the new hire who showed up is not the same person we interviewed

A reader writes:

This is a situation currently unfolding at my husband’s office so I’m a very amused bystander and thought I’d get your opinion on this craziness.

My husband works in IT and is on the leadership team at a midsized private company. He was part of a panel that recently interviewed a number of folks for an open position on his team. They are entirely remote. They had a few candidates for a first and second round, and had one make it to a third final round before an offer. “John” accepted the offer and started last week!

Except … it’s not the John my husband remembers. My husband was confused and said the following things were odd:

– John has different hair and now wears glasses.

– John is talking extensively about working in a garage because his three children and wife are home. In the interview, he made references to being single and was visibly in an indoor desk area.

– John can’t answer a number of questions that they previously discussed in the interview, things pretty pivotal to the position.

– Husband describes John as being aloof and pretty timid whereas John was confident and articulate when they interviewed him.

He is convinced this is not the person they hired. I agreed that all those things taken together make this very odd but each one could have a valid explanation. I told him the most likely explanation is the hiring committee simply mixed up the candidates (or HR did) and the wrong John was offered and accepted. He agreed but said since only one candidate made it to the third round, that is really unlikely (other candidates had already been sent rejections before the third round even occurred). He’s confident they couldn’t have been mixed up.

All of this is a bit moot as my husband is in his notice period and will be moving to a new company in a few weeks … but he feels like he is going crazy. So my question is … is this a thing?! In a now mostly virtual world, are people perhaps paying people to conduct interviews for them?!?

The situation is actively unfolding so I’m sure I’ll have updates. The less mature side of me wants him to start planting fake references to the interview conversations they had to see if John bites, but I digress.

After receiving this letter, I got updates. Many updates (probably because I greeted each one enthusiastically and requested more)! So let’s do those first and then get to the question.

Update 1

11:57 am

A very quick update!

My husband just came out of his office and said he has a text from his boss “Holly” on his personal cell because she didn’t want it on the company network. She wants to know if he thinks John is acting a lot different than the John they hired. He responded and told her all of his suspicions with the caveat that he didn’t want to accuse him of anything but something is very off. She too thinks it’s unlikely candidates were mixed up because she has his resume and John claims all the same work history/credentials as the John they interviewed.

They are on a call with HR as I type this. Unclear if they are working out an error by the hiring committee /HR or unraveling fraud. More to come.

Alas, my planting fake call-backs idea had no time to come to fruition.

Update 2

12:25 pm

Husband just got off a call with Holly, their HR business partner, and the internal recruiter who sent the offer. They confirmed the right candidate was offered a job and agreed many things were odd. (Another oddity revealed on that phone call … John didn’t know who Holly was; she had to reintroduce herself and he asked about her role … Holly was on two of three rounds of interviews and they extensively reviewed their org chart and her role.)

They are currently speaking with their legal team to discuss options and when to bring John into the mix to try to explain.

Update 3

1:43 pm

It’s definitely been a crazy morning! They are waiting to hear back from legal — I think they are weighing whether they confront John and let him try to explain or let him go anyway. He either lied about his identity or lied about his experience since he’s unable to speak about the basics of the job now so regardless it seems like he will be gone. I will keep you updated on what he learns next!

Husband in a rabbit hole of research now and apparently this fake interviewing is a thing (the job in question is a mulesoft architect). Bizarre!

Update 4

3:13 pm

They heard back from legal … who are less than thrilled about the situation! They approved HR to have a conversation with John regarding what has been reported (more in the vein of “there’s been some concerns about performance and you overselling abilities” and less of the We Think You Are a Liar route).

In the meantime, legal approved security to put a trace on John’s computer to review if there have been outside messages or if his work is being completed with outside help or on a different computer altogether. My husband said the general consensus among the group on the call is that the talk with HR is going to send up a quick red flag and John is likely to resign claiming a poor fit rather than get caught committing or admitting fraud.

Hopefully another fun update soon! My husband is getting sick of me sitting against his office door eavesdropping :)

Update 5

5:07 pm

I think my last update for a while: as soon as HR got on the call with him, before they could get through their first question, John said the words “I quit” and hung up the calls. He has since been unreachable!!

So good riddance John. Their security teams are trying to discover what all he downloaded, if they’ll be able to get their equipment back, is John really his real name, etc. !!

Incredibly bizarre situation. Hoping it was a failed case of trying to get a job and not trying to steal company info but who knows — they may never!

First, thank you for this saga, which I found highly diverting.

So yeah, in response to whether this is a thing … as your husband found, the internet claims it’s a thing, particularly in IT jobs and largely because of the increase in virtual interviewing. The idea is that one person interviews and another takes the job, or one person interviews while another person feeds them answers. You could short-circuit the first category by having people show I.D. at the start of virtual interviews, but the second category is harder and you’d need to address it by being forthright and direct if the person you hire doesn’t seem to have the skills they appeared to have in the interview … which is something good managers should do regardless, but it’s easy to fall into thinking maybe the person is just still adjusting to the role and then suddenly you’re two months in with someone who was never going to be able to do the job because they Cyrano de Bergerac’d their interview.

Read a final update to this letter here.  

{ 868 comments… read them below }

  1. Katie Porter's Whiteboard*

    Has anyone heard of people hiring others to take interviews for them? In the age of virtual interviews, it wouldn’t surprise me but I’ve never heard of anything getting this far!

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Someone I know told me he did this in a super nonchalant way, like, “Oh, I’m great, I just found someone to take my exam for me so it’s a good day.” Said his brother had done it too. He’s a college graduate (this was a certification exam) so I was REALLY surprised (his university definitely takes cheating seriously) and I questioned him.

        So yeah, I’m not shocked. I am surprised, because you’re most likely going to be discovered, but…

        1. sadnotbad*

          If it’s a field where he’s responsible for someone’s wellbeing, I would absolutely call the college and report that.

          1. INFJedi*

            Eh… I would report it anyway. Whether it is a political / social / communication science degree or a medical / law / whatever else degree.

            It is one thing to ask for help or accommodations when doing an examination (whether it is written or oral), but sending someone else or pretending to be someone else? F*ck no!

            1. Jasper*

              It sounds to me like one of the millions of IT certs — CCNA, CNA, MCSA, A+, insert your own alphabet soup. Those things have very little to do with actual job performance. Not that I’d get someone else to do mine, to be sure, but the odds that it would ever affect anyone are very low.

              1. Berkeleyfarm*

                Back at the turn of the century when I was looking at MCSE cert classes, there were DEFINITELY outfits that would take the test for you.

                At the time it sort of was “looks good on paper” as I knew a number of totally clueless MCSEs but a lot of places did want the paper.

          2. Hanah*

            Please don’t tell my old boss about this. He was super paranoid about this exact situation and went to extremes to prevent it.

        2. Certified IT Guy*

          It is very common in the IT certification test world to cheat in various ways. The most common is that people take the exam and memorize the questions they saw. The questions are then compiled and published. Some have tried to have someone else take the exam for them, but the testing companies have done a lot of work to make that hard (multiple IDs required to take the test). The testing companies require you to go to a testing center and you take nothing in to your exam with you and you under video surveillance the whole time.

          Certification tests typically pull the questions for a given exam from a pool of questions. A normal test is maybe 50 questions from a pool of 200 questions. If you memorize the answers to all 200 questions you can pass the test without really knowing the subject.

          1. Nanani*

            Sounds like they could avoid this by designing tests that require to actually demonstrate knowledge, rather than regurgitate memorization.

            That way if you have answers to 50 or 200 questions ready to go, it would just mean you know the material.

            1. Jasper*

              Yeah, but a) that would make for a very that people wouldn’t want to do because it’s too hard, and b) then you don’t make any money off it.

              Something like CCIE is a very high level cert that cannot be gamed, involving a literal day long examination faffing around with actual hardware. But it costs a *lot* and the technique just doesn’t scale to low level certs.

            2. LinuxSystemsGuy*

              For what it’s worth, the certs that are highly regurgitation based are much less well respected than the ones that are more practical and problem based. Certs like the CCIE (mentioned by Jasper), and RHCE have a lot more clout than say, the Security+ Certification. The first two are highly practical and display useful skills, the third… not so much.

              A lot of these test seem to mostly exist so that big companies and the government can point at something and say “Look! Our people know what a “computer security” is!”

              1. Jasper*

                And to tick boxes on HR recruitment forms, yup. Whether you can actually do the job is almost orthogonal to it, but not quite.

          2. Emma*

            My certified pharmacy technician test was like that. I had to remove all metal from my body – even my hair clip! – and was only allowed to take my ID and the key to the locker they gave me into the room. Additionally, I had to show ID and have my palm scanned when checking in, then again when entering the test room, even though these two things took place in sight of each other. And this was YEARS ago – over a decade at a minimum.

            1. Sorrischian*

              Can’t speak for pharmacy tech, but my exam for molecular biology tech certification had all those same precautions as of last December – everything in a locker, palm scan twice over, constant audio-video surveillance in the testing room. I wasn’t even allowed to stand up from my station when I was done, I had to raise my hand and let a proctor come escort me out of the room.

              1. JustaTech*

                When I took the GRE (again!) about a decade ago it was the most intrusive “security” experience of my life – scanned, wanded, everything out of your pockets, constant “where is you cell phone?!” and then when I took off my cardigan (because I had gotten too warm) I was promptly admonished that I either had to put it back on or go put it in my locker, and they wouldn’t stop the exam clock for me to do that.

                I don’t know how I would cheat by draping my sweater over my chair, but ok, sure, whatever.

          3. The OTHER Other*

            Exams for securities licenses take pretty extreme measures. Exams are at a secure facility with many cameras, you must put everything but your ID into a locker in the lobby, you are fingerprinted, photographed, and a proctor signs that they matched you to your ID. You cannot bring anything into the room except the key to the locker—not your car keys, wallet, watch, jacket, or pencil. You have to turn out your pockets, you are frisked, your glasses are examined to make sure they do not have cameras. They give you 2 pencils, a calculator, and several pieces of scratch paper which are colored and numbered and collected at the end of the test. If you have to go to the bathroom, you have to sign in and out and the whole process is repeated on re-entry.

            I have seen people taking exams for nursing, engineering, and air traffic control in the same place, and it probably handles many other professional exams also.

            It sounds extreme, but would you want someone controlling air traffic or administering drugs to patients to be people that hired stand-ins to take the exams for them?

            1. Jovigirl*

              There was a news crew on site doing a story on this the day I took my series 7 exam. A bunch of people were arrested for this exact scam. They made a business out of taking securities exams for other people.

              1. Anonymous4*

                Holy crap! This is all just crazy, to me. I have some certifications that are important to my job, but I never considered hiring someone to get them for me.

                And even if I would, or if I could, what good would that do me? The first time I was asked to discombobulate the thermadynastel and I started stammering and fumbling, the gig would be up.

                1. Fran Fine*

                  Not necessarily. I know a lot of people who work in high level positions at my tech company that seem to have no idea what they’re doing. They’re good at delegating to others who do, lol.

                2. Alice's Rabbit*

                  To be clear, I am against cheating in all forms. But the only way I could see this working is if the person in question has severe test anxiety. Meaning they know the material, but get really nervous about tests and flunk, despite being able to do the work perfectly.
                  That’s it. Any other reason would have to get caught at some point.

            2. Boof*

              I hate the high stales testing / certification bloat that often has little bearing on actual performance, just ability to take tests. But i agree the ethical violation of cheating would make me think that person should not be in a position of trust/authority!

            3. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

              I haaaate these testing situations so much! I remember this from when I took the GRE quite a few years back. I have dysgraphia and some minor motor control and working memory issues, so I am going to need a special pencil (I need a cushion to make it a little bigger so I have more control) and probably more scratch paper than most people will since I both write bigger AND need to write more stuff down to compensate for the memory stuff. (I also probably need to wear a hat with a brim to block overhead light glare.)

              I’m fine with them supplying me with all of this stuff so they know I’m not bringing in test answers on them (although I wouldn’t want a hat someone else had worn previously), but they are generally not set up to supply things for people who need even slightly non-standard materials so it’s such a ridiculous struggle to get testing accommodations that would be a non-issue in any actual job I might possibly have. This is one reason I haven’t bothered to take some exams that might broaden my job prospects – I am just not going to go through all of that stress, nonsense, and arguments if I don’t absolutely have to.

              1. rudster*

                Ugh, tell me about it. My daughter took the SAT this year. She was diagnosed with dyslexia at age 9, confirmed every year since with follow-up assessments since, most recently last year, she’s had our country’s equivalent of a 529 plan in place for 8 years, gets accommodation in school, and despite all the documentation the College Board *still* denied her request for a little extra time on the SAT. I guess if I had 15 grand to spare and Rick Singer was still in business, she would have gotten double-time no problem… Predictably, she ran out of time and her score was terrible, but fortunately virtually no schools are requiring them since the pandemic started. Though I wonder how that works in practice, since they’ve got to figure that if your score was good, you’d have submitted it, and draw the obvious conclusions from the fact that you haven’t.

                1. YTEACH*

                  The absence of an SAT score isn’t necessarily the end of your daughter’s college hopes at her campus of choice. The fact that she has, basically, a 529 and you can share the plan at the appropriate time, explains the missing test to some degree. She can always talk about this experience in one of her college essays. Yet one more way people mess things up for those of who are not gaming the system.

              2. People now, People now.*

                There is thing thing in U.S. federal law called ADA: Americans with Disabilities Act.
                If you think any rights or protections of yours under that Act were violated, I would look into “being made whole” to put it in sort of legal terms. More clearly, sue them.

