certainly be mistaken. I’m exempt now :(

        1. doreen*

          I know it’s hard to beloeve- but some employers do more than the law requires , either due to union requirements or on their own. My state required overtime based on “hours worked” but everywhere I’ve worked since college has based in on “hours paid”

          1. Meg Murry*

            Yes, my first job was based on “hours paid” (so 8 hours of vacation or 8 hours of vacation counted toward those 40) and I was shocked when I left that company to find out that wasn’t actually the letter of the law.

            While it isn’t legally required, it is definitely the right thing to do if you want to retain quality employees, in my opinion. Especially if working more than 8 hours a day is very common. At one company I worked for, they were notorious for scheduling “overtime” (10 or 11 hour days, when 9 hours were typical, or 8 hour days + a Saturday) for weeks like Labor Day, in order to catch up on the lost work day, only for the employees to find out after the fact that even though they had jumped through hoops to stay over (rearranging childcare arrangements, rescheduling carpooling, dealing with worse rush hour traffic, giving up a Saturday, etc) it was still at straight time, not overtime. It’s a crappy way to treat good employees. It also meant that no one could afford to take vacation days, since then they would be working on straight time, not overtime that week.

            1. Ad Astra*

              When I was non-exempt, I never had the expectation of making overtime when I took a holiday or vacation day. But I did resent working 36 hours, burning a day of PTO, and still only getting paid for 40 hours. The worst was when your time off fell at a weird time in the pay period so you’d work like 43 hours in 5 days but get no overtime. (I worked at a place that operated 365 days a year, so I often worked the actual holiday and then used that paid day off some time later that month.)

              So maybe you’re on to something. I admit, any week that had PTO in it was a week I was careful not to overexert myself on the job.

          2. hbc*

            We’ve done it by accident. Not paying close attention, getting in payroll at the last minute, rather than digging into why someone worked 42 hours just give them the OT.

            I should note that we don’t have mandatory overtime, so if we scheduled an option for catching up Labor Day work on a Saturday, everyone would know they’d be getting one day’s pay (rather than a 1.5) and choosing to do so.

        2. Elysian*

          Taking a vacation day is different than getting paid for a holiday. There are a handful of states that count hours of leave used as time “worked” for overtime, but usually getting paid for a holiday when you wouldn’t otherwise be working anyway (and don’t have to use leave) doesn’t fall under those provisions.

          1. Dan*

            Fair enough. In fact, our company gave us “flex” holidays instead of paid holidays. IOW, we were open on Xmas, but didn’t get holiday pay for it. Instead, we got an extra vacation day to use at some other time during the quarter.

        3. jimbs*

          It’s because California gives OT based on the day, working over eight hours in a day, not based on a week or a pay period.

      2. Apollo Warbucks*

        I always thought that California worked out overtime per day so if the employee worked 9 hours on Monday and Tuesday would they not be due those two hours at time and a half, or have I misunderstood?

          1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            Yes, that’s true, regardless of whether there was a holiday or not. In California, overtime kicks in if an employee works more than 8 hours in a day OR more than 40 hours in a week. However, if OP got paid for 8 hours of work for Monday as a holiday, then worked 7 hours on Tuesday-Friday and 6 hours on Saturday, she would not be eligible for overtime.

  2. Mike C.*

    OP1: Why didn’t you ask for a pay stub or w-2 instead of contacting the current place of employment? Those sorts of calls could easily tip off the more paranoid managers out there.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It sounds like they had a perfectly fine cover story, the sort of call anyone could get routinely. And people do get calls at work about that sort of thing; it’s hard to imagine a manager hearing that and thinking it was a prospective employer calling in disguise.

      1. BRR*

        I wasn’t sure from the letter if the blog post was real or not. If it was then it’s fine but if it wasn’t I know my employers would have never been ok hearing I wrote a blog post for the organization.

        1. Kelly L.*

          I was thinking he’d written a blog post for the organization he’s supposed to have worked at, not for the OP’s organization, but I could have read it wrong.

          1. Merry and Bright*

            I thought this. Must be an old blog post they are using for the cover story though if the guy hasn’t worked there for a year and a half.

          2. BRR*

            I meant the org that he stated he’s working at.

            I specifically meant that if I wrote a blog post about where I work (and this is the same at every place I have worked) without my managers knowing, no matter what it was on, they would not be happy because the organization wants to have control over the message that is going out. So if somebody here got a call that they had a question about a blog post I wrote that would land me in hot water.

            1. JR*

              The letter says he wrote it *for* the organization. To me, that means it’s something he did in an official capacity.

        2. Anon Accountant*

          That’s what I was thinking. Most of my previous employers would’ve been upset I wrote a blog post for the organization unless my job duties included social media or marketing. Maybe his job did?

      2. Mike C.*

        I’m not going to trust someone’s ability to lie when it comes to something like my current employment.

    2. neverjaunty*

      Wait, listing current salary (not relevant to the employer in any case) and tax information at the reference-checking stage? Seriously?

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        But in this case it’s an unobtrusive way of validating the persons continued employment with the firm they claim to be working for, Mike isn’t saying that it should be done in all cases but he’s concerned about potentially tipping off the manager about the job hunt, if the person still worked for the firm.

        1. neverjaunty*

          True, but it’s also disclosing the employee’s past earnings, which (for reasons AAM has discussed in the past) are not really the employer’s business – and the better alternative, which the LW took, is unobtrusively checking up. Like The Cosmic Avenger, I would take it as a huge red flag if my potential employer demanded tax forms from me.

          1. Sadsack*

            The stub could be redacted, only showing it is from the employer for certain dates without disclosing the payment amount.

            1. neverjaunty*

              But again, unless it’s a job that requires written verification of employment for specific purposes (say, if it were a government position with unbending rules), why insist on this at all, when checking the website, making an unobtrusive call (OP has said such calls are not unusual in her industry) and then asking the candidate accomplish the same thing?

              The latter is particularly important because not only does it give the candidate a chance to explain himself, it allows the OP to judge his reaction. If the guy stammers and comes up with a wild story that’s useful information in and of itself.

      2. BRR*

        They weren’t at the reference checking stage though. He just finished a phone interview and they scheduled him to come in.

        Also to the LW, you should call him with this instead of making him come in for this. It sounds like he’s lying but there’s no reason you should waste his time on purpose.

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          I agree, I’d see an employer asking for a pay stub, which has personal financial information such as my deductions and my withholding (not just gross pay, which is often a fair topic) as a red flag.

