my new employee lied on his resume

A reader writes:

I joined my current company last year and was recently promoted from my former position to managing another department. One of the team members in my new department expressed an interest in the role I was vacating. In the process of interviewing him for my old position, I discovered glaring errors on his resume. He has oversold his previous job experience, listed software and systems he has no actual knowledge of, and when questioned directly about some parts of his resume (education, previous positions), he couldn’t even come up with a very good lie.

When I asked him why he seemed to have some discrepancies on his resume, he shrugged and told him that his brother had helped him write it.

I already know this employee is not ranked very highly as a candidate for my previous position, but that means that he’ll be staying in my department. Do I address these lies on his resume? So far his work for the company is competent, if not particularly thrilling, and it’s not his fault that his previous manager didn’t catch these issues when she was interviewing him for his original position. I would not want to punish him for lying on his resume (because I don’t feel his lies directly affect the quality of his current work), but I do want him to understand that this isn’t acceptable. What’s the best way to go about this?

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • I don’t want my boss to email my team when I’m out
  • Company didn’t respond after I declined a job offer
  • My manager wants to send me home when I walk with a cane
  • Committing to a start date before the background check is done

{ 159 comments… read them below }

  1. Rusty Shackelford

    Yeah, #2, that’s *completely* normal, and it would be weird to complain about it. (Also, making officemates guess as to whether you’re going to be gone all day, or will be in later, is inconsiderate.)

    1. Arctic

      There has been kind of a trend the last couple of weeks of people having weird reactions to pretty normal things.

      1. TooTiredToThink

        This is a pretty old letter (I’ve run across it a few times when I do the “Surprise Me” feature). It does surprise me each time I see it because, for the life of me, I can’t figure out why someone would be bothered by this. But now that I’ve been on this site for while, I suspect the OP was either working in a very dysfunctional workplace or had come from one, and just didn’t realize it.

        1. Jerk Store

          Yeah, I bet there’s more going on here. Perhaps the LW feels like their manager has overstepped on other things or feels like insecure about their new authority. (Like, her team should tell *her* if they are out sick, not the other way around.)

    2. banzo_bean

      Agreed, I could understand if the boss was disclosing details about what the letter writer was out of the office (ie “Jane Smith will be out of the office today because she is sick with the flu”) but a mere heads is common courtesy.

      1. BethRA

        I once had a direct report get upset with me because I DIDN’T put the reason for her absence in my email to the department (“Jane will be out today” rather than “Jane is out sick with the flu”). She felt it made it look as though something shady? was going on.

        1. Johnny Tarr

          “Jane is out of the office today for reasons that are perfectly legitimate and not shady, so don’t wonder.”

        2. Kathlynn (Canada)

          Probably hang-up from a previous environment, where people may have judged her and others based on how valid their reason was.

        3. NotAnotherManager!

          Anyone who made that complaint to me could take it up with HR, who has specifically told me that I cannot include any details about an emloyee’s absence in wide-cast emails. People are out for any number of reasons. It’s not shady, and I’m sick is not a more or less valid reason to be out than my car broke down on the way to work or I had to rush my cat to the emergency vet because he is a goat and ate twine.

          1. Ramanon

            Ah, but if he wrote the absence email, he’d say that it was because he nobly defended you and your household from a dangerous snake and was injured in the line of battle. Completely valid reason right there! ;p

      2. Miso

        We get department wide emails if someone is out sick, and obviously that’s okay, but they’re so. detailed.
        It’s not enough to write “Jane went home today”, no no. It has to be “Jane went to the doctor at 11.43 and doesn’t know yet whether she’ll come back afterwards.”
        Recently they even mentioned the type of doctor someone visited – I mean, what the hell? I honestly don’t know what they’re thinking. We’re basically just waiting for the “Jane is barfing her guts out” mail.

        1. Flash Bristow

          Followed by the “ooh maybe she’s pregnant” round robin, just to be sure all privacies are broken?

        2. Former Employee

          I laughed out loud.

          Next up, Jane went to her gynecologist this morning and is currently awaiting the results of testing to see if she has any of the common STD’s.

    3. Jennifer

      I had the same reaction. When I read the post here I assumed it would be one of those situations where the boss told everyone about a private medical condition or a family issue but that was a pretty generic message.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD

        That was exactly what I thought. If the boss had sent out the email saying “Matilda won’t be in today as she is experiencing (insert medical symptoms here),” that would be a serious privacy violation. But if it was just the standard “Matilda won’t be here today, so if you need her help on something check back tomorrow,” that’s really normal and a big help to the other members of the team.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood

      No kidding… not to mention that if your monitor powers down for energy savings when not in use, someone’s going to assume you’re gone when you’re in a long meeting or helping someone on another floor or just out for lunch!

    5. DiscoCat

      For me these kinds of letter are quite insightful, as a project manager I have to keep track of all project resources, including staff, and logically part of that is knowing about staff absences. However I’ve come across many who get really stung by such simple requests and office norms- as if I’m personally keeping track of their reasons to be absent or it gives me a pesonal kick to email the team about their absences. No- on a private level I wish you well, but I have to know and let others know what resources are available to Get Things Done Effectively and Efficiently with the resources we have at our disposal (GTDEE).

      1. DiscoCat

        Oh, and it’s always a neutral message not even going into detail about whether it’s sick leave, or annual leave or whatever- you’re out of office, full stop. If absences due to ill health turn out longer than anticipated, long enough to impact the team’s work, then the project lead has a sit down with the relevant people to reallocate tasks, but even then they won’t say more than “Jane will be out for x amount of time, we need to reallocate X,Y,Z.”

    6. Andrea

      At my last job one of my coworkers had been gone for quite a few days. We just knew she was out because it was out on the calendar that she had called in. It wasn’t until the get well soon card went around that we knew that she had had emergency surgery. Perhaps it would be better if the job had a shared calendar that shows when someone has called in.

  2. Arctic

    I’m fine with lying on the resume but not being able to keep up the lie shows a real lack of resourcefulness. Axe him.