            4. Elenna*

              Actuarial science exams are similar (at least where I am). I haven’t been fingerprinted for those, but almost everything else matches – you get there and they check ID, ask you to put absolutely everything away in a locker, there’s a scan with those metal-detecting wands like at the airport, they check glasses, and you have to turn out your pockets and roll up sleeves/pant hems. You’re only allowed to use the pencils and scratch paper they provide, which must be returned at the end. The exams I took did allow you to use your own calculator, but you have to take it out of the case and they erase the calculator’s memory beforehand.

              It may not be as high stakes as nursing or air traffic control (maybe that’s why the precautions are slightly less), but the insurance industry definitely takes security seriously.

              1. Fran Fine*

                but the insurance industry definitely takes security seriously.

                Sure do. I’ve taken many insurance certification/designation exams in the P&C sphere, and even when taking the exams at my company’s testing site, we were watched like hawks and had to show ID that was then verified against employee records.

            5. Who Plays Backgammon?*

              Also, if you need kleenex, you are allowed to take two from their box when you sign in. If you need more, they instruct you to bring the used ones out to them.

              1. Dragon_dreamer*

                I assume that each of those rules was implemented because someone actually tried that tactic and was caught. The stories those examiners could probably tell!

            6. StitchIsMySpiritAnimal*

              Bar exam (required to practice law) was the same way, administered in person but on our own laptops. We had to get them certified before taking the exam and couldn’t bring any plug ins like a mouse. Law can be lucrative, but if you’re going to hack a wireless mouse to somehow provide a cheat sheet in a proctored exam, you’d undoubtedly make more money as a computer engineer. There were prohibitions against bringing ear plugs, water bottles, or any jacket or sweater that had a hood. The bathroom was in the examination room and monitored; we had to sign in and out and could not take anything in with us. I do mean ANYTHING – I had my period and could not take supplies with me. They supplied pads and tampons in the bathroom that were admittedly better than the ones I use, but come on. How desperate do you need to be to make a crib sheet on your sanitary napkin?

          4. tamarack and fireweed*

            I’m in no way for cheating, but when I was a student (in physics!) it was one of the functions of the student club to collect reports from exams (which were at the time all oral) and make them available to the next generation of exam takers. It was a good way to get a feeling for the flavor of the exam to expect – atmosphere, recurring themes, “X really wants you to know formula Y by heart” and the like – and it never occurred to me that anyone would object. The professors were largely supportive, except for a few cranks.

            1. AcademiaNut*

              At my university there was a pool of old exams in the library that could be checked out and copied. It was a standard way to study – even if you knew the material well, knowing the style of exam and type of question makes a big difference. The annoying ones were the tests where the only way to do well was to memorize previous exams.

              But there, part of the professors’ job was to create exams, and the profs and TAs to mark them. So you could make a three hour problem set based exam with new questions, and have them marked, or have a pool of 1000’s of multiple choice exams. For general certification exams, you would need to hire people to make new exams each year, and you would need to mark them by hand (and pay someone to do it), rather than feed them through a scantron.

              1. Anonymous4*

                When I took calculus, the tests were lifted bodily from the homework — which was lavishly assigned every class period. At first I was highly uncomfortable with the notion, but I thought about it and I decided that it wasn’t a bad idea. If you did the homework, and you understood the processes, you had learned the subject.

                And knowing that you were likely to be looking at that problem again meant that (motivated) students were going to be working the dog out of those problems and asking lots of questions about them in class.

            2. Burger Bob*

              I don’t see any problem with this provided that the professor changes up the test questions each year. When you’re not just memorizing exact answers, last year’s test can function as a good practice test to show you what areas you still need to study better. We used to do this for my immunology class in pharmacy school, and the professor was very supportive (with the caveat that we shouldn’t use tests from more than a couple years ago, because the field was constantly learning new things and those test answers might be outdated).

              It’s only a problem when the test doesn’t change much year to year (if at all) and you’re just memorizing answers without having any working knowledge of the material.

              1. tamarack and fireweed*

                It’s an oral exam. Each one is theoretically unique. But in practice of course each professor has a pool of questions in mind that he (all he, at the time) mixes and matches. The format back then really privileged being able to explain the theory behind the equations and the concepts behind the experiments. This said, every prof had usually some sort of quirk, pet topic, pet peeve, that it was useful to know.

            3. Emmy Noether*

              It’s not cheating if everyone is aware that old exams are available.

              When I took my patent attorney certification, old exams were actually provided by the patent office itself (so the org doing the testing!). It was *the* recommended way to study. We were also allowed to take anything we wanted into the exam, except things that could communicate with the outside. Of course, they had to make a whole new exam each year, and it was quite expensive to take.

              I much prefer this type of exam because I refuse to memorize. That’s part of why I studied physics – memorizing is unnecessary.

              1. Leo S*

                I know things have changed a lot since then, but when I took the same test, people were allowed to bring in almost anything – I remember people bringing in cubicle walls with notes pinned on them, 60 ft extension cords for the lamps they brought in, luggage carriers with custom-indexed MPEPs… then again, that test was largely about being able to quickly find answers in the days before everything was searchable with a computer. I mostly remember having to instantly recognize US postal holidays and understand the rules regarding the impact on partial faxes on filing dates…

                1. armchairexpert*

                  This is such a hilarious visual. I do remember law exams where some students would stagger in with a pile of textbooks and printed out material, and you just kind of knew that they would struggle (as compared to those who came in with a few index cards and a good memory). Extension cords! Lamps! I’m envisioning, like, a sofa!

                2. JJ Bittenbinder*

                  @armchair expert, I’m imagining Tom Haverford in his Skymall-blinged tent on Parks and Rec season 3 ep 8.

          5. Certification Means Nothing (A+ Certified)*

            You don’t even need to memorize the answers. These things are standard multiple choice tests. You just need to memorize the process, and a little light reading of the material will let you get a passing grade on any of them. I have quite a few of these certs; I know how these tests work.

            Honestly, I wouldn’t want to hire anyone who actually cheated on a cert test, not because they cheated, but because they were too stupid to pass a test that doesn’t even require you to understand the material in it. I wouldn’t hire a tech cert cheat to wash dishes.

            In fact, finding out who cheated on their cert test is probably the only good use for any of these certs.

      2. anonymouse for this*

        Yup – someone I know told me how he had another person take his driving test for him a few years ago in my home country. He couldn’t see what the problem was. Knowing that about him actually explains a few things he’s done at work which he got away with because “oops he didn’t know it was a problem”. I never believed his excuses at the time and that was before I knew this about him.

      3. Taco Bell Job Fair*

        My dad this for a family friend back in the 70s when ID checking was not so strict. It was some kind of math test to do construction or something.

    1. Theycallmeher*

      I have seen a few people on Blind asking if it’s possible to get away with this since they were considering it. They were largely told that it’s a terrible idea and most likely they would be caught.

      1. Hazel*

        Right? If the actual person who gets hired can’t actually do the job, why would they want it? They must know they won’t last long in a role they’re not qualified for. I don’t understand how this scenario is supposed to help anyone.

        1. MK*

          This. The only case I can see this working is if the candidate can do the work, but sucks at interviews, and even then it would be more productive to practice your interview skills than engage in this bizarre con.

        2. FrenchCusser*

          I can see it as an act of desperation – a few weeks at a well-paying job can carry you for months if you’re frugal.

          1. Anonymous4*

            Could be he hadn’t gotten any further than “get hired.”

            Could also be that he’s pulled that scam repeatedly in the past, and has decided that it beats working.

            1. Bob*

              Everyone seems to forget that some positions come with a significant sign-in bonus. Often tens of thousands of dollars. If you pull this up a few times a year, you can earn a decent living by only working a few weeks for the whole year.

              1. Dee*

                Except most places also have a “you need to work here X months or you have to pay back the entire signing bonus” clause.

        3. DJ Abbott*

          Back in ‘99 I was an assistant on a floor of computer programmers. They were always hiring more, and it wasn’t unusual for a new one to be gone in a few days because they had lied about their programming skills and it became obvious right away.

          1. L'etrangere*

            I left a job in the 90s, then heard from the friends left behind an insane story about a pack of Indian programmers who did something similar a while later. They’d get a competent guy to interview, then slip in some other guy to do the job. The reasoning apparently was that the white guys in charge wouldn’t be able to tell one Indian from another. And by and large it worked. But the one competent guy who worked there had to try to patch things up as needed, more and more frantically as their numbers increased, and got totally burnt out and ended up quitting. That’s when the scheme was discovered. Then it ended even worse, as the one guy who owned the consulting company and had the contract for all of them decided to skip the country with 3+ months salary for all of them. And then they all got deported. So much for saving money on salaries..

        4. Nashville*

          Might be they only wanted to get the job long enough to get fired from it. In my state (and others, I’m sure) you only qualify to draw unemployment if you were involuntarily terminated (fired or laid off) from a job; voluntary resignations don’t qualify. So an entire cottage industry has arisen of people who draw unemployment as long as they can, then get a job just long enough to get fired from it and restart the clock on their unemployment qualification.

        5. Robert H Dozier*

          access to the company computers is one good reason to get the job. Even a short term job could result in material to sell.

      2. kiki*

        Getting hired at a job you can’t do well sounds wildly stressful to me! Even if the plan “works” and you’re hired, you don’t get to keep the job indefinitely regardless of performance. Unless an employer’s interview process is WILDLY out of sync with the demands of the job, doing this is just setting yourself up for a stressful 1-4 weeks at a job

        1. Remich*

          Unfortunately a lot of software engineering interviews are questionably related to the actual on-the-job duties. It is *very* possible to be an excellent engineer and also terrible at software engineering interviews.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            This. Most “coding tests” have zero to do with the job, and are just there to see if they had the same college classes as the interviewer and can still regurgitate the answers.

            I usually do horrible on those, since I’m self taught and don’t speak university trained geek.

            1. pink leprechaun*

              My boss finally let me design a test for our candidates (data analysis) and I made it DIRECTLY related to the exact same skills and (fake) data the person would be working with on a daily basis. I can’t imagine wasting time on some stupid test that doesn’t tell you anything about whether they can do the job!!

              1. Carrigan*

                I do prefer your test over the common general Comp Sci stuff, but is yours more specific to that exact position? General Comp Sci challenges are to see if there’s a solid understanding of the fundamentals which are often more complex and difficult. That said, knowing something difficult doesn’t make someone better at their job.

                Now that I think about it, the last interview I hosted was a simple Vue.js front-end position and I just gave the candidates a sandbox version of the last couple features I made to see if they could make them. Worked!

          2. Owler*

            That’s surprising. Most of the software companies I know of typically pull code that is similar to what they are actually working on. Sometimes it’s even a problem they’ve already solved so they can see how the engineer would figure it out on their own.

        2. MAC*

          I totally agree — even getting hired at a job you CAN do well can be wildly stressful at first, I can’t imagine trying to fake it in a role I wasn’t at least somewhat qualified for!

      3. Nanani*

        People seeing “get the job” as a goal and forgetting all about the part where then they have to -do that job-.
        Kinda like faking your entrance materials to a school and then realizing you have to actually take classes that you aren’t prepared for.

        1. Dragon*

          I never witnessed it, but a former colleague told me that a staffing agency fed answers to their temps so they could pass the knowledge tests our firm required before hiring anyone.

          However, said temps were quickly busted when they couldn’t apply that knowledge on the job. I don’t know what either they or the agency thought they were accomplishing.

          1. Sel*

            I imagine the agency gets a commission for placing a candidate. If the candidate washes out on the first day, the argument would go that it’s not the agency’s problem…

            1. Florian*

              Nowadays a lot of companies don’t pay recruiters until a candidate has passed their probation, to avoid this exact problem.

            2. Aitch Arr*

              That’s why there’s a clause in the contract that if the hire leaves within a certain period of time (either voluntarily or not), the fee is refunded either wholly or partially.

        2. Timbert Timbert*

          Most white collar jobs that require faking like this are easy; the interview is the hardest part.

          1. pancakes*

            Like being a litigation associate in a law firm? No. This is an enormous and under-considered generalization.

    2. WFH is all I Want*

      I’ve had people joke that I should sit their interviews for them but it was just a joke. I think it was just a joke. Maybe there’s a business opportunity like the woman whose a hired bridesmaid and creates a backstory so no one but the bride knows. With filters these days, who knows what people are getting up to.

      1. Claudia*

        Off topic, but I had never heard of the professional bridesmaid until recently, when I hired her cousin and former assistant! It was on her resume, so I asked about it. What a crazy job!

          1. Claudia*

            Entry level admin support. Completely different field, we just needed to know she was organized, reliable, and had experience answering to someone. It was not the only item on her resume, or even the most relevant, but it was interesting, so I asked about it.

    3. londonedit*

      Pre-Covid I’d heard that people would hire someone else to take their driving test for them, but I’d never heard of someone doing a job interview on behalf of someone else! At least with a driving test you literally meet the examiner once – it’s a bit different when it’s a job!

    4. Emmaline*

      I once did a phone interview where one candidate clearly had someone else with her whom she conferred with before each answer. We did not hire her.

      1. Yvette*

        Now I am picturing an on camera interview with someone behind the camera with a white board frantically scribbling answers to questions.

      2. JustaTech*

        A friend was doing a phone interview where he could hear the interviewee typing after each question the he asked. So my friend googled the next question on the loop and lo! the interviewee basically read him the first hit on Google.

        So my friend re-phrased a few questions so the answers weren’t so search-able and the interviewee kind of fell apart.