          1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

            For less professional jobs, pay stubs can make sense as an option for the candidate. Lower income people who are not required to file taxes often don’t keep close track of tax documents. Lower wage workers also change jobs more and may be less likely to have been at that employer in the prior year. At my job, we verify client income for services, and offer the option of a w2 or pay stubs. 99% of people bring pay stubs, which tells me that is easier for them. I see your concern, but I’m not sure it’s a red flag.

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              Well, I know it might be appropriate some of the time, but at this stage in my career I personally might decide to pass on a job that asked for this. I should have said “a bit of a red flag for me”.

              1. Mabel*

                Me, too. A prospective employer doesn’t need to know my current salary or any other information on my pay stub or my W-2. Instead of all of the subterfuge, I agree with Alison that it’s best to just ask him about it. I think if I were in the applicant’s place, I would be annoyed that the prospective employer called my current employer (assuming the applicant isn’t lying) twice when they could have asked me about the situation.

                1. Mabel*

                  I see from reading below that the OP’s story about why s/he was calling would be plausible, but I would still be confused as to why the OP needed to call instead of asking me about it.

          2. Kyrielle*

            When my current job was doing my background check, they had trouble identifying and confirming my employment. (Not sure if that’s because of other firms with similar names, or because the place I’d been working had been bought just a few months prior and the paperwork was probably a confused mess.)

            They asked for a pay stub to confirm it, and noted that anything numbers-wise could be blacked out if I wanted, they just wanted to see the employer, dates, and *something* that made it look like a full-time position. (They’re also a very well known company in my area, and yes, had already made their offer to me.)

      3. Anon for the moment*

        That’s actually super common in the background screening world. Every individual should have been given one by every company they’ve worked for, so if the company has gone under or refuses to answer it’s the standard next step.

    3. Allison*

      I did get asked for pay stubs before, but it was during the background check stage and they couldn’t verify my employment with a couple of places with a simple phone call. They checked my past employment by calling my previous employers, but in some cases the person answering the phone didn’t recognize my name and for some reason couldn’t look my up in the personnel records to verify if I worked there. Happened with two employers I definitely did work for, so I know it does happen. But I had no idea I’d ever need to pull out my W-2s or pay stubs for that reason, so they weren’t exactly at my fingertips ready to go.

    4. OP #1*

      I didn’t ask for the pay/W-2 information because I won’t ever ask for it, it’s none of my business how much he makes at his current job.

      The call I made would not tip off his employer at all. He’s in communications and writes regular blog post for this organization. Our organization’s communications staff does the same and we get calls ALL the time from people asking to speak with the writer of the blog post because it’s relevant to something they are researching and want some more information, it would not be seen as something out of the ordinary in a communications department at all.

      1. Kelly L.*

        In that case, it’s really weird that he keeps writing blog posts for them if he doesn’t work there anymore! :D Either he’s spent a lot of time crafting his lie (not impossible), or there’s a misunderstanding somewhere.

        1. OP #1*

          He wrote the blogs back in 2013, not currently, and none since, which was one of the things that tipped me off that he wasn’t working there anymore since there was nothing newer.

          For the cover story it’s NOT unusual at all for a comms person to get a call about something they wrote years ago.

          1. Turanga Leela*

            Echoing the OP: This is completely normal. I’ve gotten calls about an article I wrote years ago, as a student; it has nothing to do with my current work, but people must have Googled me and found my work number.

      2. StanRe*

        So, he’s regularly writing blog posts for an organization he no longer works for? It definitely seems like there’s something going on with this guy’s story.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I went back up and reread the letter, thinking he might have forgotten to change his resume and add a closing date, but OP says he talked about his current job in the phone screen. So maybe he was following somebody’s really crap advice about disguising a gap.

      3. BRR*

        Ahh, after reading your responses it sounds like you did your due diligence and acted appropriately. Thank you for responding to everybody (I’m not sure how the W-2 thing went on a tangent so quickly). If I were you I’d call him just to give him a chance to explain but it sounds like he dug his own grave on this one.

        I’d be curious about an update to this one

      4. Mike C.*

        You can block out the financial information and not contact the current employer at the same time.

        I don’t see what’s so difficult about this – the best way to ensure that the job search is kept confidential from the current employer is not to contact them in the first place.

        1. Cat*

          But calling and asking to speak to the author of a blog post, which is something people do all the time in your field, isn’t going to compromise someone’s employment either. It’s not like they called and made up a whole complicated story about a lost dog or something. This is normal business stuff.

            1. Cat*

              Yes. Much like I’m willing to bet my job on my mom or my dentist calling me at the office. My employer could decide they are lying and trying to verify my employment for job hunting purposes but if I tried to account for every completely implausible risk, I’d never do anything.

    5. MegEB*

      I wouldn’t want to provide that to a prospective employer. It’s none of their business what my weekly paycheck looks like, and if the OP did ask for a pay stub to verify their employment, you’d (rightfully) criticize them for that too. The OP stated below that the candidate works in communications, and blog posts are part of their job, so it makes perfect sense to use that as a cover story.

      1. Mike C.*

        You react the financial information so that the candidate can provide evidence of employment and the current employer is kept out of the picture.

  3. HarryV*

    #2 – Absolutely you should put your return date. This way people will know when you will be back instead of having to keep guessing or looking to see if you are online.

    1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

      If I’m out more than a few days, my “back-up” on my OOO message gets phone calls about things that could have waited until I’m back.

      I imagine without a date, people would start bugging your back-up/anyone else they could get a hold of.

    2. KT*

      Yes, exactly. Without a return date, (i.e. “I’ll be back int he office tomorrow”) they may think they have to pest your backup for an emergency request or need that could actually wait for you to be back. It’s just a very good courtesy to give coworkers. I’ve found shared calendars to be unreliable, at best/

    3. Beezus*

      Take a close look at your out-of-office program options, too. For example, I have Outlook 2007, and I’m able to set a date range for when my autoresponse is activated, which means that I am able to set it well in advance and it automatically turns on and off when I want it to. If I were taking this Friday off (I’m not, *sob*), I could go in there right now and add the message and set it to reply from 4 pm on Thursday until 5 pm on Friday, and I’d be good to go.

      1. Windchime*

        Yep. I’m on vacation this week and have mine set up to be on auto-respond until 5 AM the morning that I get back to work next week. It’s nice; I don’t have to remember to turn it off.

    4. JMegan*

      I have to admit I don’t understand the problem here. Even for people who are in and out of the office a lot, it’s still only a couple of clicks to enable or disable the auto-reply on your email. (Unless OP is talking about her outgoing voice message?) And as others have noted, the return on investment is pretty high – other people do need to know where you are, especially if your schedule isn’t always predictable.

      Another option would be to leave the auto-reply on all the time, with your availability for the next week or so in the response. Something like “For the week of Sept 7-11, I am in the office all day Monday, Thursday, and Friday, as well as Wednesday morning. If you’re emailing outside of these times, please contact Fergus for assistance.”