    1. Working Mom Having It All

      Yeah, it’s a little odd that he said he knew all this software and then since coming to the company didn’t… go out and learn all that software he said he had experience with. “Said I have known Python since 2014, actually only started working with it in 2016” is obnoxious but not egregious. Still lying about it 5 years later is a bit much.

      1. Wintermute

        In tech a lot of HR-driven hiring processes are entirely acronym-driven. You have no idea the context. For instance “VMWare” Okay, It’s not a lie to say I have a year’s experience with ONE of their product, two separate versions, but as a user, not an admin, all depends on what they want. I could reasonably say one year VMWare experience and it’s not a lie in the least, but if they’re looking for VMWare vCenter Server (cloud) admin and I have experience as a vSphere (on-site hosting) user– I’m going to have a bad time.

    2. Mike C.

      I’m kind of with you here. Outright lying about schooling and whatnot is a bigger issue, but if we’re talking about software programs where you can use it just fine but lack the required “$arbitrary years” experience doesn’t really bother me all that much.

      1. Wintermute

        Doesn’t bother me either because it’s often totally arbitrary (or used as a H1B dodge… ugh), plus, yes you get an idea of what they’re looking for by a year range but it’s all down to how it’s used. If I worked my last job for a hypothetical 10 years, I’d have 10 years with a common automation tool from BMC, but only at the most superficial level, I’ve learned more about that tool in four months at NewJob than I would have in a decade at OldJob. They also often fail to appreciate the difference between using software and administrating over it and its backend, the degree of interaction a given role has on what levels (are you implementing changes or just “see error e-mail program automatically generates, forward to developer team”), what modules or parts are you using (Mostly reporting modules, mostly analysis modules, are you touching the planning/architecture modules at all? etc).

        An “operator I” from my current job would be equal in experience to an analyst or specialist at OldJob, easily.

        One of those little things that drives me nuts about working in IT.

      1. Kathleen_A

        I’m just guessing here that people are differentiating between a Big Lie (saying that you have a degree that you simply don’t have, for example) and a smaller lie (saying “qualified on software A” when the truth is “have a little bit of experience on software A”).

        Either way, it sounds incredibly serious to me. I might not fire somebody over a little bit of exaggeration, but an out-and-out lie? You betcha.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD

          This. A coworker of mine applied for a promotion a while back where you needed two years of experience with a particular function of the job. At the time, he had 22 months of experience. He rounded up on the application so he’d be eligible for an interview. That feels really different from someone who says they have the two years of experience when they’ve never actually done that job function at all.

      2. Arctic

        Yeah, I was just kidding. Although I do think if you’re going to do it then at least have the foresight to commit to it.

      3. Falling Diphthong

        I think it’s the incompetence of the lie. “My brother helped write my resume, so who really knows what that thing says.”

        1. Anonomoose

          Reasonably senior computery person here, just to say, from other people I’ve talked to, in tech:
          Lying about university/qualifications: nope
          Lying about languages, tools and frameworks: you have to be good enough at them to not be caught. If you’re going to tell someone on a resume you know the latest wierd JavaScript thing, and they want to use it, you better be spending any gap between jobs figuring the dam thing out.

          1. KayEss

            And you’d better be ready to be tested on them—my employer requires a small coding test project from developer candidates. The number of people who outright copy code from other sources (when we have specifically told them not to do so in this case!) in ways that are discoverable with less than ten minutes of googling is ridiculous.

            One guy did it while trying to make a lateral move from elsewhere in the company. Not only was he not considered for the job, he was fired.

          2. SusanIvanova

            If the job needs “four years in Language Y”, I’ll say things like “Four years in Language X, which was the precursor to Language Y”. It’s true, and it gives the resume screener enough information even if they don’t know the relationship between X and Y.

      4. Goldfinch

        I take “lying” with a grain of salt when the issue is software knowledge. It can be a strange industry in that skill sets bleed together in a way that often isn’t transparent to management. Many languages cross-reference, people can spend a ton of time on GitHub without ever actually using said code at a paying job, etc.

        The LW mentions education, though, which is more finite and thus more problematic. (Although, maybe not: I was accused of lying about a ‘degree I didn’t have’ by an interviewer who apparently had a reading comprehension problem. My resume said “In Progress: Est. Date of Graduation 2015” in giant bold letters.)

        1. Mike C.

          The other issue is that hiring managers are arbitrarily deciding that “number of years” with software directly correlates with how they expect a reasonable employee to use that software in their own workplace to be useful.

          1. SusanIvanova

            I don’t think it’s hiring managers, I think it’s whoever modifies the requirements before they go up on the website. Hiring manager says “highly skilled”, intermediate person still thinks you need 3-5 years to be “highly skilled”, and so the person who invented the new language 5 months ago doesn’t get past the first gate.

      5. Hiring Mgr

        Not sure anyone’s fine with it, but personally I’d rather get rid of the guy who was staring at his colleague’s cleavage and complained it was her fault than someone who “oversold” his prior experience..

      6. Working Mom Having It All

        Eh, while I would never, ever do it, saying you know a piece of software you don’t have extensive enough experience with is one of those grey areas. Especially if it turned out he has never actually needed to use that software in his time with the company, and it’s not affecting his ability to do the job. Double especially because this tends to be an area where job requirements are over-inflated (ask me how many job listings I’ve seen for admin assistants where they want you to know, like, InDesign or ProTools or something), not to mention that it’s probably something that you can pick up on weekends with a Lynda.com subscription.

        To me saying you know software is qualitatively different than saying you have a degree you don’t have, or that you worked at a company you never worked for or held a title you never held.

        1. Jadelyn

          It may also be that you know the *type* of software, have worked with similar programs, and are reasonably certain the experience translates. I’m an HRIS Analyst. 99% of my experience is with Ultipro, specifically. But could I probably get up to speed on ADP or Workday pretty damn quick? Absolutely. So I can see fudging things a bit in that case as well.