        1. BeenThere*

          My question is designed so if you google it, you’ll get a quick 5 minute solution. The solution isn’t what my problem is about, I want to see you communicate understanding and how you broke down the problem. If you take the easy route this now leaves me with 20 minutes to grill you on why you choose it, how you implement it from first principles and at the very least write a decent unit test for it. I’ve had candidate trot out textbook perfect answers and not be able to explain how it works or be able to write a test for it. The test code is far simpler than understanding the underlying concepts and writing the solution code.

          We’ve also stopped interviews short for candidates that are clearly cheating or showing signs of using secondary sources when they aren’t permitted.

          1. sb51*

            Yeah, and similarly: I WANT candidates who are good at googling and parsing out relevant results from crap, because searching and evaluating the results is actually a relevant skill. If they can do that fast enough to get me good answers (and as you said, can explain their choice) I’m 100% OK with that.

    5. Not Australian*

      Just today I saw something on YouTube where a hiring manager said that the person who turned up for work was not the person they interviewed … although this may of course be the same story. It’s not unheard of, though, is my take.

    6. Project Manager*

      YES! This just happened to my brother and I was blown away by the story!

      They interviewed and hired someone, then the person who showed up was a completely different person (like…completely different ethnicity, age, etc.). When asked, the person acknowledged it. I can’t remember the details of what they said, but apparently the new employee tried to brush it off as something normal (as in, “yes someone else completed the interview, but all answers provided were true to my work experiences”…).

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          That is GUMPTION.

          Like, I’m almost in awe. And I bet if the new hire had been the coffee-maker-scrubbing woman, management would have backed down.

        1. Hazel*

          Maybe they thought it was a way to avoid subconscious bias on the part of the interviewing committee… Only thing I can think of.

      1. bleh*

        It sounds to me like that person probably had no confidence in his interview skills but was otherwise qualified for the job, and by then he’d been rejected enough times and became increasingly frustrated that other less skilled people could get the job he’d be better at only because they were smooth and likeable at interviews.

        Yeah, I’m projecting. It never occurred to me to hire someone else to take the interview for me, but so many times I wish an interview was in writing. I’d come across as so much more qualified than if I have to say the words out loud.

    7. Virtual interviews*

      Yes, at my company we are required to take a screenshot of the person to put into our post interview notes so they can confirm that the person interviewing is the one who shows up.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Wow, I didn’t realize this was enough of a thing that companies actually prepare defenses against it.

      1. Hazel*

        As I mentioned upthread, I don’t understand how this works when you’re actually doing (or not) the job. In my current role, I’m doing more technical work than I’d done before. This is what I wanted, but I made sure that the hiring manager knew what they were getting. I didn’t want to start the job and then find out they wanted someone with much more experience. It turns out they wanted a lot of my other skills and knew I could learn the technical stuff.

        1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

          A senior IT role likely pays six figures. Depending on geographic location, $150K would not be totally out of the realms of likely as a starting salary for a seasoned late career employee, more for a management role. So you pay someone to do the interview (or possibly have a partner, but that seems less profitable all around), then just stall.

          A lot of jobs aren’t really going to make you do much for the first couple of weeks, so you show up, nod your head at appropriate places, look busy, and get paid 2-3K a week until they figure out you have no idea what you’re doing. My guess is you could probably make 65-70k a year stringing these scams together. Maybe more if you managed to get two or more remote jobs at once. I’m not even sure it’d be a crime.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            It certainly seems like it should be a crime. Also, these people must have so much gumption that they aren’t even embarrassed to face their coworkers and the people who hired them? How?!

            1. Frank*

              Slightly off topic, but FYI, that’s not gumption. Gumption is an enthusiasm about doing work, a synonym for initiative, drive, or self-motivation.

              What you’re describing is audacity, guts, nerve, self-confidence, boldness, hutzpah.

              I’m legitimitely hoping this helps, and that it’s not offensive. :)

          2. Elenna*

            True, but if John was stringing together a bunch of these scams, you’d think he’d be a bit more competent about it. How hard is it to ask for details of what was asked in the interview? Or at least make sure your double has the same hair/glasses as you and pretends to have the same family situation?

          3. Le Sigh*

            Pulling off frauds and crimes like these always just seem so stressful to me. I would never, ever make it as a con artist.

          4. pink leprechaun*

            It seems like so much more work and stress than actually just…learning a skill and doing a job? I don’t understand how people live like that.

            1. Stable Genius*

              stress is subjective. at the end of the day, when you work a job you’re shovelling money into someone else’s wallet and depending on your makeup you may find this much more demeaning, hurtful and stressful than the thrill of pulling an elegant scam and coming out ahead unlike the other rubes

        2. ADHSquirrelWhat*

          When it comes to IT, I wonder how much of it is the “I don’t understand this so it must be easy” mindset? Or the “oh but I know how to use a computer” or whatnot.

          Just because there are people who are self-taught in the industry does not make it /easy/ but there are people who don’t get that ….

    8. Evonon*

      This letter had me in the first half because appearances change and maybe John didn’t mention the kids so he won’t be discriminated during the hiring process. Once John couldn’t remember the interview or the hiring manager that’s when it’s obvious that something fishy was up

      1. quill*

        My memory is terrible under stress, it’s possible I wouldn’t have recalled the hiring manager’s name if I had been interviewing with a lot of places. It’s the fact that the guy’s self-volunteered information changed so drastically between the interview and the first day on the job that made me certain something was up.

        1. Green Beans*

          But you still probably would have been like, “we meet during the interview, yes! So sorry, I’m terrible with names…”

          1. quill*

            Probably, but I do also occasionally forget specific words… phrases… sentences… I don’t trust my brain scramble these days.

        2. Seriemartina*

          For a past job one of the people who interviewed me was the big boss of the department, in addition to two people I’d be working with every day (my line manager and the longest-standing team member).

          Well, I didn’t see the big boss for a month after my interview and I met so many new names and faces that when I finally saw him again in the kitchen I had no idea why he looked so familiar, never mind how important he was. He asked how things were going and I gave a slightly more honest answer than I would have done if I had remembered!

          (I got away with it, but it was definitely a bit cheekier and less upbeat than was sensible. I wanted to disappear when I worked out who he was…)

    9. Ian Ceicys*

      The same thing happened to me at another company a few months back.
      The guy we interviewed passed the loop, and then on day one the guy wouldn’t turn on his camera, and couldn’t answer basic questions. One day 2 when he turned on his camera it was clear it was a different person entirely. I have a screenshot from the interview loop of the candidate and a screenshot of the new hire. Different people. By day 3 the “new hire” was terminated. Sadly a giant waste of time, and we never did get back the laptop which turned into a brick by the end of day 3.

      1. Fran Fine*

        Wow. I feel for the people who think they have to stoop to this level of deception just to make a living these days.

    10. Alice*

      This is 100% a thing. My friend has been career changing via a coding bootcamp and they have not only brazenly told them they will fake the resume and references, but that they can have someone take interviews (or provide help with any tasks or tests). They also provide “help” for the first year including remoting into your PC, or taking control via screen share to complete tasks. They have placed near beginners in senior level roles!! It’s all a massive scam especially in the IT space. This story does not surprise me at all. The recent increase in remote working has made this x10 easier

      1. Hazel*

        OK, now I see how someone could think this sort of thing might work – as long as their helpers were continually available to resolve issues they have no clue about – but I doubt this would work for very long.

        1. Alice*

          They have help for a year, and are expected to do a ton of on the job learning and networking to essentially “fake it til they make it”. By the end of the year they essentially then have “genuine” experience. If they move on most companies will only state someone was employed and so that becomes a “genuine” reference. It’s literally the wildest thing I’ve heard! Incredibly unethical!

      2. Unlurking for a sec*

        Putting aside my usual status as a lurker to comment here: This happened at my husband’s company a few months ago. The woman in question started by saying “oh, I just changed my hair,” but it was very obviously a different person from the candidate who they had hired. My husband thought it was crazy, but it was actually the SECOND time it had happened to his boss.

      3. Laura*

        Ooooh, this makes me so mad. I went to a coding bootcamp to change careers. It was a legitimate bootcamp, not like what you’re describing. While we did have an employment manager who helped polish resumes, arranged practice interviews, and help make connections between apprentices and the local tech community, he never did anything unethical like what you’re describing. The bootcamp offered support, but ultimately each person was responsible for getting and keeping a job on their own. We have an alumni Slack channel where people occasionally ask for feedback on how others would approach an issue, it’s always just discussion between professionals – no one gets their work done for them. Your friend’s experience makes all of us who have gone the bootcamp route look bad.

        1. Philip Dupont*

          What was the name of the boot camp? Or, if I wanted to attend something similar and needed to discriminate between legit and frivolous ones, what would you recommend I look out for?

          1. Jess*

            I’m not the original commenter, but that sounds a lot like my recent experience at Fullstack Academy. Their Career Services are A+ and they are definitely all about knowing your stuff and networking—absolutely NOT about these shenanigans.

            1. Jess*

              To clarify my above comment: My description of Fullstack is intended to convey a LEGITIMATE bootcamp. :D

              And to the comment below… Of course it’s Revature.

              1. pancakes*

                I’m not in the industry so the names of the most notorious ones weren’t something I was familiar with before I started reading about this yesterday. It’s so sleazy!

          2. km85*

            I went to Deep Dive Coding Bootcamp in Albuquerque, and can attest it’s a rigorous, reputable program that operates like the one in Laura’s comment.

      4. It's Growing!*

        How much of the client’s paycheck does the bootcamp charge for this sort of “help”? Surely there’s some sort of legal liability for both the so-called employee and the bootcamp people.

      5. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Jeez. I swear they are really a front for industrial espionage. Being able to remote into bootcamp graduates’ computers after they are in a new job seems like a dream if you want to get up to shenanigans.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Wouldn’t the company IT figure out that some outside person was remoting in? That’s how they discovered that that one guy had outsourced his job to India: company IT noticed something weird going on with his computer, investigated, and discovered that someone in India was remoting in and doing his work.

      6. voluptuousfire*

        Happened to me at a previous company! We had a particularly well-known tech interview we had all engineering candidates do and we had a suspicion that a particular boot camp was coaching/helping candidates cheat on the interview. We had one candidate apply for a role and we had one of the more senior engineers who ran this interview do it and it was going perfectly until the interviewer threw a curveball at him and the candidate was flummoxed. He failed miserably and we rejected him. I made sure to note that the candidate was caught cheating in his record in our ATS. He did apply again once or twice a few years later (applied using a nickname and different email) and I caught it and he was rejected promptly.

          1. Lasslisa*

            I assume it meant a small tweak to the original interview – a curve ball in the sense of being unexpected, not being significantly harder. Often you can change things in a way that anyone with actual understanding of the principles would figure out just the same, but someone who just learned the answer by rote would get it all wrong.

          2. BubbleTea*

            If the curveball question was the only one that was not usually in the interview and the only one they couldn’t answer, it strongly suggests the other answers were supplied.

            1. pink leprechaun*

              Yeah exactly, if you have that excellent of a command of the material, you should be able to make small adjustments without completely falling apart.

      7. Sam*

        I call BS. How could a bootcamp ever hope to keep this a secret, let alone afford to do this for all of their grads?

        1. Alice*

          Up to 40% of first years salary is paid to the bootcamp- they are incentivised to place students in the highest paying role possible. Students are incentivised to keep quiet. We are talking about tech jobs where salaries can be in the multiple 6 figures- why are you surprised people would be unethical to achieve a life changing salary when there are multiple similar examples all over this thread! People are desperate to break into tech and high paying roles and aren’t always ethical in the approach.

          1. pancakes*

            The employers don’t feel adequately incentivized to stop contributing to the exploitation of desperate candidates? That is really gross. And will backfire at some point. An industry that messed up is calling out to be far more strictly regulated than it is.

          2. wow no thank you*

            Up to 40% of first years salary is paid to the bootcamp? So like… indentured servitude??

            1. pink leprechaun*

              The boot camp attendee doesn’t pay for the boot camp itself, they have to give a cut of their salary instead. It’s a way they attract people to the boot camp, kind of a “you don’t have anything to lose!” Hook.

            2. Anonymous4*

              The “graduates” are paying a ginormous commission for the ‘bootcamp’ sliding them into a job for which they are in no way qualified.

              I would really like for CA’s Justice Department to take a good look at that. Not a legal eagle but I expect that “fraud” is just the starting place.

              1. pancakes*

                I’ve been reading up on this and there is a class action lawsuit against at least one of these schools (Holbertson) led by consumer protection attorneys.

      8. Becky*

        Tech companies with proprietary algorithms or data etc would very much fire somebody on the spot for allowing outsiders to see/work on their trademarked/copyrighted code.

      9. Joanna*

        That is fascinating. I’d been suspicious of how job competent people could be after often quite short bootcamps, but I never suspected they were going to those lengths. I feel bad for the ethical participants who don’t take up the shady support and risk having their reputations tarnished when this inevitably becomes public one day

    11. BlondeSpiders*

      I’m a recruiting coordinator for contract positions at my firm. One of my IT managers told me of a weird video interview in which he would ask the candidate questions, and the answer would come from off screen, while the candidate would silently move his mouth to indicate words. We’ve also had candidates claim video failure and try to do the interview as audio only. These candidates would invariably get a question, mute themselves for about 30 seconds, and then come back with an answer straight out of Google.
      I have not heard of this happening since the start of the Great Resignation, but it was pretty common that first summer of Covid.