  4. Chocolate Teapot*

    2. I like putting a date in my Out of Office message, however I think it is important to be clear about the first day when I will be back in the office. I have known who I thought would be back on a Monday, but it turns out their first day back is a Tuesday.

    1. LookyLou*

      I never put the date that I will be back but rather the date that I will be expecting to reply to emails. If I am coming back on Wednesday I will typically add on the end “I will be responding to emails on Thursday” so that I have a day long buffer to get to everyone – there is always that group of people that will be emailing/calling the day shown in the email at 9am to see if I am going to answer them!

  5. Jen S. 2.0*

    Re #1, I’ve actually known of situations where a job seeker had an agreement with a supervisor that the supervisor would tell reference checkers that the person was still working /consulting for them in some reduced capacity. Now, I DO think that means the candidate should then adjust their resume to say that they are freelancing, but I can see a situation where we’d get the above. I mean, I don’t condone lying, but… I feel the pain that you get the shaft if you’ve been out of work for a year and a half, and you get the shaft if you try to cover a gap on your resume.

    Re #2, to me it depends on whether you are very good about turning the message off and on. If you are religious about it, then I don’t see any issue with a message saying,”I am out of the office today. For immediate assistance, contact [colleague].” I often get messages that say “I’ll be back in the office on March 15,” but it’s April 4.

    1. Kyrielle*

      The problem with the phrasing with no date is that I have no idea if they’ll be back in the office tomorrow, or three weeks from now.

      In the absence of that, I will contact their backup for help with my issue unless it’s totally non-critical, and if I knew they’d be back tomorrow, I might not have.

    2. Stranger than fiction*

      I got one from a coworker the other day that still had their Christmas/New Year’s message on it.

  6. Jen RO*

    #2 – I think putting a date in your message is considerate towards your coworkers. My message is very basic and I just change the date from time to time: “I am currently out of the office, returning on [date]. For [Product]-related issues, please contact [email alias].” We use Outlook, which doesn’t change your calendar when you are out, so without up-to-date OOO messages, there would be chaos…

    1. PX*

      Not sure what you mean when you say Outlook doesnt change your calender when you are out, but there are plenty of ways to show if you’re in or out in Outlook? What most people do in my field is create a meeting and set it to out of office, so that people looking in their calender can see if they are available. eg people on leave just block out the entire 3 weeks – so then you just skim for when its not purple to know when they are back :)

  7. Another Job Seeker*

    OP #1: I have a co-worker whose first name is Myron and his middle name is Evan (not using real names). His given name is Myron, and he goes by Myron. However, years ago, someone entered his name incorrectly as Evan. (I found this out once when I was looking for him in one of our databases and I could not locate “Myron”). Our systems are managed by people who do not usually work together, so if his name was ever changed in one system, it probably would not propagate to the others. I think Allison gave some good advice here.

    1. BRR*

      Or on the flip side I have a colleague who goes by “Jane.” She’s “Jane” in most of the systems and everybody knows her as “Jane.” But her legal name is something else. If you called only a handful of people would know her legal name. For situations like these, it’s worth it to ask the candidate.

      1. Persehone Mulberry*

        Yeah, we have a couple of employees like that, and it did cause some confusion when we had to update one of our systems with their legal names (we ended up adding an “aka” field). But in this case, the OP connected with an employee who knew the applicant. Still, I hope the OP does give the applicant a chance to explain (because I’m curious what the explanation will be).

      2. Meg Murry*

        My first thought was the transitioning applicant from the letter the other day – someone could be applying as Jessica Smith but known to the organization now as John Smith.

        I also have a friend who didn’t change her last name immediately when she got married, and decided it was too much of a hassle when at her current job, so she stayed “Jane Jones” at her current job, although she’d gone through the process of legally changing it to “Jane Smith” – and when she applied for new jobs, she applied under “Jane Smith” because that was the name she had planned to use there.

        Most of the time, people clarify these things when asked for their references, either verbally or on the phone – oh yes, but my former job knows me as “Jane Jones”, but it sounds like OP hasn’t gotten to the point of officially confirming references yet.

        And I wouldn’t trust a webpage to be up-to-date – I’ve worked multiple places that were terrible about keeping the website current. Or as others have mentioned, maybe he’s no longer an official employee there, but is working on some kind of project-based capacity.

        Last, and I believe I mentioned this last time something like this came up – did he submit his resume this way, or did you pull it off Monster or similar? I got called in out of the blue for an interview from someone who had pulled my resume off Monster, and I was confused as to why they thought I still worked at my previous job, until they showed me the resume they were looking at, which said “xxx-present” – which had been true 2 years earlier when I had uploaded that resume.

        Any way you look at it, I would call him, because this could be a misunderstanding. Or he could be a lying liar, in which case, yes, you shouldn’t hire him.

        1. fposte*

          He’s explicitly saying he’s still working there (“He talked about his current job”). They’re explicitly saying he hasn’t worked there in a year and a half, in addition to his total failure to appear in org info recently when he was totally happy to appear in org publications before then.

          I agree that it’s worth raising it with him and I agree that sometimes weird stuff happens, but I think weird stuff is substantially less likely than lying here.

          1. BRR*

            I think we’ve focused to much on alternate possibilities (myself included) and after OP #1 has clarified a little bit 100% agree weird stuff happens but seems unlikely.

          2. Myrin*

            I completely agree. In fact, we didn’t even need OP’s clarification for that, as she says right in the letter I know for a fact that he said he currently works there because his resume listed it as his current position and in my phone interview he said he’d have to give two weeks notice, and he told my boss the same thing., so I’m quite surprised by the many “But maybe A, B, and C!” that arose. I mean, one should absolutely think of different possibilites that might be at the root of things (like, as people mentioned up thread, contractor work), but I really think Alison’s advice is taking this into account just well.

            1. OP #1*

              Thank you for this. So many times I see the comments section go so far into the weeds on issues that have been directly addressed in the original post, as I did, so it’s nice to see that some people do actually pay attention to the posts sometimes because I was very careful to spell out a lot of things because I knew there would be a lot of “but wait” comments for things that weren’t applicable but needed to be stopped before they started. Obviously that still didn’t help but I’m glad you still managed to see it.

          3. Kyrielle*

            I agree, he’s probably lying, and if he is he should be cut loose. But talking to him and giving him a chance to explain (for example if there’s contractor status involved) would be a good idea. Just in case, but also that way if he is lying, he knows he’s caught and he knows the lie has a cost.

    2. OP #1*

      The second time I called the person knew him and said “he hasn’t worked here in a year and a half”, so it wasn’t a name issue.