  3. Dust Bunny

    2. Let this go. It’s a lot more annoying if your coworkers are not informed that you’re out and are left wondering if you’re going to respond to something today. He didn’t tell everyone where you were or any details. My office sends out an email every morning with a listing of events, other potential disruptions (our building is undergoing a major renovation and sometimes certain areas are off-limits, one of the elevators isn’t working, etc.), and who is out. But this level of information is work-related and not an invasion of your personal space.

    1. CupcakeCounter

      Yup – I would have loved to get one of these this morning as my coworker is out which means I need to cover for her. Since we aren’t line of sight where we sit, I wasn’t aware until I get a bunch if nasty-grams from people all over the company asking why X report was late.

  4. Ingalls

    #2. We always send out these emails when someone calls in. If, for some reason, the office/shop need to be evacuated we don’t want to be left guessing if Jane is still in the shop.

    1. Cacwgrl

      THIS! Due to recent events, we are now coached to be in a state of constant awareness – not fear, but being aware of surroundings and coworkers. It is so frustrating to me to walk through a building and see the sign outs being blank, whether they’re at a meeting, lunch/gone for the day, or out for a bit. If something happens again and we need to muster, but you don’t and your board doesn’t say and there’s no OOO so we don’t know if you’re gone, we or first responders have to go back to make sure you aren’t crushed under a cabinet or something. And coworkers don’t always pass the info along so having a central way to know is so helpful. Almost every day we have a team where someone is gone and we have to ask at least two people find out if it’s for the day, for an hour, etc. So frustrating!
      TLDR: It’s not weird to expect to know where your coworkers are because Safety.

    2. CatMintCat

      We have a sign on sheet for this reason. The boss cheerfully tells us it’s so the body count after a disaster will be accurate.

  5. Stitch

    #1 is a huge red flag and a fireable offense. If you do keep him, keep a very very close eye on him. He has demonstrated serious ethical lapses and I wouldn’t trust him I the future.

  6. cube worker

    Regarding background checks; even though I know it will come back clean, I have had them be delayed for mysterious and unknowable bureaucratic reasons and some employers won’t let you start until it is complete. I don’t want to commit to a start date, and have to give notice at my current employer, until I know that I’ll be able to follow through on that start date.

    1. banzo_bean

      I once failed a background check because someone had stolen my identity and I didn’t know it! So yeah, I’d definitely be cautious even if you feel sure YOU don’t have anything to hide.

      1. Goldfinch

        I bring this up to the hiring manager or recruiter right at the start: “I can’t give notice until the background check clears. I’ve been a part of multiple large data breaches, and I’ve had several incidents of identity theft in the past.”

        1. banzo_bean

          I do give a heads up now, and it’s far enough in the past (over 10 years ago) that I doesn’t tend to come up anymore. The issue was more that I had to prove I really was who I said I was.

          It is worth noting how uncomfortable it makes hiring managers to hear there is something that *might* come up on a background check, even when it’s 100% not your fault. I think this is probably changing as data breaches/identity issues become more common, but it’s still important to handle this delicately.

        2. TooTiredToThink

          And now with some of the even bigger breaches, this is an even bigger issue than it was just a couple of years ago.

      2. Liane

        That is awful to have happen. I didn’t go straight to that but I did immediately think, “What if something, like a conviction, from someone with a similar name from the same area got picked up by the background (or credit) check?”

      3. NKOTB

        Yes! Reasonable employers understand this. When I told my current employer this before I resigned from my last job they said they completely understood. Some employers even advise new hires not to resign from their current jobs until their background check clears.

    2. Mike C.

      Yes this. I had an issue come up because I put down my current employer but my paychecks came from a subsidiary/DBA name. It didn’t take long to resolve but it’s not really my fault my employer was structured oddly.

      1. Triplestep

        Almost the same here. I had “XYZ Financial Group” on my resume, and that entity us now called “XYZ Bank”. I very nearly failed this check, but luckily I was contacted to clear it up. Still, I got a lot of pressure to give notice before it cleared, followed by the side eye over what I could possibly be worried about. Mixups like this are the exact reason you don’t give notice until the background check clears. Most people are not criminals just hoping the background check doesn’t turn up their past misdeeds.

      2. Wendy Darling

        I had a bunch of trouble with a recent background check when they were trying to verify past employers. One of my past employers went out of business so there’s no longer anyone to contact, and another just refused to verify my employment (I quit because they were a pack of assholes and I suspect they’re just mad I quit — it’s the kind of petty BS move they would pull). I ended up having to scrounge up a bunch of tax paperwork to prove I held those jobs.

        The background check company was not fast, so this held stuff up for like a week and it was super stressful. Luckily (?) I was out of work at the time so it didn’t mess up anything other than my stress level.

    3. PantaloonsOnFire

      200%. Until all contingencies have been removed and a firm start date is in place, I’m not going to give notice. There’s just no way I’d risk the secure job/paycheck I already have, even though no background check has ever been a problem. It’s also much more polite to your current employer because you’ll be able to give them a firm date and follow through on it. (Hopefully hiring organizations appreciate this level of politeness, since there’s decent chance you’ll be giving them notice too one day).

      1. BananaPants

        Yup, I’m not doing anything irrevocable with a current employer until all contingencies are cleared and I have a start date set. It’s too risky.

    4. anomalez

      This happened to one of my employees – he had lived in some really small cities and the background check was very thorough and had to contact police departments in counties that were closed for four weeks during the holidays. He gave notice and then was unexpectedly not getting a paycheck for four weeks. Don’t do it.

      1. Roja

        I admit my mind is boggling over police that close their *entire organization* for a *month*. Is that… normal? Does crime seriously spike because criminals know that no one will answer 911 or whatever the country’s equivalent is?

        1. Rusty Shackelford

          I’m assuming the part where people look up your record was closed, not the part where they dispatch officers.

    5. duvet enthusiast

      When I was about to start my current job, HR cryptically informed me that despite some discrepancies with my background check. They said they were still willing to move forward, but I was completely freaked out and asked for more details. Apparently my boss at an unpaid internship a few years earlier failed to keep a record of my exact title or employment dates and thus couldn’t fully verify what was on my resume. This was definitely an early-career lesson about how clunky background checking can be…and also which sketchy internships I should start leaving off my resume.