      1. WFH is all I Want*

        We’ve still had candidates rely on Google. If they’re repeating the question back and stalling before answering it’s usually because they’re using talk to text to search and then picking the best response. Plus I now Google the questions I’m going to ask to see if they’re repeating it word for word. It’s hard frustrating to know we may have passed on a legitimate candidate for one who wasted our time in the interview process.

    12. director of cat-herding*

      Haven’t experienced this firsthand, but someone was telling me recently that their spouse, who works in tech, has run into a version of this with Zoom interviews. Apparently, they’ve had the actual candidate on camera, but it’ll become obvious that they have someone else in the room who’s speaking for them throughout the entire interview and answering all the questions. They’ll mess with the quality of the camera in some way to make it harder for the interviewer to tell that the candidate’s moving mouth doesn’t sync up properly with the words being said. Have no idea how rampant it is, but it sounded like this interviewer had experienced it more than once! (For what it’s worth, it’s not very effective—the interviewer could tell what was going on and ended the interviews early.)

    13. Erin*

      I recently had a phone screen with what I am now thinking was a fake candidate. Everything was progressing in a pretty typical way. When I inquired about a technical skill listed on this candidate’s resume, they hung up on me.

      I thought perhaps the call dropped, so I waited a few moments, and then called the candidate back. I ended up calling back a total of 3 times, and I sent an email to the candidate to see if we could re-schedule due to bad connection, and I never got a response. The recruiter who arranged the phone screen also reached out to the candidate, and did not get a response. I shared this with a few co-workers, and they have heard rumblings of similar situations lately.

      TBH, I don’t understand the fake interview thing. If a candidate does make it through the interview process via Cyrano, they will need to perform those skills in the role? Seems like a giant waste of energy to me.

    14. JustaTech*

      At my husband’s last company they had one person who did an *amazing* job on the coding challenge, just completely blew them out of the water. But then in the interview the guy was not any good at all. Eventually it came out that his wife had done the coding challenge for him.

      There was serious discussion of hiring the wife instead (but I don’t remember if they went through with it or not, because hello, lying).

      1. BubbleTea*

        It does raise the question of why the wife didn’t just apply for the job, if she was available and competent.

        1. Burger Bob*

          Exactly! If she’s the one who suits the job, why is he the one applying??? I would never do that for my husband. Of course, he wouldn’t ask me.

        2. Yeti*

          Since it was a coding challenge, I imagine that the wife already had a highly paying tech job of her own!

        3. JustaTech*

          If I had to guess (and my husband didn’t even remember this story, he interviewed so many people in that job) the reason the wife didn’t apply directly probably had something to do with immigration status. It’s a big thing here, if you’re on a spouse visa you’re not allowed to work, so there is a whole community of highly educated, motivated women who are *not allowed* to get a job so they either get a bunch of Master’s degrees waiting to get a different visa or go home.

    15. MissGirl*

      At my old job, my manager did interview someone and someone else showed up for the job. This was before my time so I didn’t get the details.

    16. Judge Judy and Executioner*

      This is very common in the IT consulting world unfortunately. One guy hired would have to go to the parking lot anytime he was asked a question. On day 3 he was confronted and asked to a meeting to discuss. He said yes, he just needs to go to the bathroom first. And then he left and never came back.

    17. Sam Ueckert*

      I’m pretty sure I caught someone doing this a few years ago. I interviewed someone via phone and it went well. I called them back, and the “John” that I interviewed answered the phone as “Mike”, but with the same voice. I said “I thought your name was John?”, he got very confused and asked who I was. I said “Sam, and I just talked to you.”
      He relied “Oh SAM! Sorry, yes, this is John. I forgot who you were.”
      I said “No. You forgot who YOU were.” I hung up and scratched him off the list.

      1. Skytext*

        To be fair, it could’ve been someone who sounded just like him. But in that case, it would’ve been “sorry, this is his brother Mike, we sound the same on the phone. Let me get John for you”. But his response clearly showed he was lying. My daughter and I sound identical on the phone—even my husband can’t tell us apart, and has to be careful he doesn’t say something inappropriate to her thinking it’s me lol.

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        Was it a case of “John” has a nickname of “Mike”? Like “John Michael ‘Mike’ Smith”?

        Otherwise it’s just weird.

        Note: I have two names – one is. my wallet name, one is what my friends call me. However, I don’t answer the phone with my name, I wait for them to ask for someone.

      3. Cercis*

        It could also be that his name is John Michael and he goes by Mike to distinguish him from his dad John. I go by my middle name and sometimes I get flustered when doctors or whatever call and I answer “Hi, this is canadensis” and they say “Oh, I was trying to reach Cercis”. Then I’m like “oh, yeah, I’m Cercis canadensis, I go by canadensis generally.”

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          I have a friend like this, except it’s that his first name is not a common name for English-speakers (and neither is the nickname he uses for it, and further fun, both the name and the nickname are somewhat more common in America with different pronunciations than he uses because more than one culture has a name spelled that way, and also the way he pronounces his nickname sounds similar to a differently-spelled nickname for yet a different name…his name situation is about as Hard Mode as you can get for a name that’s actually pretty easy to spell and pronounce once you know what’s up), but his middle name is pretty common by comparison and will almost certainly be un-mangled in both spelling and pronunciation by typical American English-speakers. He prefers to go by the nickname for his first name, but will sometimes go by his middle name in situations when he Just Doesn’t Want To Deal With All That and doesn’t expect to get to know the people well.

          When I first met him, it was through several different internet meet-up groups for different interests and of different sizes, and it took a while to straighten it all out since he’d used different names with the different groups.

          However, he certainly would have responded with something like “Oh! Sorry, [name]’s my middle name – I also go by [nickname]” if he’d answered a phone call with the “wrong” name.

        2. Naomi*

          This came up with one of our interns once! I’ll call him “James Paul Smith.” He went by “Paul,” and I don’t think I knew it wasn’t his first name until he asked me to look over his resume, on which he was “James P. Smith III.” I advised him that if he was going to introduce himself as Paul, he should change his resume name to “James Paul Smith” or “J. Paul Smith.”

    18. Mona Lisa*

      This wasn’t in hiring, but I used to work for a professional degree program at a major, private university. We started requesting a photo of the international applicants to match against the TOEFL photo and the online interview because we had a not-insignificant number of students show up on the first day one year who did not match the person in either. They faked their English proficiency for a program that required heavy emphasis and written and spoken skills to get a visa into the US.

    19. Not-A-Science-Fiction-Author-Honestly*

      Am I the only person who’s brain went to multiple personality disorder? Perhaps John interviewed but John-prime showed up for the job? Anyone? Anyone?

      1. Jesse Chisholm*

        That might explain informational differences, but not so much the bone-structure or skin-tone differences.
        An, on the job, you’d occasionally get John, instead of John’ or John”.

    20. Troy*

      Just faced this situation ourselves. Bright young lady did the interviews. Her stay at home mum without IT skills showed up for remote work

      We got her on camera and upon denial, I said I was the one that gave the interview. Mum quit right quick

    21. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      Regarding taking the exams for someone else —

      Back when I was a junior in high school, I took the SATs and did unexpectedly well. Kids compare scores.
      Around a week after I took the SATs, I received an anonymous phone call asking if I’d like to make a hundred bucks – to take the exam for someone else. They did not ask for IDs back then and you could go to another school, or a community college to take the SATs. I said “I’ll think about it, call me tomorrow…”

      The next day I reported the call to my high school guidance department. I was advised to stand by, but follow up.

      Mr. Sleazyclown may have found an immediate patsy and never called me back.


      In amateur radio – the FCC decided to get out of the amateur radio exam business, and set up a “volunteer examiner” system. This made it easier for someone who doesn’t live near an FCC office to get a license.

      Yes, the exam question pool is public and YES it is possible to memorize the questions and answers and pass the test without knowing a lot about the subject matter.

      BUT – there is less cheating now than there was when the FCC conducted exams. Two forms of ID are required; the volunteer examiner’s credentials AND his/her license are on the line if the exam isn’t on the up and up.
      When the FCC conducted the exams, they did not check identification, nor did they care too much about seeing the same people week after week; in one office they caught up to a young adult who was taking the test for others for a fee (reportedly).

      1. Boof*

        Aww, i never got such a call! But i had a really good score, to the point i was scared to mention it (not quite perfect but not far)

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          I was shaken up by the call, Boof. Somebody, somewhere, that I probably knew, thought that I was willing to be unethical and a cheat. Whoever it was. That was 54 years ago, I’m still bothered by it.

          1. Bryce*

            That stuff can rattle you. Back in middle school at a math competition my friend shoulder-surfed my paper. Unfortunately I placed first in the state to he got a lot more attention than he expected. The rest of the team at nationals (who were all from our rival school) froze me out, assuming I was in on it. I honestly believed there’d been some mistake until he confessed and apologized to me a few years later, I’m oblivious that way.

      2. Dragon_dreamer*

        There’s also a limit on how often you can retake the test, iirc. My dad is an examiner, I got my licence soon after he did in 1997.

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          There is no limit – no “three strikes” rule, etc. If you fail an amateur test you have to wait 30 days before you can re-take it — BUT — when the FCC ran it, they would have the exams in a large room – not check IDs – and the exam was administered by indifferent clerks. From the stories that were told, this was a college kid who went to a large office every couple weeks or so. There were also six classes of amateur radio licenses then, so it was not unusual to pass one license test, and perhaps come back and take another two weeks later.

          With the volunteer examiner system, it’s much more stringent.

            1. Dragon_dreamer*

              Forgot to add: When I took it, you tested until you failed. So I studied for No Code Tech, but they had me take the General test as well. (I would have had to take the code test if I passed.) Our examiners were all members of the local club.

      3. Amateur Extra VE*

        In ham radio, many of us VE’s are also instructors, which gives a third level of identification, as we test on the same day as the cram course. Most amateur licensing exams are now taught by a one day cram. This means that the new licensee has no skills but some book knowledge. Thanks to on-line testing, the candidates have to study a larger pool of questions but still have no skills and, usually, little understanding.
        A large proportion drop out in the first year.

    22. Syzygy*

      My husband is a professor at a large university and his very first graduate student did this. The student was based in a foreign country and obviously got someone to do the phone interview for him and take his English exams because when he arrived, homie spoke barely any English. They had to revoke his admission and his visa.

      1. Seriemartina*

        My partner’s university dept had the same problem, except they gave the guy a valuable/prestigious(ish) scholarship.

        Apart from the language barrier, he went from acing the programming test to being barely able to code. In the in-person labs he’d have a blank screen all week and then the deadline would come around and he’d suddenly upload a complete answer. He was called into the office to explain the code and couldn’t at all.

        Unfortunately they never quite managed to pin anything definite on him. Too bad – that scholarship could’ve been a big boost to someone else.

        1. Lizzo*

          What in the world do these people think they’re going to do once they’re beyond the degree and need to function in a professional setting (academic or otherwise)??? Do they think they can keep up this ruse for the remainder of their working life?

    23. MBK*

      This sort of happened several years ago at my place of work. We hired a Linux admin who then spent his first two weeks completely failing to understand his job or even what was being asked of him most of the time. It was clear that his entire process involved copying and pasting anything that seemed relevant from Stack Overflow.

      The weird part is that we had interviewed him, in person, and he was able to answer non-canned technical questions about both knowledge and hypothetical troubleshooting situations thoughtfully and intelligently.
      Anyway, we had to spend two days auditing everything he’d touched, removing his access from a bunch of systems, and making sure he didn’t plant anything malicious because he caught wind of his firing before it happened and didn’t take it well. (I think maybe his visa depended on him keeping the job, but I don’t really know how these things work.)

    24. Curtis*

      Yes, very common with H1Bs in IT. One person interviews, another shows up. They will also ask for help in forums and WhatsApp groups.
      Saw this happen and the company figured it out and had the person out in less than an hour.

    25. BigFoot*

      I used to work as an assistant for a IT Staffing Agency in 2015 and they mostly did virtual interviewing since the roles were usually contract jobs given to people outside of the US. They told me that this type of interview fraud happened extremely often during video calls – usually the real candidate would have their video on, but the audio would come from an expert who actually knew the answers to the interview questions. The real candidate would lip-sync and/or rely on the bad video quality to make the mismatch less obvious. Not sure how possible this would be today with all the enhancements in webcam and videocalling apps, but I’m sure they’ve found a way!

    26. Elle*

      I was reading this thinking that maybe the real John interviewed but is one of those people doing multiple jobs.

      So if some of the jobs require facetime even though they are remote, at least initially, he hired someone else to pass as him. I could see that being profitable to both, because John gets to have four jobs he’s automated or streamlined somehow for the salary of three. Meanwhile this fake John just is supposed to say hi and appear similar but not do any substantive work and gets paid (even a small portion of John’s salary) to basically be social and pass along work.

      Either way, the stress of whatever happened clearly got to John, and he did not want to be found out!

      I’d love the full story but sadly suspect we won’t ever know!

    27. PS*

      20 years ago, when offshoring was in its infancy, I worked at a major investment bank.

      It was known that when you were having a video interview with a candidate offshore that the recruitment company had a panel of SME’s off camera that were relaying the answer to the candidate. That was not video lag! Candidate was told to “repeat after me” and keep focus on the camera.