      1. ComputerGeek*

        RE: OP #1

        Early in my career, I was making it far along in interviews and then would hear nothing. I had been contracting at one place, and they wished to bring me on as a FTE. When they did the background check on my work history, they told me that one employer had no knowledge of me. Well, that’s because I had been contracting there, too, and they had contacted the wrong person. I hadn’t made the distinction on my resume because I didn’t know any better. Once they contacted my former manager, everything was golden. If I hadn’t already established a trustworthy reputation and they thought I was worth the trouble to get the story straight, I would potentially never have learned about this.

        It’s *possible* that this is an innocent mistake. I like Alison’s suggestion of simply asking.

        Most people are honest. At the point where our first instinct is to assume that job candidates are lying and manipulating, I would suggest that maybe it’s time to take a break from interviewing. I’m including myself. It’s hard always assuming the best of people after getting bitten by that, but it’s better than the alternative for me.

      2. LookyLou*

        I think even then that there is room for miscommunications… my first name is a common name and I am often mixed up with other employees. I once came into work and a coworker said “I heard you were fired!” when really it was one of the “other Jane’s” that had the boot. I’ve also been mistaken for people with different names for some bizarre reason, instead of Jane people seem to remember me as Jennifer!! I have not yet had any issues with references that I know of but I would expect an interviewer to question me before jumping to any conclusions.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          LOL that reminds me of a place I worked that had another Liz, and she got pregnant with twins while on the pill, which became hot gossip. It took a couple of weeks for me to clear that one up.

        2. Kyrielle*

          Oh yes! I spent a lot of time at $PreviousJob fielding requests related to a coworker’s work because our names were very similar, visually and in pronunciation, although not identical. And she spent about as much time fielding requests related to mine. (Complicated by the fact that we were on the same team and product, but not on the same tasks – even looking at the org chart wouldn’t disambiguate us.)

        3. Kelly L.*

          I think I’ve told this here before–I know a woman who shared her first and last name with another woman at her college. The other one died over a weekend, and when my friend came into class that Monday, everybody was completely shocked.

      3. Artemesia*

        Almost certainly he is lying but the person who said ‘he hasn’t worked here in a year and a half’ may not be in a position to know that he has a freelance contract or somesuch. I would think a minimum when you have an attractive candidate otherwise would be to ask him.

        People don’t always know things. I was once on a two week vacation when a VIP in my organization tried to reach me on the phone and the inept temp secretary said ‘oh I don’t think she is in yet, I haven’t seen her around’ giving the impression that I rarely showed up for work and was unreliable — an impression I think I never entirely overcame with that person because of doofus’s response on the phone that day. I told him later — oh I had been on vacation when you called and the secretary was a temp — but how lame does that sound? and how defensive?

    3. Stranger than fiction*

      I could see that at at large Corp, but the Op said there’s only 11 employees currently at that Org he says he still works for.

      1. SouthernBelle*

        I do contract work for a very small organization where I was once the 2nd in command. I can guarantee you that out of the 10 or so employees who may answer the phone there, none are privy to the ongoing nature of my work with the organization. Not because it’s a secret, but because my interaction with them is so infrequent.

      2. Lai*

        I used to work at an organization of 7 people and we hired a few contractors. I even met some of them a few times, but could definitely not tell you their names.

  8. Lou*

    #3 If manager is unreasonable I would just say ‘I’m only doing this and this’. And if they say no you can’t say ‘I’ve had enough, I’m not doing any more for you if you can’t accept a reasonable request then I will leave now’. They can’t keep you.

    1. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

      Right. It’s not like you can’t just quit, what are they going to do, fire you? Unless was a massive financial issue to miss out on that last week of pay, I’d just walk if I got pushback on leaving at a normal hour.

    2. Stranger than fiction*

      Well…but we assume the Op wants to keep them as a positive reference, so that’s a delicate balancing act.

        1. Karowen*

          But there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to keep that one for long enough. And even so, when you’re looking for another job you typically don’t want them to contact your current employer for a reference, so your first previous one is who they’re going to call. If you leave them with a sour taste in their mouth, they’re unlikely to have splendid things to say about you.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Yeah, I think OP has to consider industry norms here, unfortunately. In my industry, if you quit during a crunch period and you don’t pull extra hours just as you would if you hadn’t resigned, some people will understand and not think of you negatively, and others will take the point of view of, “She’s still getting her salary, isn’t she? So she needs to work like any other member of the team.” And some people (myself included) fall somewhere in the middle. I mean, I couldn’t exactly blame someone for wanting to work reasonable hours once she has no need to work extra in order to keep her job. But as someone who would be picking up the slack, I’d be pissed off at a coworker or direct report who suddenly started jetting off at 5 or even 6 every night if everyone else is staying until midnight. It would go a long way toward maintaining a positive reference in the future — with me, at least — if OP were willing to strike some kind of a middle ground between working precisely 40 hours a week and breaking her back. If OP starts defining “reasonable” hours as “not one second past 5:00,” the next person that calls me for a reference is probably going to get something like, “good worker, but she really checked out once she resigned, and the rest of us were left hanging in a horribly busy period.”

        This assumes that OP has a decent human being for a boss — because if she doesn’t, that boss doesn’t deserve any sort of loyalty during the notice period and probably won’t give a fair reference anyway.

    3. The IT Manager*

      You can decided when to leave at the end of the day; although, yes, give your boss a heads up so he can make plans. You don’t even need to explain that you need to start the new job fresh and rested.

      You said: Do you think it would be acceptable to tell my manager that I’m happy to work as hard as possible, but ask for a firm time that I leave every day.

      You set the which is at the end of the day. You sound like a team player, but being that overworked is probably reason that you looked for an out. Once you have a new job, you don’t have the work unreasonable hours. Honestly giving three weeks (which is 40 hours extra than standard) shows that you care, but you don’t “owe” them extra hours because of your “desertion.”

  9. Scaredy Cat*

    #3: Oooh, I would have needed this so much a few years ago.
    I was suddenly swamped with work after giving my notice, and in my case this meant about 2.5 months. I remember having been utterly exhausted every single day, to the point of going home in tears. My boss used to be extremely supportive of me right until I decided to quit. From that moment on, I was a thankless traitor.

    In the end, I set a meeting with boss and told him that I just couldn’t take it any more. I truly wish I had been more calm about it all, but by that time I just couldn’t think straight.
    His reply: you only have one week left right? You’ll just have to suck it up.
    To this day I don’t know what I could’ve possibly replied to that. My actual answer was something along the lines of parting ways amicably. He nonchalantly agreed, as if that were exactly the case.