    6. MCMonkeyBean

      Not sure if it’s true but a friend told me she had to redo the drug screen because she had drank too much water and it made the first one come back inconclusive. I was then very paranoid, because I specifically drank a ton of water the day I did mine to make sure I could fill the cup on command lol.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch

        Yes, this happens. If the urine is too diluted, it’s more water than urine and will not be a proper sample to test.

        So yeah, they have to be redone. It’s not a big deal, it happens due to people being nervous and prepping just to be able to fill the cup like you’ve mentioned.

      2. Grand Mouse

        I understand that it can look suspicious because people who do have traces of drugs in their system do chug water to dilute it so it won’t be caught.

        1. Constance Lloyd

          My dad’s employer was treating this as a hard fail for a while and refused to re-do the tests if the urine came back too diluted. Someone in charge got it in their head that this was deliberately deceptive. Within a year they realized what a terrible policy this was and got rid of it.

      3. Acolyte of Artemis

        That happened to me too. The new employer was Very Stern and informed me I needed to retake the test Immediately. The nice lady at the testing location just told me to drink Gatorade instead of water.

    7. Emi.

      I am *still* waiting on a background check to come back where they traveled across the country to interview my old tutoring students’ parents in person and then called me a month later to ask if I’d be willing to renounce my dual citizenship (this is not a requirement for passing the check, but they’re required to ask me about it anyway???). And that’s just to keep my current job!

      1. Engineer Girl

        They asked my old roommate to renounce her dual citizenship- from Canada. Some places see having two passports as not being committed to your country.

        1. PollyQ

          What the heck? I’d seriously rethink wanting to work for a company that asked me to do that. SO VERY none of their business!

          1. Marissa

            I’d be willing to bet money that this is for a position that requires a government security clearance. The forms for a top secret are the most invasive thing I’ve ever filled out in my life (including therapy intake forms and a university accessibility center-sponsored ADHD assessment, although that’s def a different flavor of invasive).

    8. sofar

      Yeah, I’ve seen too many wonky background check issues among my friends. So that, if I’m ever job hunting again, I’m going to be much more cautious about committing to a start date/giving notice before it comes back clear.

      I saw one friend get delayed when she “failed” a drug test due to prescription meds she was on and had to prove to the company that a doctor had prescribed these meds — meaning HR now knows about medical issues they should NOT know about. And I had another friend show up on her start date and get fired two days later due to THC being found in her system (hair test, that stuff sticks around for a year). And then there was a family member whose security clearance got delayed for six months, due to her dating a foreigner.

      1. TardyTardis

        I remember when my husband was going through chemo and nearly died due to kidney issues etc., that I warned my company that my husband might be using pot to get through aforementioned chemo (he lost 50 pounds). They were very happy this didn’t happen, mind you, but I kind of made it clear that my husband came first.

    9. emmelemm

      Yeah, had a friend give notice at his job because he was “given a start date” and then his offer was pulled suddenly, and in his case, without explanation. Fortunately, he was able to “take back” his notice, but boy was that awful.

    10. Minocho

      I had a seriously delayed background check result because a previous employer went belly up and the background checker couldn’t confirm my employment there. It is entirely reasonable to wait for the background check to clear before giving notice.

    11. Tom & Johnny

      I once had a background check and final hiring process take three months. Three months!

      The employer is a government contractor, although not in any area or department I was involved in, and I had previously spent some time living overseas. That’s the only weird combination I could ever assume explained anything. I was not privy to an explanation. Just a relieved, “we’re so glad to finally make you an official offer!”

      Three months would have been a damn long time to be without a job if I had given my notice before the process cleared.

    12. SusanIvanova

      My start date got delayed by a week because it was just after the credit reporting data breach, so I – like everyone I knew – had put a freeze on. It didn’t occur to me that checking those places was part of the hiring process, and freezes were so new that the company didn’t think to tell me either.

    13. Brett

      Most likely “unknown and bureaucratic reason” is one of your primary personal references is not responding (or none of your secondary references, the people they contact who you don’t provide as a reference).

    14. miho

      I once started working a new job without waiting for the background check to pass, because 1) the company was desperate for someone to start ASAP and 2) I was young and naive and didn’t know any better.

      Of course, one week into my employment, my manager called me on my way into the office to let me know that my position was on hold temporarily until my background check cleared. My department had just assumed that the background check would clear within a few days and failed to inform HR that they wanted me to start while the background check was processing. HR got word of this and sent a very angry email to my department about how an employee cannot start working (and have access to their confidential company information) without clearing a background check first. And of course my background check took longer than usual because they wanted to confirm employment with my previous employer, which was based in another continent.

      So basically, I worked for 4 days, then my employment was put on hold for a week until my background check passed and was able to go back.

      1. Bluebird

        I’ve known of at least two people at my current company having their offer rescinded due to background check problems. One is the reason I have my job—they offered it to this other person first (we worked together at old job which is how I know any of this) and then rescinded it for reasons I can’t recall but it made me extremely nervous as I waited for mine to go through. It was very sad for her, she couldn’t go back to old job and was out of work for several months.

        And then I referred a friend for a position and my company hired him and then rescinded the offer because the college he had gone to wasn’t accredited or something. Never mind that he had been licensed and employed in his field for 40 years. Luckily he was already semi retired and took this as a sign that he should fully retire.

  7. banzo_bean

    For LW #1, I disagree a bit with Alison in this situation. I think the lies on his resume might be the result of reading some of BAD resume advice online. It sounds like this is an employee on the early side of their career and might not understand the seriousness of lying on a resume. I think the alarming part is the employee’s response to being called on it.

      1. Wintermute

        Yeah but in the tech field? A ton of HR departments put pie-in-the-sky requirements and then ctrl-F the resume for all the right acronyms, so even if you put “experience in chocolate design systems” if you don’t have “TeaCAD 17.5” you’re never going to get an interview, anywhere.