      Similarly support was largely offshored. There were three shifts to cover 24 hours follow the sun model. Most interaction occurred via chats, emails, tickets. This was a dedicated satellite office dedicated to resourcing this banks requirements. It was an initial amusement that the support team of a immense business critical application all had western names like Jack, Tom, John, Andy. Lets just say that this was not typical of the demographic where a western language was not their first. Andy was excellent, the star of the bunch. After a colleague worked with Andy for a while he became concerned because Andy’s performance had really decreased as the months went on. Once while with Andy he actually sounded distressed and my colleague was concerned, verbalized this and we tried to figure it out. The long and short of it was that Andy was Andy, John AND Tom sometimes having to work 24 hours at a time. His performance decreased because he was asleep at the wheel! The large IT provider was billing against alias’s rather than actual resources. Not exactly double dipping, but all the employees were playing roles being different resource. Thereafter new contracts were entered into with a clause mandating that named resources needed to be provided and assigned for each statement of work.

    28. Nina*

      Yes, this has happened to me twice. Basically, both candidates had video interviews where it was the real candidate on the screen but they were using a dial in audio source, so they would “fake” a sound lag, whilst someone off screen answered questions. The first time, of course I was shocked when the demeanor and some of the nuisances and drive of the candidate were not present when they actually came to work, but the person basically had to quit after day 1, when I laid down my expectations to her clearly, haha. The second time, I was obviously aware that this could happen, so to catch them, I created a fake audio issue on my part, so that the person on the screen could visibly see that I was talking even though nothing was being communicated by audio, but the person off the screen didn’t know what was going on and could not tell me that I was on mute because they couldn’t see. It was great to watch the system pani!

    29. J Lopez*

      Yes, this is definitely a thing and has been for a longtime. I’m a Sr. IT recruiter with 15 years of experience working for a large Telecom giant and deal with this daily. I’ve learned all the tricks in how to expose these types of candidates but once in a while they make it to the final interview. I learned my lesson the one time we did hire what I call a “proxy” candidate. I take numerous screening steps and attend all the interviews to ensure it’s the same person. I’ve learned how to identify the fabricate resumes, fake LinkedIn profiles, emails, google phone numbers, reference, etc… it’s a huge underground market. The Webex interviews techniques is a category within itself filled of insane stories that I can go on and on about. This truly is a problem that needs more light and consequences because it’s getting out of control.

    30. Joe Tairei*

      Yes, ghost interviewing happens all the time (just like ghost writers who will write your novel or nonfiction book for you). People also will sometimes subcontract their work (on freelance dot com and similar), so they can take credit for the work while sharing a tiny percentage of their wages with some poor bloke in south Asia. This is why there is still no substitute for in-person interviews and working on site. A fully virtual world is simply not yet possible.

    31. Amrita*

      Where I live this is a common thing with the Asian and Indian community, particularly for roles that aren’t highly skilled/high-pressure such as some public service admin etc OR where the person is great at their role, but is bad in interviews and the role doesn’t require amazing social skills and is more technical (I speak as part of this community), people do this counting on the racist “they all look the same” trope… I have yet to hear of a time this was noticed but obviously that’s just among people I know so it’s possible it has happened. This was long before virtual interviews.

      Not sure how well known it is generally but it’s a thing.

    32. Lucky Delano*

      My ex-husband did this for a living (pretended to be someone else and interviewed for them and also wrote their fake resumes) for many years and the company he did it for is very successful!

    33. Euroranger*

      Had this same thing happen to a contract position with a major telecom provider back in 2014-15. They interviewed and eventually hired an H1B candidate but the guy that showed up, while claiming to be the person they all spoke to in the interview, couldn’t speak English and had no idea what he was doing. I was tasked with onboarding him and when he showed up to work 3 days early and couldn’t speak the language, I immediately reported the situation to my superior. He said I must have been exaggerating (and since the superior was in California whereas this office was in Georgia he’d never met the candidate) and to go ahead and get him settled. This was for a fairly technical IT position (database administrator) and this guy didn’t know what software to use to access a database nor much at all about any operating system.

      I left shortly thereafter but the entire thing smelled of kickbacks from the recruiting/staffing firm to the manager because he was utterly uninterested in what I was telling him to the point of him telling me directly to stop making waves.

    34. James H Cobb*

      Knowing the extent fraudulent, criminally minded people will go through to gain whatever it is they’re after, I can’t imagine this has not been a thing even before all the remote processes. This makes perfect sense. Obviously, until now the scam has been perfectly executed. I would say this has probably far more prevalent then most could even imagine. Incompetent greedy people have no integrity. I’m pretty sure the thought of someone doing this entered my mind 10 to 20 or more years ago.

  2. Uranus Wars*

    I am never the first to comment but all I have is WOWZA.

    And….My husband is getting sick of me sitting against his office door eavesdropping is the best line of the entire saga.

      1. INFJedi*

        Alison already had me laughing with her “intermezzo” right before the updates:

        After receiving this letter, I got updates. Many updates (probably because I greeted each one enthusiastically and requested more)!

        But to be fair, the mental image that the eavesdropping created, had me gasping for breath once I managed to stop laughing.

        1. Elle*

          My mental image is of LW leaning against their husband’s office door (just slightly too much so that you know the door will open and LW fall down at some point) with Alison waiting on the next update that LW is typing (in great style) on their phone… yup, this was a great one! I needed the laugh!

          OP, you can always tell him that at least you didn’t use a glass!

    1. BethRA*

      Early in the pandemic my partner worked from the kitchen while I was set up at the dining room table. She eventually converted an upstairs guest room into her workspace. I was equal parts relieved, because she’s on Zoom calls aaallllll day and I’m easily distracted, and really, really bummed I didn’t get to eavesdrop anymore!

    2. EPLawyer*

      I cracked up too. OP is a great writer. I am just bummed that she didn’t get to suggest a plan of fake information from the interview to catch John in his lies. That would have been HILARIOUS to hear about. (don’t care its immature. It’s Monday, I have to sort through a HORRENDOUS file to find out what the heck is going on because the other side just. keeps. filing. stuff and I. just. keep. getting. it. dismissed so no one, including the court knows for sure what is still pending).

    3. kittymommy*

      I 100% would have been right there with her. Popcorn and wine and slipping notes under the door. I also would have been social media stalking the hell out of “John”.

    4. Chauncy Gardener*

      Epic. The whole thing, including the LW’s writing style, is epic!!
      Wish we had a Best Letter of the Year award because this just won, in my book

      1. La Triviata*

        Wasn’t there a Monty Python sketch where a job applicant is put through an interview process with ridiculous questions and, at the end, is told that they’ve already hired someone but they were finishing up the applicants’ interviews for fun?

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          I wouldn’t be surprised. During the time I was out of work, I was called for an interview and the manager basically told me he did so for his own amusement. “I don’t think this is going to happen, but I wanted to see what you were all about…”

          Thanks for wasting my time, and a half a tank of gas. I let his manager know I was not amused by the situation.

    1. Doug Judy*

      And a Cyrano de Bergerac reference, which immediately makes me think of the glorious episode of Frasier where Niles dresses as Cyrano for Halloween.

      A+ Letter, updated and response.

  3. elizelizeliz*

    This story is the highlight of my week–and while it’s admittedly only Monday morning, i feel confident it will keep its place there! What a saga!

    1. NYWeasel*

      I’m loving this post too, and I wish that there was also an end of year category for favorite drama in a post! This would be one of my favorites of all time!

    1. Anonygoose*

      I’m fairly certain I’ve had this happen to me while “hiring” staff augmentation roles from a multi-national professional services provider. All of the candidates were in either India or Pakistan, they work directly for the provider, who we pay many-millions to for staff augmentation and project support. I had a great interview with one candidate, had some laughs, shared some personal anecdotes, got a good sense for their level of seniority and experience and decided they’d be the right fit(no video interview unfortunately, just audio). Put through the approval for them to be onboarded for a project where they need a very specific skillset. The person who ended up on the project was NOT the person I interviewed, though they’d clearly listened to a recording of the interview as they made references to subjects we’d talked about. I thought I was going crazy.

  4. UKDancer*

    This is hilarious as a saga. I’m howling with laughter.

    But yeah this is why we check officially issued forms of ID when we interview them to check they are who they say they are. We then check it again when they arrive as part of the onboarding to make sure it’s the same person we interviewed. This is to make sure they are who they say they are and also to check they’re entitled to work in the UK because we can get fined massively if we don’t.

    1. WFH is all I Want*

      Except when it’s a virtual interview they rarely think about ID until the background check. My ID looks nothing like me now too…I should probably do something about that.

      1. The Bimmer Guy*

        That *is* a good point for people who are trans, whose gender presentation has changed, or who have had some sort of major appearance change after their ID photo was taken. Not looking like your ID shouldn’t be a red flag in and of itself, because it’s the case for so many people. Hopefully, at that point, there will be other ways to validate that person’s identity. And they’ll need to (in the US) do an I9 (Employment Eligibility Verification), anyway, which will include identifying documents. But if the person presents the same ID on their start day that they did in the interview, the ID is valid, and their identity is confirmed, they should be good.

      2. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Am I the only one who’s never had a near reasonable drivers license (common form of ID in the US) photo that even resembles me IRL? I swear they wait til I’m blinking, have fans blowing to muck up the hair, and are deliberating poorly focused!

        1. Sherm*

          I had a retail job that involved a lot of checking ID. (This was back when writing checks was more common.) There were so many times that the real-life person and the person on the ID looked like two different people. I would let it slide, but I knew it kind of defeated the purpose of checking ID. I’m pretty sure the vast majority of customers weren’t pulling off some scheme with their $23 purchase, though.

          1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

            There’s some good research that shows that humans are generally not that good at figuring out if there is a match between a person standing in front of us and an ID photo. Some of it was even done in stores with actual clerks whose jobs involved checking ID. So you’re not alone!

            So yeah, checking ID probably helps some, but it’s not a perfect solution and would need to be considered in tandem with other factors.

            1. George P. Burdell*

              This is part of why I’ve refused to show an ID at retail. One local store of a major chain tried require an ID to use a credit card, which is a direct violation of the VISA and MasterCard merchant agreements (they only allow an ID check when it is otherwise required by law, like for alcohol or medications and such). They said it was “for my protection”, but it was at best for their own protection. I’m protected by law against credit card fraud, and I doubt they did any training for their checkout clerks for ID validation and verification.

              This was after the chip cards came out, and this chain had not implemented chip readers yet (despite years of notice and being well past the deadline at that point), which I believe meant any fraud was their problem, not VISA/MC’s, so this was probably somebody’s bright idea. I walked out without buying anything; they got to keep their bedding and I went Beyond their store to get what I needed elsewhere.

              1. Dragon_dreamer*

                You’re right. They were covering their own butts. The STORE is the one out the money if they take a stolen card. That clause in the merchant agreement is unenforceable, and is there so the store can’t try to pass the liability to the card issuer. It is also there to use as a threat of not allowing the store to take those card anymore, if they don’t take the risk of taking stolen credit cards.

                Frankly, my sympathy lies with the store, after I got in trouble for NOT taking a credit card with a photo ON IT. The photo showed an elderly black woman. The person using it was a nervous, furtive skinny white kid trying to buy one of the most expensive laptops we had.

                The manager tried to force me to put it through, I put my foot down and made her do it. The write up was rescinded after it turned out the card was stolen. The manager was in trouble for the $1800, not me. :p

            2. Les Cargot*

              I heard a legend one place where I worked. I hope it was true.

              You had to show your company photo ID to a security guard as you entered the building. Since the photos were about the size of a postage stamp and most people just waved their badges in the general direction of the guard, it wasn’t especially secure. One wise guy, shooting the breeze with his colleagues, bet he could get away with pasting a head shot of a gorilla over his own picture and get away with it. Someone took him up on it, and that evening informed the guard on the way out what to expect the following morning.

              So the wise guy comes in next morning, waves his doctored badge, starts to proceed, and the guard says, “Hey, you, let me see your badge.” The guard takes the badge, looks at the gorilla, looks at the guy, looks back at the gorilla, looks back at the guy, gives him back the badge, and says, “Okay, you’re good” and sends him through, apparently all with a straight face.

          2. FrenchCusser*

            When my mom was in the hospital, I could cash checks for her using her ID.

            I was 17, she was 43.

            1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

              Yeah I could buy a pack of Camels for my Dad when I was eight years old….

            2. lcsa99*

              My mother used to occasionally use a fake Marilyn Monroe ID at the grocery store when they checked her ID for checks. The name didn’t even match what was on the check but they would accept it!

        2. Shan*

          I got my license renewed this summer, and I could tell the picture wasn’t great because the woman looked at it and said “uh… do you want to try one more?” I – like a FOOL – was all “nah, I’m almost 40, I never get IDed anymore!” You know, because retaking the picture would just have been sooooo arduous.

          Joke’s on me, because vaccine passports in my province were introduced like five days later, and I now have to pull out my (terrible) driver’s license almost every single day.

          1. Anonymous4*

            My ID picture at work makes me look like Bozo’s manic sister.

            It’s on the wall with all the other employees’ pictures. In the front hallway.

            I am so pleased.

        3. Whimsical Gadfly*

          I firmly believe driver’s licenses are meant to id your week old corpse when they locate it. Mine certainly feels like that’s the look it was going for…

        4. Princesss Sparklepony*

          I’m really hoping I don’t look like my drivers license photo. I swear they use some kind of weird wide angle lens for those. I look like a crazed version of Petunia Pig. The phrase lipstick on a pig does come to mind…

      1. londonedit*

        I’ve never been asked for ID at an interview. Of course when you actually start the job you have to provide ID/proof of your right to work in the UK, so at that point it would all fall down, but no one’s ever asked me for ID at interview stage.