    1. Ad Astra*

      It’s really crazy how many bosses (and even companies, through their culture) take it personally when someone decides to move on. More people need to read AAM and stop being weird.

      1. Merry and Bright*

        Ha! I had this when I left my first office job. The head of my department called me in and said “You’ve got a job here. Why do you want another one?”

        (Later that year the firm went bust though)

    2. NickelandDime*

      These kind of situations are why people only give two weeks notice, if that. I had someone get mad at me when I resigned, because I decided the position was not a good fit for me. Now, they can decide I’m not a good fit, but apparently I can’t do that. Uh huh. They acted stupidly for two weeks and I didn’t care, because I had another job. It got bad enough to where I cut my last day short.

      1. Scaredy Cat*

        The 2 and 1/2 months weren’t due to courtesy, but rather due to the contract I had signed (I’m not from the US).

  10. The Cosmic Avenger*

    OP#2, I’m not sure what the issue is. You need to turn on the OOO message on your last day anyway, so what is a few more seconds at that point to update the return date? You say you’re out of the office a lot; if you travel a lot for work, you probably don’t need to turn on your OOO message if you’re checking email. But if you’re unavailable, I’d say it’s pretty important. But then, I have clients contacting me directly almost every day, and internal people contact me constantly with questions. If your role is different, your OOO message may not matter much at all, but it depends on who *might* contact you and what the importance of that contact might be (e.g., client’s boss vs. someone in the office asking people about happy hour).

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      I agree. Unless you have one of those jobs where you are mostly an island unto yourself, a brief, accurate out of office message, with date of return/contact availability, is essential.

      Our people who work short weeks turn on their out of office, and update it, to remind coworkers that they are out X date (which is a friday and they don’t work fridays) and will return X date (Monday) because it saves chaos.

      It’s a habit that takes 30 seconds if that to execute.

      * if the short week people were only working with a small group that could retain “not in on fridays”, the message wouldn’t be necessary. they work with up to 100 people though that may need a speedy answer and 100 people aren’t going to retain their work schedule or check an outlook calendar.

      1. OP#2*

        OP#2 Here. Thanks for the replies and the pendulum swing in favor of “leave the date in”. It’s a bit more than a couple of seconds work, but still not too onerous, so I will make sure to continue doing it.

        That said, I’d be interested to see if this ‘professional norm’ still exists in 10 years’ time! ;-)

        1. hbc*

          Is your travel predictable enough that you could put the month’s schedule (or more) in one description? Then you just need to turn on, turn off, and update on a monthly basis. Because I know exactly what you mean about the annoyance, especially since it’s one of the last things to do as you’re trying to wrap up and run out the door.

        2. Kyrielle*

          I’m betting it will, because people who need you to respond to something will still need to know if that’s going to happen or they need to reach someone else. It’s not a “politeness for its own sake” or “this is professional because” thing like wearing a suit (which has obviously faded); it has a functional purpose.

          Now, for people who are *still in contact* while out of the office, it’s different. But if you’re not fully in contact and need an out-of-office, people need to know when you’ll be able to get back to them.

        3. Dynamic Beige*

          People I know who travel a lot without any set pattern sometimes start their away message with “Travel alert, I will be checking in” kind of thing. I don’t believe they put their return date in the message, as many of these people work out of their homes. But just hearing the word “travel” as the first thing on the message, that pretty much gets the point across. People who desperately need to get in touch with you will then go to e-mail.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            That’s what happens in my department. Most people put something like “I will be at a client site from X to X and will have limited access to email. Please contact Bob if you need immediate assistance.” Since everybody is remote from each other, it works well. They’ve just gotten into the habit of doing it, so it’s not a burden. Internally, we have Lync and can see if people are online.

        4. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          Who knows what kind of advance there will be in 10 years, right? Perhaps your computer will intuit your needs and the needs of the sender and just give everybody the right info. I’ve never seen out of office messages on Star Trek.

          Lookit, all I know about is urgent emails. The vast majority of emails we send and receive need a response the same day, often within a few hours (because they are related to customer’s needs). If the emails you receive are not of an urgent nature and the people sending don’t care about when you are back in the office then your mileage will vary. Out of office messages with return date are for ease of process.

          1. Kyrielle*

            Interesting! I know of a few that need a response within the day, but most need a response within, say, 2-3 days or within a week…and knowing the return date is really helpful to know whether to just wait for those or move on to the backup. Person is out for another three weeks? Helllloo backup. They’re back tomorrow? Sit tight and wait.

            1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

              In our case it would play out like this. Example, customer needs a credit processed.

              Email for credit, get out of office message with return date of tomorrow. As long as the credit isn’t super urgent to solve whatever issue, email customer that the credit will be processed tomorrow (instead of today, which is what you would have told her.) If credit is urgent (because pissed off or whatevever) take the odious step of asking the woman in corporate accounting to process credit (and listen to her bitch about it for 15 minutes) so that it is done today.

              If the out of office message return date is a week later, you say “crap, I must have missed who the back up for credits is while Wilma is gone”. That info is usually in the out office message anyway but the trigger for whether you wait, go to odious option, check for back up and what you tell the customer for expectations is all in the date in the out of office message.

        5. LQ*

          I’m not sure why this would fade. Unless you think that all business communication will be on IM type things, or that no one will ever leave work?

          People inside my company can see my calendar (which I keep very up to date) and I never get emails from anyone outside the company I have to respond to. So I’d be a good candidate for this. Except lots of people don’t know how to look to see if my calendar is free (and yes the functionality in outlook has been around for a long time, another 10 years won’t change the people who don’t care to learn).

          How do you see this going away in 10 years? Because I really hope it isn’t the everyone is expect to respond 24/7 no not kidding version. And that’s sort of the only one I can see as a possibility.

  11. Alana*

    OP #1: Does the applicant’s blog post mentioned as part of your potential cover story exist? If so, wouldn’t that be an indication that he does work for the organization? (Unless it’s a very old blog post.)

    1. OP #1*

      He had blogged for the organization but they were all a few years old, which was one of the other things that tipped us off that he might not be working there anymore.

  12. Merry and Bright*

    On #1 I get the point about contractors’ names getting lost in the system but it’s only a small organization of about 11 people. Mostly I find that in small offices colleagues remember the names better than in large ones, just because you don’t get lost in the crowd. And the second staff member did recall him. It was the HR person who didn’t know (perhaps they were new since his time there).

    1. F.*

      Ask for an employment verification. Even if the HR person is new, they can pull his record and verify his dates of employment.

  13. hbc*

    #1: Tell him. Or rather, ask him if he has an explanation. Either you enjoy seeing an unrepentant liar squirm and try to spin his way out of it, you set someone on the path to realizing that these tricks don’t get them ahead, or you hear a believable, verifiable reason that you hadn’t imagined. Win-win-win.