        Even plenty of recruiters will coach candidates to make small lies, I’ve had to fight long and hard (and nearly get dropped by the recruiter) to avoid having them insert a boilerplate of acronyms in my skills section, with them justifying it as both 100% necessary, and not a big deal because “it’s showing the *kinds* of software you’re familiar with” and “using BigProduct is almost the same as CompetitorProduct that you have a lot of experience in”.

        I’m sure that I have paid a greater price for my rigid ethics than the people who simply took the recruiter’s suggestions and rolled with them paid for their lack of them. Naturally, I didn’t get any of the 5 jobs I interviewed for with that recruiter.

    1. The New Wanderer

      His response clearly does show that he doesn’t understand the seriousness. That doesn’t make it not serious and perhaps the best way to get that across is to crack down on him, up to and including firing him for misrepresenting his skills and demonstrating very poor judgment.

      1. banzo_bean

        I don’t disagree with you that he fails to understand the seriousness of this issue, but I disagree that this is necessarily a sign that the employee is not trustworthy and lacking in character. I think the employee may have just fallen prey to some bad career advice, and failed to realize that when called on it.

    2. The other Louis

      I have heard SO many people recommend lying on a resume. As others have noted, sometimes jobs are asking that people lie (such as having five years experience in something that’s only been around four years). But I’ve been told to lie, read resumes that were deliberately misleading (e.g., listing something as “in press” when it’s “in my head”), and sometimes dishonestly hopeful (e.g., listing a publication as “in press” when it’s really “under consideration”), in a field where you don’t have to. It’ll take people a while to figure out it was a lie (and they have to notice that something never came out by comparing new and older resumes), so I guess that’s why people do it. I’ve found that, unless it’s someone new who is following bad advice, the people who lie on their resumes really are people you can’t believe on many things.

      1. Kathlynn (Canada)

        As a gas station cashier, soo many international students lie about how fluent they are at English that I just assume they automatically lying, until proven otherwise, much like assuming people are lying about how skilled they are with certain common computer programs. (a decent level of English is needed, as the majority of our customers only speak English. As is the tills and training videos.)

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss

      Agreed. If I decided to fire someone in that situation, it would be more about the fact that he thought lying on his resume wasn’t a big deal and less about the lying. If it’s a technical job and he has no experience with the specific platform/language/etc. that should have been sussed out during the interview, or at the very least, in the first few weeks at the job. He sounds lazy and entitled. If he lied and got the job, the least he could have done was learn what he needed to know to stay on the job, own up to the lie and admit it was wrong.

    4. Observer

      Well, either he lacks integrity or he lacks brains in that case. Because someone with integrity is not going to lie even is some “expert” site tells him to, and someone with brains will realize that the advice is shady, and will also realize that he’d better make sure he has a good story to go with the lie.

      1. Wintermute

        That’s completely unfair. When this advice is coming from trusted sources, and you’re not acculturated to the working world, why would you have cause to assume that this advice is wrong? Especially if it’s coming from people like recruiters

        1. Observer

          Because someone with sense should understand that not everything a recruiter says is THE TRUTH. Also, this guy MAY have been new to the workforce when he originally submitted the resume, but by the point that the OP saw it, he should have known better. The fact that he STILL hasn’t gotten the memo speaks volumes.

  8. Watry

    #5–A department I work closely with runs actual state background checks (first-party or notarized permission for third-party). The amount of people we get coming back saying “My apartment complex/new job/whatever ran me and this isn’t right” is very high. Some third party background services are great and some are not, if employer is assuming everything’s hunky-dory then that’s silly.

  9. Enough

    Re: Background check
    They don’t always come back clean and then what does the company do? Company my daughter works for failed to preform some background checks. Something occurred that caused them to check all their records and a person ended up being fired who worked for her office. They never would have been hired if they had seen the check first.

  10. Recruiting Director in NYC

    #5- Well trained Recruiters will absolutely give you time for your background check (and/or reference checks) to clear before expecting you to give notice. This issue just came up on my team recently with a newly promoted team member that hadn’t had someone request this before- it doesn’t happen often- but when it does we have no problem with the time delay. We understand that this is your livelihood and never push. As the head of Recruiting at my company, I often remind my team that we are the advocates for candidates- we fight for extra $$ for them, we shield them from pushy hiring managers that want them to start sooner than normal, etc. I am sorry you didn’t have this type of support in your current offer process!

    1. Hank

      Your company is unique.

      My last two written job offers were contingent upon passing a drug test and background check, yet they wanted me to sign a document as to my start date 2 weeks hence. I responded in writing to HR that I was definitely willing to accept their offer of a position, but would need a SECOND written offer without any contingencies and a new start date AFTER formally passing the drug and background checks before I could accept the position in writing.|

      From both company’s HR managers I received snarky replies about it all being “routine” and my “needlessly worrying.” I responded by email that I would be happy to sign a written offer that day if it contained no contingency clause – would they be willing to forward one ASAP? Of course, I got the “we’ll wait for the results and send you a second letter” response – particularly after the VP of one company and the CEO of another probably ripped them a new one for risking losing me as a hire.

  11. Is it Friday yet?

    Why does it seem like more and more employers are willing to accept employees who have been caught in lies? I just don’t get it. I recently left a job because my manager was lying to me on a regular basis about why clients were leaving, why he was missing meetings without even notifying staff… even his own NAME. I went into details about all of my concerns in my exit interview, and the company just made excuses for him. It even came out that he was having a relationship with one of his direct reports (he’s married). Yet, he still works there.

  12. The bad guy

    Fibbing about software on a resume is such a industry specific thing. In my industry, if you could be a competent at it with a little help from uncle google, you put it on your resume. I know for some other industries, that kind of lie to get you in the door would be seen as severely as Allison described here. It is strange that this employee didn’t take it off when applying for a more managerial role though.

    1. The New Wanderer

      The guy didn’t even know what was on there, he’s that bad at maintaining the lie.

  13. Capital Laundry Services

    #1 Check with your HR department. You may have no choice in the matter, and company policy may be that you could be disciplined yourself if you know of the untruths on the resume and do nothing.

  14. Spek

    It’s a pity the employee isn’t stellar at his job – it would be a lot easier to disregard how he got here if he was excellent.