      2. Charlotte*

        I think this might be regional? Since the person you’re replying to is UK and you’ve got the “centre” spelling I am guessing neither of you is US based. I’m in the US and I’ve never been asked for photo ID at an interview! At hiring, yes, when you come in to do tax forms, but not at an interview. I wouldn’t think it was bizarre to be asked for ID or anything but I’d be a little surprised.

      3. Never heard of ID in an interview before today!*

        I’m from the US (near DC) so this may skew my experience but I’ve never been asked for ID in an interview- just when onboarded.

      4. Gracely*

        I’ve only been on the hiring side of things pre-pandemic (currently on what looks like a forever hiring freeze), but no, we never bothered with it for in-person interviews because the only way I can see that swapping interviewees as an in-person scam is if the interviewee had an identical twin or triplet.

        That said, after reading this, if we ever get to hire anyone again, I’m definitely adding checking ID to the list of interview tasks.

        1. Helen*

          They are allowed to have the info, they aren’t allowed to discriminate on the basis of that info. And the easiest way to prove that they weren’t discriminating on the basis of age is to be able to say that interviewers didn’t know their age

        2. nona*

          ID at the interview also turns into a little bit of a quagmire about what qualifies as ID. The I-9 has a whole list of what counts for identifying you as eligible to work in the US. But…are you going to be ineligible to interview if you don’t have a photo ID (don’t need to drive, don’t have a passport)?

          1. UKDancer*

            Our company has a list of what is accepted. It is possible to get around photo ID but you need to provide an awful lot of other documentation to compensate. I think it’s something like several bills, other documentation, NI card etc etc. Most people in the UK have a passport (I think something like 3/4) and a lot also have a driving licence. At least I’ve interviewed a lot of people and can’t remember any that didn’t bring a passport as one of the forms of ID accepted.

      5. The Prettiest Curse*

        I interviewed for my job via Zoom and had to show photo ID (passport) to an HR person before the interview started.
        Of course, if you were really committed to a scam, you could just get a fake ID.

      6. Helen*

        I’m also UK-based (in tech), and am used to ID and right to work checks happening after the offer has been agreed

      7. LizM*

        Government employee here, I’ve never asked for ID until we make a preliminary selection and are on to the background check part of hiring.

      8. iglwif*

        I’ve never had my ID checked at an interview, or had to check anyone else’s. That’s never arisen before the HR paperwork stage IME.

      9. quill*

        In my experience it depends on how secure the facility is! Usually it’s somebody at front desk that’s taking the ID, though, so in practice it’s more “we have a legal record of who was here that day” vs. “And if you look different on the first day we can catch you!”

        For an online interview, I’m not surprised there was no verification.

      10. The OTHER Other*

        Interesting response, I have never been asked for ID at an interview, and it would have seemed very odd.

        I’m not even sure I had to provide ID for jobs from a long time ago, only a social security card, but my memory is hazy.

      11. Environmental Compliance*

        US, Midwest – I’ve never had to show a photo ID to interview. Heck, I’ve had at least one where they barely asked who I was, just plonked me into a room and said they’ll be here for you shortly – oh yeah, what’s your name again, and you’re here to interview for what?

        I did wonder with that particular position if they would have just interviewed whoever walked in.

      12. Le Sigh*

        I only once had to show an ID for an interview and that was actually to the building security to confirm who I said I was — not the interviewer.

    2. Eddy Montjeston*

      UK here too – I work in recruitment and training and we do ask candidates to bring official ID to interviews if in person, and if hired online they have to send original documents or certified copies to HR before being confirmed in the role – also, if conducted via Zoom etc the interview session is recorded (only retained until after the recruitment process is concluded, then destroyed to conform to data protection.) As mentioned above the fines for hiring without due diligence can be extortionate, and the regs are nailed down pretty tightly. There are also strong caveats in most UK contracts that state if false details have been given they are subject to immediate dismissal.

      1. Thistle whistle*

        In the UK most professional jobs go through an external recruitment consultancy, and they insist on proving your ID before they will even put you forward for anything. It can be annoying, but it keeps everything legit.

    3. Caroline Bowman*

      This! My spouse recently interviewed for a position in a different country (as part of us emigrating to that country), and at the first round interview with the internal HR recruitment person, he was required to hold up his passport to his face, and I think sent a scanned copy of the photo page too. Obviously eligibility to work in the country was a factor too, but they said at the beginning that they do it with all first round interviews, for all roles, not just senior IT / security roles because weird stuff happens, especially when everything is remote.

      But WHY would you even want a job you clearly had no idea how to do and put yourself at such a terrible disadvantage?? It would be the ultimate in anxiety for me.

    4. Aphra*

      Many years ago I worked for a local Council (UK) and part of my team’s job was processing applications for concessionary bus passes. Eligible applicants could either attend regular sessions at our offices where we’d check eligibility and ID and take photos with a huge, four shots at a time Polaroid style camera, then make up and issue the pass, or applicants could complete a paper form (remember those?) and send it in with their own, passport style photo and we’d mail the pass to them. An application came in and one of my team brought it to me because she was a bit confused. The photo was a photo-booth head shot of a very lovely woman, probably in her 30’s, with hair styled beautifully, dressed in nice clothes. In black and white. Hairstyle and clothes from around 30 years previously. I had to draft a letter politely asking for a more up to date, colour photograph which, when it arrived, showed a still lovely, beautifully coiffed and dressed woman in her 60’s, and now eligible for her senior’s bus pass. I don’t know if it was vanity or what but it was the only application I ever had to suspend for that reason.

      1. Co in ki dinks*

        I work in libraries, and we issued a local card for reduced rates at sports centres etc. People had to bring in proof of age and a passport size photo. My favourite was a gentleman in his 80s handing over a black and white photo of him in military uniform from WWII. I had to regretfully ask him for a more up to date one

  5. Rusty Shackelford*

    After receiving this letter, I got updates. Many updates (probably because I greeted each one enthusiastically and requested more)!


    1. Ashley*

      And I would really like a final update, but if the husband is leaving I doubt he will hear all the juicy findings.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Sadly I expect it would follow the real life “That was weird, and we never figured out his goal” rather than tie it up in a bow.

    2. AppleStan*

      I would have been highly disappointed in Alison if she did not greet each update enthusiastically and if she did not request more. I would have thought it was a different Alison attempting to do the work of the Alison that we’ve “hired” to give us phenomenal HR guidance. I would have been suspicious…and asking others to contact Captain Awkward or Donna Ballman for affirmation and a verification plan.

  6. CTT*

    So if he did have someone else interview for him, a part of me is very disappointed in this “service” for not making sure they were getting things like personal details right or providing notes to John about who they interviewed with. Be better at your fraud! (I mean, absolutely don’t be, but also…the incompetence of it all!)

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Maybe it was the other way around. Maybe Real John interviewed and actually intended to take the job, but got a better offer or decided he wasn’t that interested after all and gave it to Fake John.

      1. Doug Judy*

        I think real John took the job because at some point you do have to provide your SS# and other forms of identity.

        1. pancakes*

          When you fill out an I-9, yes. I don’t know how or why they onboarded him without completing that process.

          1. Magenta Sky*

            We don’t know that they *did* onboard him without an I-9. (Technically, we don’t know this was in the US, though it seems likely).

            I suspect that, if there’s company equipment (like a laptop) that hasn’t been returned, legal is being very cagey with details. (It’s also possible he used fake ID. From what I understand, I-9 verification can take a while.)

          2. ian*

            You fill out the I-9 after you get hired though, right? And there’s nothing on it that’s “prove you’re the same person who did the interview”. Heck, even if you had everyone fill out an I-9 before the interview process, there’s nothing preventing Fake John from just filling in Real John’s info there.

          3. Lily Rowan*

            The person who interviewed just claimed to be John Smith, but then it was actual John Smith who was onboarded.

          4. KimberlyR*

            You can’t run e-verify (the thing you use the I-9 for) until after you hire someone. And you have 3 days to do it. And honestly, if this was legit within the last few days, the e-verify website has had some technical issues. They may not have run this person’s info.

            1. pancakes*

              They did hire him, and sent him (or had him pick up) equipment. I’d think any company supplying computer equipment would want to complete the process sooner rather than later.

      2. Heidi*

        I think something like this happened in the movie “School of Rock.” Jack Black’s friend got a job as a substitute teacher, but Jack Black intercepted the job offer and showed up at the school pretending to be his friend.

      3. Silly string theory*

        Maybe, this is more like a “School of Rock” type thing, maybe ‘fake John’ just stole the job!

      4. Le Sigh*

        I mentioned this above, but pulling these kinds of elaborate cons just seems so stressful! I’m an anxious person as it is and a terrible liar. I’m over here trying to find the energy to go for a run and we’ve got people getting three full time jobs, running fake jobs, getting hired long enough to get a paycheck and get fired…yeesh.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      This seems like a natural progression for the people who buy their term papers online. And they often don’t pay much attention to the details.

      I always wonder about the endgame here. Like, how do you think this will play out if you do something like this?

      1. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

        I imagine that someone who would do this is not terribly skilled in the likely consequences department.

        1. Squidlet*

          I want to write this down because I will surely need to say it to one of my teenagers in the near future.

      2. Smithy*

        This is what I’m thinking. My brother is in IT, really good at what he does, but one of those Grade A awkward interviewers who has always taken radical honesty to a place that’s never wonderful. Like when someone asks a situation you overcame at work, he’d genuinely describe a scenario that got him fired in a job from high school and how it taught him not to steal at work. Or if he’s having a bad day at work, will take a break to call his mom or wife, cry a little, and then get on with his day.

        None of this is necessarily terrible, but I hear him describe what he’s said in interviews and just think “there are so many ways we could edit that…..”. So while my brother would 100% benefit from a Cyrano interviewer, he would also never use one (see radical honesty).

        1. Radical Edward*

          The line ‘one of those Grade A awkward interviewers who has always taken radical honesty to a place that’s never wonderful’ has me in stitches, because I know of whom you speak (generally, that is). Oh, the things my colleagues and I have winced internally at over the years…!

    3. EPLawyer*

      That’s what caught me. Did the interview guy mix up who he was covering for? Not ask the right questions to get the details? Poor service all around. I hope John can get a refund. he needs the money now that he has no job.

      This is why you don’t lie folks, you tend to get caught eventually. I mean did he think he could just fake it in IT? That field is pretty unforgiving if you don’t know what you claim you don’t know. You can’t just cover with a different software. Just don’t know what he thought would happen when he had to do the actual work.

      I don’t think its anything nefarious like corporate espionage (they are hopefully much smoother than this). I think it was just someone desperate for a job and did somethign stupid. When they were about to be caught, they quit and went and hid.

      THANK YOU OP for a highly entertaining start to the work. Just what we needed this gray Monday.

      1. londonedit*

        I’m guessing its another extension of ‘Just get your foot in the door and then show them what you can do’ gumptioning. I imagine Real John thought he’d get the job by using Fake John to do the interviewing, then once he was safely ensconced behind a desk surely it wouldn’t be that hard to figure out how to do the job.

        1. SongbirdT*

          I work with Mulesoft experts in an adjacent technology. Someone might be able to plausibly fake being an architect in my tech domain because it’s very well documented online, and all the training is free. If they’ve got mad Googling skills.

          Mulesoft architects are no joke though. You need to have some deep expertise in the broader tech landscape to make sound design decisions for Mule. This phony was never going to be able to wing it.

      2. Anna Badger*

        there are absolutely companies where if you’re the only one in a particular engineering role and your bosses don’t really understand it (and therefore don’t have a way to evaluate your work) you can totally coast. I’m thinking mostly of SREs here, but there are likely to be other equivalents.

        1. AthenaC*

          It’s very concerning to me how often I see this in the accounting departments of various companies.

      3. ThursdaysGeek*

        I once applied for a job where my cover letter pointed out that I didn’t know most of what they were asking for, but since everyone they hire will have to learn the business, there would be a lot of learning for whoever they hire, I would just need to learn a bit more. They actually did hire me. (And it was a lot to learn!)

      4. fposte*

        “Did the interview guy mix up who he was covering for? Not ask the right questions to get the details? Poor service all around.”

        Maybe Real John didn’t pay for the full service.

      5. Risha*

        Ehh. Depends on the topic. You couldn’t quick fake an expertise in a specific software package that I’m usually hired for – you could learn to navigate the basics in a couple of days before your start date if you were willing to plop a couple of thousand down for a license and had a server handy to install it on, but you couldn’t fake the knowledge of its undocumented capabilities (and oddities). You’d be caught really fast. But if you have experience and no one watching over your shoulder, you can muddle your way through a lot of languages using Google and looking at the existing code base. Let’s just say that I’ve written quite a bit more COBOL that’s currently running on the servers of Fortune 500 companies than you’d expect, considering I’ve never had even one hour of training in it. (No, I’ve never claimed a fake expertise in it to get hired – it was various managers assigning work to me anyway when they had a scheduling hole to fill. Though I do include it on my resume at this point.)

        Fake John could have easily had the idea that he’d have enough time muck around alone on the servers to fill in enough holes in his knowledge to muddle through. It’s not really a winning strategy for something you’re hired to be an expert in, but it’s not a completely out of left field idea and there’s a lot of overconfidence in the world.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      I saw that as Interview John knowing that “I have no family and can work all hours, here in this normal-looking office space” was the correct interview vibe, while John 2.0, on top of being too incompetent to interview or to do the job, is not competent enough to keep a boring cover story going.

      1. Hmmm*

        It kind of sounds like one of those stories of someone trying to work two jobs at once. The sudden change in availability reminds me of that, anyway.