  14. Meeee*

    I can think of a number of reasons why somebody would not want to be listed on a company’s public directory and would not want to be acknowledged as working there when random strangers call with weak cover stories. For example: a violent ex partner or family member, stalkers of other varieties, persistent debt collection agencies (potentially unjustified ones), etc. Wasn’t there a post here a while ago about somebody in just such a situation?

  15. Sans*

    #1 Here’s another possibility. I could have been in the same situation, but thankfully my new company called me up and I was able to explain. I worked for a small company that was owned by a larger company. Separate systems for vacation time, health care, 401K, etc. About a year and a half after I started working there, the big company decided to combine everything. So our benefits changed (got worse, actually) and our paychecks had the big company’s name on it instead of the small company. However, the small company’s name was better to use in that particular field, so the name didn’t go away for customers, and that’s what I used on my resume as well.

    About nine months later, I got a job offer. They called to verify employment and HR told them I had stopped working there nine months ago. No mention that I was working there, but officially I was just being paid by the big company instead of the small one. No, they said I wasn’t working there at all. I’m lucky my new company called me and I was able to explain.

    1. Mike C.*

      I had a background check raise red flags for a similar reason – same building, same employees, multiple DBAs. Luckily the hiring company didn’t care, but if they took the attitude of ” they must be lying and I’m going to tell the employer” I would have been out of a job during the recession.

  16. The IT Manager*


    I believe you are right. This guy is lying about being employed / where he is employed to you for some reason.

    Alison’s advice is great, though, because it does let you find out if there is some kind of explanation (very unlikely) and it puts him on notice that his trick isn’t working hopefully preventing him fron trying it on other less diligent hiring managers in the future. As Alison said, there’s no point in telling his old company because there’s nothing they can do about it. A companies ability to enforce punishment on someone ends when they’re no longer an employee.

  17. Omlet*

    It sounds like there’s a decent chance that the job candidate in letter #1 is trying to cover up a gap in his employment. Of course, lying about your employment status isn’t the right thing to do when applying for jobs, but, if the situation is that he’s been unemployed for a long period, I can imagine that he might get desperate given that employers often aren’t willing to even interview someone who isn’t currently employed.

    1. fposte*

      Unfortunately, they’re even less likely to want to interview someone who falsifies their history. This guy was going to get an in-person interview, and his lie is going to tank it for him.

      Desperation is understandable, but lying is asking for trouble that you can’t complain about when you get.

      1. A Bug!*

        Agreed. Plenty of actions are understandable in that I can see where the motivation’s coming from and can sympathize, but that doesn’t mean this sort of deception should be overlooked.

        As fposte said, he chose to take the risk he did. It didn’t work out in his favour, and that sucks, but he certainly can’t expect to be given a pass on his lie just because he really needed the job. Plenty of people are desperate for work and still don’t lie about their work history.

        1. fposte*

          I was thinking, when there was that discussion last week about the OP whose friend falsified his work history and asked her to recommend him, that people sometimes treat hiring managers as if they’re St. Peter, choosing on a person-by-person basis who gets to enter the gates. But hiring is the opposite of being St. Peter, because you have only one space, you’re focusing on what the space deserves rather than what the person deserves, and applicants are always going to be looked at in terms of the overall pool rather than in individual achievement of virtue. The question isn’t really “Is it forgiveable?” It’s “Does it put this candidate at a disadvantage compared to the competition?”

      2. Omlet*

        Agreed. I don’t think lying about one’s employment history is a good idea and I definitely don’t suggest that the candidate should be hired anyway. Just my thought as to what he may have been up to. I do think (and of course I could be wrong) that the odds of him being contacted for an interview or even a phone screen probably would have decreased significantly if he indicated his current unemployment on his resume. Especially if it was one that couldn’t be very easily explained in a cover letter. Not saying that lying is the right move, just that, from what I see, a significant employment gap (or current unemployment) is often a huge worry among applicants and a red flag to potential employers. I think it would be great for OP to contact this guy as Alison suggested because, at the very least, the candidate should know that lying about work history isn’t a good strategy.

  18. MM*

    Alison, over the last week or so there have been a ton of video ads that auto-play in the sidebar, and cause the page to jump to the ad over and over – means I can’t read threads at all! I’ve tried refreshing, but I just get video ads for other stuff – same problem. Right now it’s for Pur water filters. I’m using Chrome on a windows computer.

    1. AdBlocker*

      Alison has said in response to previous such reports that she needs the URL that the ad links to in order to be able to get her ad network to deal with it. Which means you have to click on the ad, thus giving them exactly what they want. :(

      I strongly recommend figuring out how to install an adblocker or at least switch off autoplay videos for your browser. This doesn’t seem to be a problem that will go away anytime soon!

        1. Art Education*

          Yeah, this works in Chrome. Right click -> “Copy link address.” And I think she has asked us to send an email about ads, which she’s more likely to see, so we should send these to alison at askamanager dot org.

    2. Mabel*

      I changed the settings on my browsers so that Flash has to ask me if it should run. I did this specifically because of the auto-run videos that I kept running into. It’s a pain in the neck to have to scroll up and down on each open browser page to find the video that’s running and pause it!

      1. bentley*

        Chrome shows a little “speaker” icon on each tab that is playing audio, so you don’t need to hunt down the offending tab. I wish Firefox also had that feature.

    3. Ad Astra*

      I’ve never noticed any obtrusive ads on AAM and I always assumed it was because I’m using Chrome. I wonder if maybe there’s some difference in our settings?

    4. catsAreCool*

      I haven’t had stuff play on my Google Chrome, but it seems like when I use this site, my whole laptop is slower. Maybe stuff is playing but just not showing up.

  19. I'm Not Phyllis*

    #1 there’s also the possibility that he could have attached an old copy of his resume. I’ve done this before accidentally and then just thought “well, there goes my chance with that one!” I like Alison’s suggestion of talking to him about it. It’s possible that it was just an oversight – and maybe this would make you still not want to hire him, but it definitely wouldn’t be worth raising an alarm with his previous employer.

    1. Amandine*

      He had a phone interview in which he continued to talk about this position as his current job, though. That’s past ” accidentally sent wrong resume” territory.

    2. OP #1*

      Nope, he said in his interview that it’s his current position and that he would have to give 2 weeks notice, we’re not just assuming he is still there because his resume says “current”.

  20. TotesMaGoats*

    #2-Put a date. I know it’s a chore but in the grand scheme of things it makes the people lives who have to work with you and for you a little easier. I assume you have to go in each time to turn on and off your auto-response. It’s a couple more key strokes from that.