  15. Holly

    I disagree with Alison’s advise in #5 re: background checks if it is a government job. I started a job where they don’t even complete background checks until you’ve worked there MONTHS because it’s so backed up. You’d be really putting yourself in an unhireable position if you insisted to delay your start date until the background check. It would come off as very strange.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch

      That’s an interesting twist.

      All those who I know personally in government positions were never brought on until everything checked out. This means that they had to wait months upon months to have a start date. It may very well depend on the sensitivity of the job at hand though. The whole point of a background check is so that you don’t let a fox into the hen house unknowingly.

      So if you just let someone slide in there for a couple of months then find out they’re a security issue, there could be a ton of damages already done or underway.

      Your setup isn’t standard so it’s hard to really say that it puts you in an unhireable situation.

      Also the flip side is that you are running a huge risk if your background check pops, which can happen if you have a common name. So sure, you’d lose out on that very specific set of jobs but you’re also taking a huge risk yourself by letting them have so much control over your job security in the end.

      1. Holly

        My fault for not specifying – I am not talking about a federal position where you need a security clearance. I’m talking a state or municipal position where it is a general background check and not for security clearance purposes.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch

          That totally makes sense then for sure!

          Then it’s just a box to check off instead in that case, totally makes sense.

      2. Gumby

        I did know someone who was hired by a national lab while her background check was still under way. She did her work then it was immediately classified above her clearance level so she didn’t have the right to see her own work until the clearance came through. So it is done on occasion. It was kind of silly that she couldn’t see her own work, but she also couldn’t see any *other* work above her level which was the main point.

      3. Brett

        I think it was six months after I started for my county government for the background check to officially clear.
        Those checks are not because of sensitive information like federal checks. They were to pretty much to make sure you didn’t have any disqualifying issues (like a serious misdemeanor conviction) and to make sure you have nothing in your background that could embarrass the agency later if the media found out. Legislators pass a lot of dumb laws and ordinances over who can work for state and local government.

    2. Cacwgrl

      I’m not sure government wise, but in all my years supporting Federal, I have never seen someone cleared to start without the notice for the security clearance, unless the position didn’t require one at all, which is extremely rare. A start date doesn’t get set until the intent to award a security clearance has been issued and we coach new hires to not anticipate a start date until that point and don’t quit your job until you have a start date.

      1. Holly

        Sorry, I was unclear. I’m talking state and municipality government positions, and not ones that require security clearance.

    3. E

      Yeah. My background check wasn’t very deep but it wasn’t completed until I was at least 2 months into my gov contracting job.

    4. Engineer Girl

      There’s different levels of checks. Extended checks take months. Confidential checks take days.

      Sometimes the company is willing to put you in a holding tank while you go through the clearance process. (Where you get to do lots of boring work)

    5. Grand Mouse

      I work in a secure building for the government so I needed security clearance. It is common for our clearances to take so long that you start but are teamed with another crew member until you get your own badge. When I was hired it took a month and a half until I was cleared.

    6. Person from the Resume

      Holly clarified her example, but I want to say.

      It varies depending on where you might work and what kind of background investigation or security clearance you need, but people can start jobs, gain access after a small, quick records check in less than 2 weeks, fill out the background investigation paperwork within the first month, and work until they receive the results of their investigation many, many, many months later.

      Not true for all jobs, but that’s many DoD contractors look for people who still have an active clearance because they can’t afford to have someone wait a year or longer before they can actually start working.

    7. lisette

      Yep, I hire for the DoD, and we place people before the background check clears. If it comes back unfavorable after the fact, we have to fire the employee. (We explain this to the candidates.) It is horrible, and I would never take the very jobs I hire for because of that fact!

      (So, I would insist on having a completed background check prior to ever giving notice at a current position, and I wouldn’t care if that made me unhireable – unhireable is better than fireable!.)

    8. Nope, not today....

      I had to pass a BGC for my govt contractor position and when the offer came in with that contingency, I let them know that I would not be putting my notice in on my current position until they had me cleared and an offer in writing with a firm start date and that I also would be giving a 3 week notice, which is unusual here.

      I can’t say they were too happy at first about either, but it worked out in the end… they were able to onboard both me and another person hired a couple weeks later at the same time.

      My husband was burned big time (think- “cross country move” burned, person who hired him didn’t actually have authority to do so and didn’t run any checks, etc) so not waiting for a firm offer w/o contingencies was not optional.

  16. The Man, Becky Lynch

    We have always let everyone know when someone calls in and won’t be at work for the day. There are a few reasons.

    One we want to know not to waste time waiting for Jane to come in today, some people would assume a dark station means you’re going to have a late start and that they should just check back later on.

    Two is so that we can know to immediately ask the second person in the chain about things that come up, instead of wasting our time emailing you, getting the out of office response and then having to reach out to Nancy who handles these requests when you’re out.

    Three, if there was an emergency and we had to evacuate, we know how many the head count should be. Yes, ideally your supervisor would be there and give the exact head count for their team/department. But what if that day your supervisor was missing or incapacitated in the emergency situation? So instead of telling the response team that “Jane Smith’s Supervisor” is MIA and that there is one person in there, we’re now stuck seeing that Jane Smith is not here either, so that’s 2 people they’re dispatched to find…only to find out that Jane Smith is not actually here today. When everyone knows, then there is more knowledge base to draw from.

    A privacy issue would be if there was additional information tacked on such as “Jane Smith has the trickling poohs today and will not be in today.” but just a “Jane Smith is out today.” is not private information.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen

      “has the trickling poohs today” is a wonderful turn of phrase, thank you!

      1. Flash Bristow

        I actually read it as the giggling poohs and imagined her dressed up with furry ears and a red vest and jar of hunny, while giggling as she licked her sticky fingers.

        Maybe I should go to bed.

        [Although for the other kind I believe it’s spelt poo, hence maybe misreading!]