    5. Ally McBeal*

      Yeah, if I ever paid someone to fraudulently represent me in a job interview (and for the record: I would NEVER), at the bare minimum I would require a recording of the conversations that were had so I can review before my first day. I’m bad with names but to not even vaguely recognize someone that was part of the hiring committee is really amateur.

        1. Hanani*

          I teach college students, the vast majority of whom cannot keep a lie going when faced with the gentlest of questions. This is obviously good, I don’t want folks to be excellent at deception, but it’s also a little bit frustrating. You just took the stakes from “a lower grade than you wanted” to “failure and possible expulsion”, Ethan, at least try to commit to it?

          1. All Het Up About It*

            You just took the stakes from “a lower grade than you wanted” to “failure and possible expulsion”, Ethan, at least try to commit to it?

            This added another cackle to this already amazing story and thread.

          2. school of hard knowcs*

            It’s like a 2 year old, holding the cookie and saying they didn’t take it. Poor, poor Ethan

            1. Emotional Support Care’n*

              My now 18 year old loves to pilfer the sweets at his grandma’s. He could have chocolate frosting smeared across his little face and would baldly deny ever seeing, touching or smelling the items. What tripped him up every time? “Hey, did it taste good?” He couldn’t help himself. He’d give a bright smile and cheerfully say yes, because of course it tasted good!

          3. Environmental Compliance*

            One of my favorites from teaching college students was the submittal of a lab report full of blue links that went back to Wikipedia articles.

            The student insisted that they didn’t put those links there and it was complete coincidence that their report matched exactly the Wiki article on the topic. The links must have been put there by the submission software. Their reports were *emailed to me* so I’m not sure what exact software was being referenced.

            (My other favorite was the common typo from deionized water to demonized water.)

            1. Userper Cranberries*

              One of my professors told me a tale from one of her professors – they’d had a student who decided to copy and paste their answers. By literally copying sections in books, cutting them out, and pasting the paragraphs on a sheet of paper. I think they then took the precaution of photocopying their pasted together pages so the actual product handed in didn’t have little bits of paper stuck to it, but it definitely did have different fonts, sizing, etc. I still can’t believe they thought that was less effort than just typing up sections out of the books! (Which would still probably have gotten them caught because it wouldn’t sound like their writing, but in a time before plagiarism checking software, they would have at least had a small chance.)

            2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

              Deionized water to demonized water brings back a memory from my grad school days. As part of my library science degree, I took a course on public libraries (the history, administration, etc. thereof). Every time I turned in a written assignment, I lived in fear of leaving the letter “l” out of the word “public.” Bear in mind I’m so old that all of my college papers were typed on an actual typewriter, so there was no spellchecker or anything like that. I paid extra attention to proofreading that semester, and I don’t think I slipped up, but oh, the paranoia! LOLOL

            3. Cat*

              Hello, exorcists r us? I ordered some deionised water for use in my lab, but now the lab has been taken over by something occult…

            4. Oui oui*

              When I was teaching a marketing class, one of the most memorable “copy and paste from the Internet” essays was from a student who was writing about marketing athletics. It included comments such as: So then Tiger’s mother and I decided that the best thing to do for his golf career would be …

          4. Ally McBeal*

            I am a “good liar” because my parents were domineering and fans of James Dobson (his parenting advice is extraordinarily bad). I guess I’m glad that those kids presumably didn’t have crappy parents, but at some point you do have to learn how to maintain and sustain a lie, even for morally acceptable purposes (e.g. pretending you don’t know the sex of your wife’s fetus because she asked you to keep it a surprise but was ok with you finding out).

      1. Gan Ainm*

        Right? And provide an accurate backstory and peripheral info since there’s always a little get to know you chit chat. I can see not expecting kids /marital status/ religion / etc to come up since it really shouldn’t, but you’d think they’d be briefed just in case… we should not be surprised that someone who didn’t conduct their own interview is lazy or not thorough about selling it though.

      2. Le Sigh*

        So what you’re saying is, you’d want them to take notes on a criminal f******* conspiracy? “:)

    6. Sparrow*

      To be fair, it seems that 2nd John didn’t ask 1st John any of the relevant questions about what went down in the interview, which just seems like poor planning if he planned to convince people he’d been in the interview! But I guess someone cheating to get a job is probably not going to be the most thorough in his preparation… (And I assume that was the goal here – if it was corporate espionage, it would’ve made more sense for the original guy to accept the job himself and just quit as soon as he could steal the info he wanted. That would attract way less attention than this stunt!)

    7. Hanani*

      I’m reminded of a hiring committee I sat on a number of years ago where one of our candidates seemed to switch personalities from the phone screen to the in-person interview. Super engaged, enthusiastic, and brilliant in the phone interview. Almost no affect, disengaged, and awkward in person. On the phone, excited about a long-term role at the organization. In person, the answer to where the person saw themselves in five years was “retired with some retirement savings from this job”.

      We went with the other candidate, and speculated whether the person had hired someone to be their phone self.

    8. Chilly Delta Blues*

      I wonder if they did provide interview notes but real John didn’t read them. Seems like the kind of person who would hire someone else to interview also wouldn’t read the study notes given afterwards.

    9. LemonLime*

      I’m always so incensed by these poor crime choices. Like you worked there and tried to rob the place without a mask?! You left you ID at the crime scene?! You had a car full of drugs and you couldn’t slow down to 25 mph in the clearly posted speed limt?!

      Like I’m so glad we have dumb criminals and I don’t want them to get away with it but it also drives me bananas.

      1. Nightengale*

        A number of years ago I had someone break into my apartment (window was not completely latched) and steal my VCR. The next day when cleaning up the bookcase he had toppled over, I found his ID card. A prison ID card from being previously incarcerated (I assume for theft, breaking and entering?)

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Two of my favorite stupid criminal stories include a dude who bought his murder gear with a personal check *and wrote his victim’s name in the memo line*, and the guy who dutifully sent out and filled in the warranty card for the chainsaw he … yeah.

        1. After 33 years ...*

          The criminal who thought that spraying himself with lemon juice would make him invisible.

        2. Magenta Sky*

          Bank robbers who write their robbery note on the back of one of their own deposit slips isn’t even newsworthy any more, it happens so often.

          People who fill out a job application (usually at a fast food place) then come back shortly after and rob the place is getting that way, too.

        3. Userper Cranberries*

          That’s right up there with the lady who put “kill [murder victim]” in her day planner (yes, the murder occurred at the scheduled time). Can you imagine being a detective and finding that??

          1. Feesh*

            The people who buy stuff for their murdering at Walmart.

            And the ones who Google “how to kill someone with a [homemade weapon]”.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        An interesting theme of Justified was that usually, if you’re smart enough to be a criminal mastermind, you’re smart enough to do that within the law. So you’re running Enron and going to country club prison if caught.

        Raylan chased a lot more Dewey Crowes than Boyd Crowders.

      4. DyneinWalking*

        I once read that some park ranger of national park said that the problem with designing bear-safe trash cans is that ¨there is a significant overlap between the stupidest humans and the most intelligent bears…”

        1. Pennyworth*

          ”We are sad to report that Elmer Dweeble was eaten by the bear that had offered to show him how to open the trash can.”

      5. tangerineRose*

        I read once about a couple who robbed a 7-11 type of place (not sure of the store name) and left their kid at the store! The kid was young but old enough to know who his parents were. I think this was in Jay Leno’s book about stupid criminals.

      6. LavaLamp(she/her)*

        Someone stole my bf’s car a long time ago. He got it back and the thief left copies of their ID and SSN card in the glove box.

      7. JustaTech*

        There’s a Podcast/YouTube show called Casual Criminalist and one of the host’s running things is the “Rules for Doing Crimes” which includes things like “don’t write down your crimes” “don’t tell people about your crimes” “Don’t do crimes with people” “Don’t do crimes with family” etc etc, to the point he’s making a notebook with the (current) list as the first page.

              1. Phoenix Wright*

                Afterwards he got so drunk at the christmas party that he stripped and his privates got fused to the frozen railing.

      1. Claire*

        What an epic post!

        At my last job, I inherited an intern who’d been hired to write the front-end code for an application. The person who hired him knew very little about Javascript and so the intern had been skating for *months* without producing anything useful. I set a few firm deadlines, put the intern under close observation for a couple days, then checked the code. There was a *wild* difference between the code he wrote in those days, and other code he claimed to have written overnight. Intern knew I wasn’t happy, and before I could fire him, he came to me in (fake) tears and said he had to quit because the stress was too much.

        1. Schmitt*

          ” intern who’d been hired to write the front-end code for an application.”

          I mean, that right there was your problem.

          1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

            Lots of people think “front-end code” means “anyone can do this”. It does not.

            Nominally, I am a full stack developer, which means I can write both front-end and back-end code. This is both true and misleading. You need some front-end code done both fast and right? You don’t ask me, you ask my same-level coworker. (And conversely, if you need back-end code both fast and right, you ask me rather than him.)

            1. Remich*

              Have you ever seen that meme about fullstack developers with the horse? (

              It’s perhaps a little mean, but I’ve always found it funny. Obviously real fullstack devs do exist, but as a senior frontend person I’ve found throughout my career that a lot of companies try to force people who are great at backend tasks into also doing frontend work. They may get a UI out of it, and that UI might even work well with the APIs it needs to talk to, but I can almost guarantee that it would fail at one or more of: working across screen sizes and device types, meeting accessibility requirements, security, or even just code hygiene and reusability.

              I also find that one of the ways you can evaluate how developed any given “start-up” is, is by whether or not they hire dedicated front/backend folks in addition to fullstack roles. Most places start out by hiring only fullstack people to save money, have significant failures in one or the other direction, and then finally start hiring specialists if they happen to survive long enough as a business.

          2. Claire*

            The person who hired the intern was a problem all on his own. He would hire interns and just let them loose on application design as well as coding. Yes, the results were just as awful as you could imagine. There’s more, including said person’s own lack of basic development and design experience, but if I go on, I’ll just start weeping in remembered frustration.

  7. Amber Rose*

    This is the greatest saga of our time (or at least the last couple years). I would pay to see this on stage, done in an overdramatic, Shakespearean style. Either that or Scooby Doo style.

    I feel like in your husband’s shoes I wouldn’t have been able to resist the the urge to call him and begin the conversation with ” So, John, if that is your real name!

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I can’t believe no one tried to pull off Fake John’s mask and reveal he was just a shady real estate developer.

      1. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I think he was actually three dogs in a trenchcoat. (I considered cats, but cats are both smarter than John, and also would have pooped on a desk before leaving.)

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          This was the best doordash review. “John is a real delivery person. He is definitely not three owls in a trenchcoat.”

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      Just imagine the montage of both Johns, LW’s husband, and HR chasing each other back and forth across a hallway

  8. WFH is all I Want*

    Wait…what?! I feel like this is an alternative perspective in a spy movie…but it’s making some of my interview experiences make a lot more sense.

    I want the sequel where we know what John did and if they get the equipment back.

  9. Burnt In Screensaver*

    Wow, that’s interesting! The anxious part of me worries that I might be sending off similar red flags bc I have lots of memory problems. But the rational part of me knows that I’ll never send off every single one of those by accident bc that’s … just not a thing that could happen accidentally, and I do have a poor memory and I’m fine mentioning that.

    1. HBM - LW*

      OP here – I had the same thought when Husband told me “this poor guy just oversold himself and they are going to accuse him of fraud!” Haha luckily more unraveled…I think had it not and it just been one person suspicion this probably wouldn’t have amounted to anything.

    2. Elenna*

      Yes – I could see myself not recognizing a person who interviewed me (faces are hard for me), and I do tend to act less quiet/socially awkward in interviews than I actually am, and I suppose it’s possible that someone might normally work in the garage but temporarily take over a nicer desk for an interview. But at least if I know something in the interview I will still know it when I start the job!

      1. Victoria J*

        I once started a job she was given a nice welcome and introduction by a manager and then sent of to introduce myself to some people.

        An hour later I happily introduced myself to this same woman, including listing who “else” I had met that day, starting with her.

        I’m not great with names and faces and I get very overwhelmed when I have to meet lots of new people.

        Briefly very very awkward but recoverable.

      2. JustaTech*

        I have a coworker who interviewed very well (was not at all thrown off when I wanted to ask about a job he’d had at a really cool place back when he was in college or something), nice and affable.
        After he was hired it turned out that he’s actually super socially awkward, in a quiet and serious kind of way. Which is totally fine with me, but confused the heck out of a few people who didn’t expect him to be so odd.

    3. Alexis Rosay*

      I’m guessing that even if *you* forgot something, the interviewers would recognize you and at least know you were the same person!

  10. fposte*

    I wonder if Interview John does a roaring business and there are a multitude of other companies wondering why their John turned out to suck. I also want this to be a movie.

    1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I have so many questions for Interview John that will probably never be answered. How much does he make doing this? Does he get a cut of the client’s salary? Is he able to make enough money doing this that he doesn’t have to take highly paid IT roles, or is it a side hustle? If it’s a side hustle, how does he schedule that many interviews around his day job?

      (Scriptwriters, you are encouraged to answer these questions when writing fposte’s movie.)

      1. Mimi*

        I think you would also need to have legit IT jobs, because you need to stay current in the field in order to interview well.

        1. COHikerGirl*

          Part-time legit job freelancing and going on interviews as a side hustle could work. Every job I have been at (whether it be tech or not) has hired part-time freelancers for coding stuff (some way more technical than others). And since those don’t require office hours, it’s the perfect setup to do fake interviews!