  21. Devil's Avocado*

    OP#1, I think you should approach this as Alison suggested by approaching him openly and honestly. I get the sense from your letter and your responses here that you are quite sure that him lying to you is the only possible explanation. (When, as others have pointed out there are lots of possible explanations.) I think you may need to shift the framing of this, otherwise you risk coming across as “gotcha!!” when you ask him about this (which would not look good on you if he does have a genuine explanation.)

  22. M*

    #1 If you have no intention of hiring him there’s no need for “confrontation”. The bias against employment gaps are real. He took a chance and got caught but I totally understand why he may have felt compelled to attempt it. As long as employers keep outdated bias against those with gaps they’re going to keep coming across issues like this. Ask pertinent questions regarding ability to do job. Leave off the condescending why aren’t you working now comments as if well adjusted adults are unaware that they have a gap.

    1. neverjaunty*

      The fact that some employers have bias against employment gaps is not OP #1’s problem, and it doesn’t excuse the candidate’s lying (if that is in fact what is going on). As you say, he took a chance and lost. It’s not OP’s job to give him a do-over.

    2. fposte*

      The problem is that by pandering to bad employers, who are the ones who will hold a gap against you, you’re going to make yourself unemployable by good employers, who are going to hold falsifying your records against you. I’d rather risk losing the job at the bad employer.

    3. Christian Troy*

      This is how I feel. I think I feel a bit bad for the candidate because maybe he was fired, or maybe he was let go or maybe he quit because of something thinking he could get a new job quickly. Lying is not OK, but it’s over and done with.

    4. Observer*

      I agree that there is no need for a confrontation, in any case. And, if there is no chance of hiring him either way, then I agree there is no need to say anything to him. On the other hand, the justification for lying simply doesn’t fly.

      Sure, policies against hiring people who are unemployed are beyond ridiculous – a total lose / lose proposition. But where do you draw the line? Once you lie, you’ve made it clear that you will do that when it suits you. What else will you lie about? Only about “ridiculous” things? And, how is any employer supposed to trust that?

      1. Not Myself*

        No need, maybe, but I look at it as a small mercy for the guy. Yeah, he lied, but as many others have commented, it’s likely out of desperation. Letting him know that it’s something that’s being caught and kicking him out of consideration would be a kindness. It’ll be awkward, but you may help him realize how unacceptable the practice is.

    5. A Bug!*

      I agree with your point that there’s no reason to rub the applicant’s nose in his lie, if that’s what he did. And I certainly sympathize with his situation if he’s finding himself struggling against preconceptions for his employment gap. But understanding his motivation is not the same as excusing his action. A gap in employment is relevant information. It needs to be taken in context, but it’s still relevant information to a hiring process. That doesn’t change just because some employers weight an employment gap more heavily than it should be or fails to consider the reason for it.

      If one lies on one’s resume to pre-empt anticipated unfairness in the hiring process, then it guarantees an unfair hiring process regardless of the employer’s intent, because now the employer literally can’t assess the applicants fairly on their merits. How then do all the other applicants who are submitting honest resumes address this injustice? These applicants, who are facing the same potential biases from the employer, and now disadvantaged even further through having to compete with a dishonest resume? Do they have to start lying on their resume to even the playing field, even though they also don’t know for sure that it’s uneven in the first place? And do employers then have to assume that all of their candidates are being untruthful on their resumes, and discount every claim accordingly?

      Seems an awful lot to me like a race to the bottom. If it wasn’t a competition on the merits before, this sure isn’t going to make it so.

    6. catsAreCool*

      I think he should be asked about this. I doubt that there’s a good explanation, but this is a good time to let him know that he isn’t getting away with this – maybe he’ll stop trying it.

  23. Regina*

    Regarding #1. At the last place I worked, during my first week there, I was instructed to write a short professional bio about myself to put up on the list of staff for our department. I worked there for one year, and no one ever added it to the website, nor was there any other mention of me on the website. Our department had a very small staff of only 5 people, so I think it would have looked odd if someone tried to look up my contact info on our department’s part of the website and couldn’t find me. I mentioned this but nothing was ever done about it. Calls to HR aside, as that’s more reasonable, many places are lazy about website updates so I wouldn’t base any decisions strictly on that.

  24. BabyAttorney*

    Someone at my company was fired in February for a variety of reasons. She had a very generous separation, but when I was trying contact her for something unrelated, I found her LinkedIn which still lists her as working for us. She visited my LinkedIn so I know she got on there, but still has us listed as her current employer. I asked our VP about it, but he didn’t really seem to care much. It irritates me, but eh, I don’t sign the checks so.

  25. mel*


    So having a work gap inexplicably marks a person as unhireable, forcing people to stretch the truth or outright lie just to get an interview.

    And lying about the gap automatically marks a person as unhireable, even if you think that person was perfect for the job before it happened.

    And people who DO have full time jobs are abandoned when they aren’t home during work hours to answer the phone or run to a short-notice interview.

    How does anybody ever accomplish anything?

    1. fposte*

      By realizing that you’ve stated the worst case scenario, and that people with gaps and with full-time jobs get hired all the time. (For that matter, people who’ve lied about their achievements get hired all the time as well.)

      But you’re also misrepresenting things with the “even if you think that person was perfect for the job before it happened.” You think that person’s perfect for the job because your information is missing something key. He could also seem perfect for the job until you find out he’s a bigot or a slacker; those are other examples of seriously relevant information that would legitimately change the picture.

      There are a few jobs where being trusted to be truthful isn’t necessary–if you’re a dancer you can either dance or you can’t, I would guess–but in most of them it’s really key. An applicant who’s falsified his history has shown he does not possess this key quality.

      1. M*

        You’re making a lot of leaps. Knowing others have gotten jobs with gaps doesn’t matter when you’re currently job searching with an honest resume and not getting call backs (while others then encourage you to stretch involvement or timeline to cover said gap). Wanting to pay bills and get back into workforce is not equivalent to being a bigot or a slacker. To use your example it’s not the same as being a dancer because in general people that are screening are not allowing those with gaps to “audition”. In this case though candidate auditioned and didn’t make the cut. Unless the gap was reason for not moving forward there’s no need for OP to reach out.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Are you saying it’s reasonable for people to lie on their resumes if they’re having a hard time finding a job? Because that’s likely to hurt them a lot more than help them in the long run.

          I actually have a post scheduled on a really interesting (to me) aspect of this topic later this week.

          1. M*

            No. It’s not reasonable but I understand why someone may feel desperate enough to do it. In this case the candidate wasn’t the best person for the job. If he was and discovery of the lie was the SOLE reason for OP writing in then some if these responses would make sense. I get what others are saying but lying about skills isn’t the same (to me) as covering a gap. Either you can ask follow up questions to decide if candidate is worth the risk or you treat it as an immediate red flag and not go further.