  17. Ella

    Re: the lying on a resume, I personally would differentiate between lies and exaggerations, and I can’t tell which is at play here. If the person is outright lying about a degree or position they held, that would be instantly fireable to me barring a very compelling explanation. If they are just exaggerating their skillset or experience with a particular program (ie: saying experienced with javascript when they actually just have a passing familiarity or have edited other people’s javascript in the past but haven’t done a lot of original work in it) I’d care less, unless it was actively impacting their ability to complete their job requirements.

  18. Engineer Girl

    I have no tolerance for resume liars and enhancers. We talked about this in another thread, but women and POC are menu times accused of fabricating parts of their resume if they have any significant achievement. Here’s the example where the male gets the benefit of the doubt.

    And this wasn’t just enhancing:

    I discovered glaring errors on his resume. He has oversold his previous job experience, listed software and systems he has no actual knowledge of, and when questioned directly about some parts of his resume (education, previous positions), he couldn’t even come up with a very good lie.

    Glaring errors. Software where he had no knowledge.

    Oh, and when questioned?

    When I asked him why he seemed to have some discrepancies on his resume, he shrugged and told him that his brother had helped him write it.

    This is the equivalent of. “The dog ate my homework”.

    This isn’t one part of the resume that was deceitful, but of several.

    If he tells you he ran all the tests, can you trust him? If he followed all the protocols can you trust him? Did he really review his work? Did he lock down the test environment?

    It’s been my experience that pull these stunts do poor quality work in all areas. It’s a general sloppiness of life.

    Fire him for cause. He doesn’t get to keep his job just because the lies were missed initially.

    1. MistOrMister

      I had a new coworker once who supposedly had 14 years of experience in our field. When they sat him with me for training, it was clear he didn’t know even the most basic things. Rumors went around later that he had worked in his previous firm’s mailroom and lied about his experience. It still boggles my mind that not only was he kept on but he was later promoted over more skilled people. And said people were expected to work with no supervision because it was understood that he didn’t know what he was doing.

  19. MistOrMister

    I read the title as “My empoyee died on his resume” and my eyes popped out my head as I considered 1) how that is even possible and 2) what in the world the letter could say and 3) what the advice would be.

    1. KayEss

      I’m imagining a scenario where a coroner gets an applicant for an assistant who lists having been declared dead and waking up in a morgue as “experience.”

    2. boo bot

      2007-2009 Vice-President of Business Division, Corporate Industries, Inc.
      2009-2014 President of Regional Department, Industrial Corporation, LLC
      2015-2018 Dead
      2019-present Director of Regional Division Business, Industry Limited Corp.

  20. Gidget

    I would agree with Alison’s sentiment about trustworthiness. I had a supervisor who greatly exaggerated his knowledge on his resume, and threw out buzzwords in his interview despite actually knowing the background, which netted him a position. Once he was in the position he lied about stupid things, showed he lacked knowledge, and took credit for things he didn’t do; it made those of us he supervised look very bad.

    If this person lied on their resume, they probably don’t see a problem lying in other places.

  21. HRAwry

    I would say this is a concern – the employee clearly does not see an issue with their actions and I would question their integrity in this situation and any situations moving forward.

  22. BigRedGum

    #1 makes me super uncomfortable because i know So Many People who have lied on their resume & then basically just you tubed their way through learning it.

    including me.

  23. Person from the Resume

    Fire the guy who lied on his resume.

    If I am reading it right, the guy lied on the resume he submitted for an internal job? This isn’t that he guy lied on the resume that got him hired some time ago and we just caught on to the lies (which is fireable if you choose to pursue and maybe you should because now you know the guy not only at best competent at his job and also a liar). He seems to have lied on a new resume he submitted to apply for the internal job. No qualms at lying to current employers? Fire the guy.

    1. Kella

      This was my take too. It sounds like it’s not that this manager happened upon his old resume and realized there were lies on it, but that he was given a *new* resume that was full of lies. It’s likely he also lied to get his current job but we don’t know how much.

      Lying to a current employer, doing it badly, and then showing no shame when caught, would be deal breakers for me as an employer. Even if he’d been given advice that you’re supposed to “round up” or “exaggerate” on your resume, I think a lot of people would still feel embarrassed if they were called on the fact that they aren’t as good as their resume says they are. But this guy responded like it was totally normal that large sections were made up and THAT is a big red flag, inexperienced or not.

  24. Mockingbird 2

    #4: I had to use a wheelchair for a few months as a middle schooler. The adults around me were incredibly infantilising about it. Although I was perfectly capable of wheeling myself around my teacher decided SHE needed to push me everywhere for “safety”. My friends and I decided that the brakes on my wheelchair were faulty and only they knew how to undo them. So I at least got that changed to my friends being allowed to push me ;) Now, not that I advise acting like a 12 year old but I’d personally be tempted to make my boss my personal gofer if I wasn’t “allowed” to get up from my desk. Speaking to HR is probably the better idea lol! I hope this one was resolved well!

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch

      Now I’m imagining the OP’s boss demanding that she carry the OP to and from the restroom in lieu of a cane.

      I’m a butthead so my response would be “Oh the cane is too much of a safety hazard for you? Shall I just pull myself along the carpet to the restroom when I need to use the potty? Or shall we use a bedpan setup?”

      I cannot wrap my head around thinking a cane of all things was a safety hazard. It’s literally the opposite, they’re used to give the user the support they are lacking in the body. I see them in use every single day, everywhere you go.

      This is only a hazard if your work space includes dangerous items that may be knocked over or such!

      1. MistOrMister

        I know someone that uses a cane. They really need a walker, but won’t use one for vanity reasons (just to clarify, I know this for a fact, I am not making assumptions or judgments). In that case the cane is a bit of a liability because it’s not enough to really keep the person stable and upright reliably and safely. While that doesn’t appear to be what’s going on in OP’s case, it’s about the only time I could understand an employer saying they were uncomfortable with cane usage.

        I wonder would OP consider using a walker – not to make the boss happy, but just for possible comfort. I had one after surgery and it was fabulous. I would take a walker over a cane any day….especially one that has the built in seat!!! But, of course, I realize that not everyone shares my deep abiding love for walkers.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch

          I do see your point but when it comes to accommodating for disabilities, it’s better to stand your ground and demand the respect you’re owed to choose what device is best for your condition.

          She also has a doctor’s note involved. So if the doctor says a cane is enough and she’s cleared to do her job otherwise, then they really need to back off and not fuss.

          Worker’s comp liability is minimal in an office setting anyways. They need to make their office cane friendly if it’s not already.

        2. Flash Bristow

          How would you carry things? I doubt op would want to fill a backpack just to go ten metres to the photocopier.

          (Spoken as a crutch user, and a wheelchair user out of the house. I’ve commented separately below.)

          1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego

            Depends on the model. My grandfather had one with a built-in seat that had a little storage compartment under it, and I’ve seen people with various pockets etc. on theirs. I’d love it if I could convince my aunt to use one because she has real trouble walking.

            However, this is all a deviation from the issue at hand. The boss is being incredibly weird and infantilizing.

          2. The Man, Becky Lynch

            The walkers are the ones with the seats on them, so that a person can turn around and sit down when they need to rest without having to look for a place. So in theory you could put paperwork on the bench seat or add a basket to it but it’s still pretty over the top to me and think that nobody should be trying to find another accommodation when the one the LW had [their cane] worked just fine for their situation!

          3. MistOrMister

            I had a bag that I hung from mine. I found it helpful because it freed up my hands at a time where I was in a lot of pain and had no stamina (thanks 4 hour long surgery!!!) and having to carry things along with trying to stay upright was a nightmare. I liked it better than dealing with crutches. I’ve never used a cane other than just messing around with one as a kid, so O have no idea how that would compare.

  25. Rusty Shackelford

    #4 is one of those where you want to say “Great! Can you just put that in writing, to make sure I don’t misunderstand what you’re telling me to do?”

  26. 4Sina

    I am wondering, in LW 2’s case, if one of LW’s team members went to the boss with concerns about this incredibly informal system of letting your team know you’re out. I wasn’t completely clear on the hierarchy – if they manage others, then they deserve to know. If not, and LW is part of the team, and the boss does this for other employees when they are out as well, it seems like a non-issue. It’s only weird if the boss does this specifically for LW.

  27. Goose Lavel

    If someone’s willing to lie on their resume, no matter how small, be ready for them to lie on the job with regards to data collection and/or information reporting. This can really Fubar your company.
    I worked at a medical device company and one of the technicians was lying during device validation testing that caused a recall with the FDA. They were not collecting data on one section of the test, and then went back and filled it in at the end of testing and was caught lying about it.
    A company had to build more devices, retest them completely and resubmit data to the FDA. Caused six months delay in device approval and almost shut the company down.

  28. StaceyIzMe

    Lying on a resume usually splits into two categories. In the less serious instance, a claim of skill or exposure to a certain type of work goes a little beyond what the actual narrative would report. It’s still egregious, but generally a debatable point. In the more serious instance, one or more full-on points of expertise or experience were created out of whole cloth. These are more serious, since the company relies on candidates to represent their prior work in such a way that it’s substantially accurate. That’s not only an offense for which you can be fired, it’s one for which the perpetrator should be immediately fired. It’s not a question of the quality of their work, currently. It’s a question of your ability to rely on them to tell you the plain truth about matters of importance, like whether they actually know how that software works or whether they have real experience leading a team of creatives through a high stakes design process. I’d give a side-eye to anyone inclined to let that kind of misrepresentation go. Your mileage may vary.

  29. Flash Bristow

    argh, the manager being uncomfortable with OP using a cane…

    I have a long-term disability and began using a crutch at work. They already had a wheelchair user in my team so I figured all is cool. But instead my manager told me I could/should work from home a couple of days a week, wasn’t that great?

    No. I *could* do the work from home, but I enjoyed the workplace, I often stayed over with my partner nearby so I would sometimes have had to commute home rather than to work…

    Manager hadn’t thought to ask *me* about my needs at all… actually, a subsequent employer arranged for me to arrive and leave an hour later to avoid a busy commute, which was kind, but ASK me how to help if you care!

    I had to explain that while it was nice of him to notice(!) I was fine as I was in the office and I’d let him know if that changed.

    So I really feel for that OP. I hope their situation has improved since they wrote in.

  30. Observer

    #1, in addition to what was already said, this is clearly someone who will NOT take responsibility for their work. I mean “I dunno, my brother wrote the resume” is kind of jaw dropping. You didn’t know what was on the resume? Your bother held a gun to your head and made you submit it exactly as he wrote it, without looking at it?

    1. jDC

      I thought this too. So he helped him? And…. I’d give him a little credit if he said …and I must have missed that he put in X, I’m sorry.

    2. Hiring Mgr

      Yeah, I was all for letting it slide if it was just some exaggerating but that’s a pretty lame response..

  31. New Jack Karyn

    LW2: As someone above wrote: talk to HR. See what your imperatives are, and your limitations. If you have to fire him, then you’re set. But if you may not fire him, or if it’s your option, have the talk Alison suggested. Make sure he knows this is a very big deal. A little fudging here and there is one thing, but wholesale lying is not.

    Would it be relatively easy to fill his position with a new hire?

  32. Gary

    Your new employee’s resume is a *lie*? How many other (or perhaps better) qualified people didn’t get an interview because of this? What else does he lie about? You can hire skills, you can hire knowledge, but you can’t hire trust. When he calls in sick, will you believe him? When his mother dies, will you accept this or will you google funeral information. Why does he still work for you?

  33. just trying to help

    #1 – if OP does not want to go the firing route, establishing a knowledge and education plan for the employee to bring his skills up to the level of the resume might be recommended. Many companies require annual training anyway, so this might benefit everyone.

  34. Champagne_Dreams

    #5: Stick to your guns 100%. I run my company’s background checks nationwide and we have a major facility in a county where their entire computer system went down. We were unable to pull any criminal records on anyone who had lived in that county. For EIGHT WEEKS. The folks who had already put in notice at their old employer, and were now without a paycheck waiting on us, were beside themselves. But there was nothing to be done. The records were unobtainable, and we have strict rules that no one can start work until criminal background is clear (cross over with both government & health care).

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