            For others doubting gap discrimination (for lack of a better word) just because you haven’t experienced it doesn’t make it unlikely. It’s real and it’s happening.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I don’t think anyone is doubting that significant gaps can pose issues. But lots of things pose challenges — the fact that your employer wouldn’t promote you for years, a dysfunctional office that made it impossible to have any real achievements, an apparent lack of real responsibility, the unaccredited school your parents convinced you to go to… That doesn’t mean it’s reasonable or okay to lie about any of those.

            2. Observer*

              No is saying that the gap issue is not real. What most of us are saying is that 1. Getting caught in a lie is even MORE likely to get you in trouble and 2. a real issue does not translate into justification for lying.

        2. Observer*

          Wanting to pay the bills doesn’t make you a slacker. But lieing to accomplish that makes you untrustworthy. What else are you going to do to pay your bills?

          Not that I think that the OP needs to reach out to the old employer – I totally agree with Allison on that.

        3. Myrin*

          But there might be many other reasons someone is not getting callbacks that have nothing whatsoever to do with their gap in employment. I also feel like it’s not factually true that employers only allow those without any gaps to get interviews. Some might, sure, but you sound like you’re saying there’s no way anyone with any gap will ever again be employed somewhere.

        4. Christian Troy*

          The problem is when you lie and get a job, you have no idea if or when your story is going to be blown and then you could potentially be out of a job and job searching, again. That sounds extreme, right? Except in a world of LinkedIn and Facebook and all sort of background connections you just have no way of gaging the probability of someone who knows the truth crossing paths with your boss/new employer and pulling back the curtain.

          I still personally think that if they have no intention of hiring the candidate, to let him go and not “confront” him. I think putting him on the spot will probably end up with more lies or a mess of tears about how he felt like he had no other options because he had been job searching for so long.

        5. fposte*

          I don’t think I am, actually.

          It really sucks that some places unfairly weed out unemployed applicants. I totally agree with that.

          But I need staff I can trust to tell me the truth even when it’s difficult and even when it’s governmentally required, which happens a lot in my job. I would be a really bad hiring manager to hire somebody and expect them to behave differently in the job than they did in the application; I would be a really bad hiring manager to hire somebody who falsified documents and expect them to never do so in the job. Lying on an application counts as being part of who you are, and that’s a part of who you are that matters to me, just like being a bigot or a slacker. I can’t work with you if you’re a person who thinks it’s okay to falsify documents.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            Even if I decided that I personally didn’t care about truthfulness, I couldn’t hire someone who lied on their resume anyway. These things get verified in our HR processes.

            Morality or no morality, right/wrong, trustworthiness, whatever, if you somehow decide that it is evening the score to lie — lying on your resume is dumb. I think I have more of a problem with the “really bad plan, what did you think would happen?” part of it than anything else.

            1. fposte*

              Right, whether you’re looking at it as a moral issue or a strategy issue it’s flawed. I’m mostly looking at it behaviorally–I would expect you to do for me what I see you’ve been doing. So how does what you’ve been doing match with what I want you to do?

          2. catsAreCool*

            “I need staff I can trust to tell me the truth even when it’s difficult” and “I would be a really bad hiring manager to hire somebody who falsified documents and expect them to never do so in the job.” These! As usual, fposte nails it!

        6. M*

          For the record I know my gap is an issue and I refuse to lie about it but I understand why someone may be desperate enough to do so simply to get foot in door with interview.

          I also have little sympathy for HR/employers that claim not to not be able to find good candidates. Economy is getting better but there are a lot of good quality unemployed or underemployed candidates available to fill positions if those in charge of hiring would quit sticking to outdated methods.

          1. I'm a Little Teapot*

            I have to say I agree. I tend to judge the morality of people’s actions in large part by their circumstances. Someone already in a decent job lying on their resume because they want more money or their Dream Job is infuriating. Someone lying on their resume because they’re about to end up homeless…well, that person can’t afford the luxury of honesty. People do what they have to do to survive and I’m hesitant to judge people in desperate situations.

          2. fposte*

            I think most of us understand desperation pretty well, and we also understand that there can be prejudice against the unemployed.

            But I think you’re mistaking practical responses for moral ones. I don’t think the guy deserves to be hanged, or that this action marks him as a bad human being, or the job possibility should be taken away from him as punishment. It’s that this means he’s weak in an important job skill. I could assume that it’s momentary, same as I could assume that the candidate who tanks her Excel test or falls apart during her presentation was doing so just because of nerves. But if I assume what people show me *isn’t* who they are, I might as well just stick a pin in the applicant list and not bother with resumes or interviews at all.

            Instead, I choose to work with what I have and assume people are who they present themselves as being, either intentionally or unintentionally. That doesn’t mean people have to be perfect–never have hired a perfect candidate, which is good as I’m far from perfect anyway–but they have to present as the strongest in the pool and the best fit for the need that I’m hiring, and while it’s possible to get it wrong, I’d strongly resist hamstringing myself from the start by hiring somebody and hoping he wasn’t going to be as an employee who he was as a candidate.

  26. Ann O'Nemity*

    I have a slightly different take on #3.

    Last year, one of my employees quit during our busy period when we were facing tough deadlines. During that one month of the year, it’s normal for the team to work 55-60 hour weeks. After giving notice, the quitting employee decided that we was going to work only 40 hours a week. So not only was the employee quitting during our busiest time, he was also significantly reducing his hours during his notice period. I don’t want to blame him for wanting to start his new job refreshed, but the timing was horrible for the team.

    1. Observer*

      Well, the first thing that comes to mind is that you know this crunch is coming, so perhaps you should ramp up staffing to keep the pressure down. The The second thing that comes to mind is that OP #3 is in a different situation. For on thing it sounds like it might be more than 55-60 hours, which is unreasonable in any case. Someone messed up there. Also, he did try to balance the issue of not killing himself with the needs of the employer by working an extra week.

  27. _ism_*

    #5 – I just found out about this today. We were paid for labor day but we didn’t work. Now we’re being made to work 11 hour days for the rest of the week. It surprised me and I remarked that it was odd since the company had just announced they’d be vigilantly trying to avoid overtime from now on. My co-worker reminded me that we won’t be paid overtime for most of this because of the holiday. What a deal for my company. Very crafty.

  28. TMW*

    #1. Definitely tell the guy that you called the Company where he says he currently works and that they say they have no record of him. Ask him if he got the job via an employment agency. Some people who are on contract or temp assignments don’t realize that they are actually employees of the agency and not the company where they are on assignment.

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