      2. Your local password resetter*

        If he works from home and lives alone, scheduling a few interviews is probably not too difficult.

        That, or he creates increasingly complex and outrageous excuses sitcom-style.

        1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

          The first option seems more likely. But the second would make a more entertaining movie! (Or sitcom. I’d be OK with a sitcom of this.)

        1. Sarah K*

          How would that even work if the candidate can’t do the job? It doesn’t sound like Fake-John even made it through the first pay period.

          1. The New Wanderer*

            The fake interviewer has to interview the candidate to see if he could even do the job if hired?

      1. Rob aka Mediancat*

        No, no, John is a human hired by the aliens to front for them and get them jobs — jobs from which they can get the necessary materials to get off this planet!

    2. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      I’ve heard of people outsourcing their jobs to India and China, or beefing up their resume with short stints at companies that are defunct, or asking a friend to be a fake reference for a couple of beers… But this is new.

  11. irene adler*


    I’d love to find out how these “John types” expect to successfully carry out the job duties given they needed assistance (or used a substitute) with the interview.

    1. Anonym*

      Right? It’s like a wedding vs. a marriage – it’s one thing to get there, but the real work is staying there. Getting to the altar is not exactly the point. Why in the world would you want a job you can’t do?? It’s not entry level. It just sounds like a recipe for misery and constant stress and paranoia.

      Of course, if it really is shadier than that and there’s an attempt to steal company info, that’s a different story.

      1. Anon for this*

        Yeah, as someone who is absolutely terrible at selling their accomplishments in an interview (coworkers and boss are trying to help me with this) it would be so much of a relief if I could just… get someone with my coworkers’ skills at making their accomplishments sparkle to do it for me.

        But that’s a terrible idea regardless because of risk of someone saying you can do something you don’t want to do, and this was even worse because it sounds like original John listed skills fake John didn’t even have!

      2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

        Because a lot of people don’t actually understand they can’t do the job. They hear about it, maybe see a couple of examples of code problems, and assume “hey, that looks easy, of course I can do it”. Or they do something vaguely like it, and are sure they can pick up the details as they go along.

        It always seems like a logical outgrowth of Dunning-Kruger issues to me. If you don’t know how much you don’t know about a topic, of course you think it will be easy to pick it up – I mean, think about all the stories you hear about people managing to start successful careers with no formal knowledge in the topic (the mistold Bill Gates/Steve Jobs/Elon Musk origin stories…)

    2. Cat Tree*

      Yeah like, his did he expect this to play out? Did he hope everyone would be too confused and polite to ever bring it up?

      I remember 15 years ago meeting men in dating websites, and occasionally when we meet in person I would find that his pictures were either someone else completely or really him but from several decades prior. Did they really expect me to think, “oh, well he’s here now and that’s convenient so I guess I’ll just continue on with this date and potentially a relationship.”

    3. Missy*

      It might be like that guy who was outsourcing all his work to people on fiverr and other gig apps for much less than he was getting paid.

    4. generic_username*

      It’s weird that he can’t perform the duties of the job and applied in the first place, but I could see a situation where you could be terrible at interviewing but fine at the job. I would imagine this is especially likely to happen in jobs where you generally work solo and with numbers (lol, particularly IT, but that’s me stereotyping). But I also think someone hiring for this sort of role would hopefully know how to see past the inability to schmooze and hold a riveting convo to see the expertise in the field.

      1. Anon for this*

        As someone who actually has good communication skills in IT, bad communication skills aren’t even the only problem. I can talk up my department’s accomplishments to people at work all day, but put me in an interview where people want to know how I’m exceptional? My brain goes “I’m not exceptional, I’m just doing my job!” and I struggle to communicate the fact that I’m my department’s rock star.

        1. Anon for this too*

          I’m the opposite – I sound much better in interviews than I actually am. I talk a great game, but have problems with focus, executive function and short-term memory which impact on my performance :( (I am getting assessed for ADHD and I’m really hoping it’s that.)

          Twice now I’ve been hired for jobs that turned out to be a stretch for my skills and extremely stressful. I actually am the person they interviewed, though. I would try to make myself sound less competent I’d I didn’t think that would quickly result in my never getting hired for anything.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Yeah, I know someone good at IT, bad at spelling, whose spouse does a lot of the paper parts of the application. But he can do all the IT parts of the job!

        I can see jobs where you just Barney Stinson your way in. But tech where you’re supposed to be able to do certain types of code, or database assembly, or other specific skills? Surely that’s going to come out in the first week on the job.

        1. UKDancer*

          That makes a lot more sense. My handyman is extremely dyslexic and struggles with writing because the letters move around on him. So he told me he got his daughter to fill out forms etc for him when he needs things written down such as CVs and tax returns. He’s an extremely good handyman and decorator so as long as he can do the practical essential parts of his job, it probably matters less that he’s not doing the written ones himself. I wouldn’t recommend him for an office job but then he wouldn’t want one. On the other hand he’s the first person I call when I need something fixing or painting.

    5. LizB*

      I feel like there could be some (very limited) situations where the skillset you need to succeed in an interview process is actually totally separate from the skillset you need for the job – and because those situations could theoretically exist, there are some larger amount of people who incorrectly think to themselves, “hiring is such BS, if they would just give me the job without me having to interview they’d see I can do it just fine!” Maybe that’s where you get John types?

    6. Kimmy Schmidt*

      I’m terrible, but I would pay good money to hear from someone who succeeded at such a ruse and how long they were able to keep it up.

    7. Elenna*

      Exactly! Like, for a one-time exam, I could see getting someone else to do it and then getting away with not actually knowing the material (especially if it’s a school exam and not something you use in everyday life). But in a job, it’s going to become clear pretty dang quickly if you actually know how to do it… Especially since Fake John apparently faked stuff that John doesn’t even know, so it’s not just a matter of hiring someone to go through the interview with Real John’s actual resume! (Not that that would be at all ethical either, but it would at least be easier to fake.)

    8. AndersonDarling*

      There are companies that are so disorganized that John could get away with this for a long time. I was once offered a gig to develop a system to track the work contractors were producing because the company no longer knew how many contractors they had or what they were doing. They knew a bunch of contractors were sitting on the payroll getting paid and doing nothing because no one was keeping track of the work.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Someone in the past had the example of a Lost Department at a university which managed to coast for a few decades by just keeping their heads down and not explaining that they weren’t doing anything.

      2. A Penguin!*

        I was once reorged off the org chart, but kept on the payroll. Nobody knew what I was doing or who I reported to. I could have coasted for months at least while producing as little as I felt like. It still boggles my mind when I look back on it.

  12. A Penguin!*


    I have so many questions, but unfortunately they’re all for John, so it’s highly unlikely my curiosity will ever be satisfied.

  13. The Cosmic Avenger*

    I Am Now A Llama…er, Not A Lawyer, but I wonder if they could have called the police for trespass, since otherwise they have no idea who this guy in their offices, with their equipment, really was. You would think that Interview John would have given Office John’s real name and address and phone #, although fake work history, otherwise it would be harder for Office John to come in and pose as an employee, but then obviously this scam wasn’t exactly meticulously planned out.

    1. L.H. Puttgrass*

      It sounds like John was remote, so trespass might not be an issue. There might be a case for computer fraud though, based on accessing the company’s systems under false pretenses.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      I worked for a government contractor. My guess is that he could have faced federal charges for that.

      On a side note, we did have a case of someone who got a job just for showing up (we were desperate for staff & had terrible recruiting). His friend got an entry-level job & told him to come along on the start date. Instead of sending them both away, our recruiter told the staff doing orientation just to gather Friend’s paperwork, too, as someone they had hired didn’t show up.

      Both turned out to be terrible employees (reportedly, someone saw them toking up in a car during lunch – pot was not legal in our area). They eventually got fired, sued the company for discrimination, & settled out of court. (Pretty standard – our company preferred sealed records to embarrassing trials.)

      1. generic_username*

        Lol, even if pot is legal, toking up at lunch isn’t a good idea. It’s kind of like going to a bar at lunch – sure, you’re on your own time, but you have to be sober when you come into work

      1. quill*

        Look, between The Corruption and The Lonely, the Stranger is being out-competed these days.

        (I intend go and finish the series when we are no longer dealing with the whole Potato. One apocalypse at a time, please!)

  14. Tsalmoth*

    As someone who’s both faceblind and running two job searches right now, man, does this one get to me.

    1. Elenna*

      Meh, I’m also kinda faceblind and it’s likely I would not, in fact, recognize someone I had interviewed with, but it seems like the bigger issue is that John didn’t know any of the basic stuff he was asked about in his interview. Faceblindness doesn’t stop me from remembering basic information about how to do my job!

      1. Burnt In Screensaver*

        I’m faceblind and have a terrible memory, and even I don’t think I could get in this deep. I’d also have to lie (which I don’t do because of said memory issues) or radically change the circumstances of my life in a way that I couldn’t explain.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*


          My memory is horrible, and very hit or miss. I tend to have a problem putting faces and names together, too. I don’t bother to lie, because I can’t keep track of the lies.

    2. Mimi*

      Also, there’s a difference between, “Sorry, who are you again? Oh, right, Holly, who runs the Blah team that we talked about for half an hour?” and “Who are you? Oh, you’re in charge of Blah? What’s that like?”

    3. Anna Badger*

      if it helps, I started a new job remotely in the pandemic and actually found it way easier because everyone’s names are listed on video calls so by the time I met people in person I had had time to get their mannerisms, hairstyles etc down. genuinely least stressful onboarding of my life.

  15. BK*

    One of my colleagues interviewed a potential offshore contractor recently and said it was obvious the person on screen for the video conference was not the one who was answering the questions (someone else was sitting offscreen and speaking for him and he was pretending to answer, covering his mouth, etc).

    I expect this kind of fraud will become more common as we move towards more remote work environments.

    1. WFH is all I Want*

      I worry about that. The anti-WFH crowd will use it to pull people back to the office and the rest of us will have to have our passports out at all times or something else like that and start using those laptop finger print scanners.

        1. WFH is all I Want*

          I’m job hunting because my manager is this level of paranoid. It may be rubbing off on me. I was asked to personally deliver equipment to a group of new hires and check IDs and screenshots from their interviews. I said no. But those people do exist.

          1. pancakes*

            I’m sure they do, but I don’t think these situations are comparable. It isn’t unreasonable to want to check that people accepting a delivery are who they’re meant to be, but it wouldn’t be reasonable for employers to think that duplicity of the type described in the letter is endemic, nor to think that the people who attempt it can’t be caught without intrusive surveillance. That wasn’t needed to catch the guy in the letter, after all. It was clear to a number of people right away that he wasn’t who he was supposed to be.

    2. Linda Gibson*

      Several years ago I served on a first round interview panel and interviewed a man I’m 100% positive I had dated many years previously. However, his name was totally different. I didn’t say anything during the interview because I was so puzzled and he avoided looking at me even when I asked my questions. He wasn’t hired and I just assumed he had changed his name. Now I’m wondering!

      1. pancakes*

        I suspect it’s more common for people who are married or secretive to use fake names for dating than it is for people to use fake names for job applications.

    3. mreasy*

      Wait so the offscreen person wasn’t just telling them what to say, they were actually SAYING THE WORDS and expecting the interviewers wouldn’t notice? That is…hilarious tbh.

    4. Meow*

      My husband used to be on the interview team for his offshore team, and they ran into these kinds of things constantly! When I was working from home I had the privilege to overhear an interview just like you describe. But my husband told me once he’s pretty sure they had a case like “John” in today’s letter, but management didn’t pursue it because the guy that turned up was competent and seemed to match the qualifications he claimed. It seemed to be the interviewer who was the imposter.

      I wondered if the offshore staffing agency was sending stand-ins for interviews for clients that didn’t interview well or had stronger language barriers…

    5. anonymous73*

      I’m sorry but unless the company isn’t doing their proper due diligence, there is no way this would work long term.

    6. I am not a cat*

      I mean… filters exist, and there have been widely reported cases of professionals who can’t figure out how to turn them off…

  16. CCC*

    I’d bet that not only are there “hire someone to interview for you” scams out there, but I’d also bet that there are “give us $X,XXX and we will place you in a job, guaranteed” scams out there where the candidate doesn’t realize that the scammer is lying to the employer, as opposed to being some kind of elite placement agency that fairy wands job search problems away. Like a level up from “I’ll write your resume for you for $400 and it will solve your problems.”

    1. Mm*

      That’s a really interesting theory. That would explain why John didn’t hide it better – why would he ask Holly her role?!? You can then imagine John spent his time trying to figure out what was going on and what he should do. As soon as HR called he panicked and quit.

    2. Toodie*

      I was wondering if Smart John wanted to have two jobs, figured he could hire Other John to cover for him during working hours (go to meetings and take notes, sit through the onboarding training, etc.) and take two checks, paying Other John just a portion?

      1. WFH is all I Want*

        There was the guy who outsourced his job to someone in another country…makes this believable.

      2. L.H. Puttgrass*

        I wondered about this as well. But Other John who would still need to provide employment documentation, and the paychecks would go to Other John, so Smart John would have to get Other John to pay him (as opposed to Smart John getting the paycheck and giving a cut to Other John). At that point, the whole scheme sounds a lot more like a “pay to get a job” setup anyway.

        1. Toodie*

          But why? Smart John could just give his info to Other John, say “use this SSN and direct deposit info when they want payment details,” and collect both. Smart John would have to trust Other John to do things the way he outlined, but it still might be a better gig for Other John (if it hadn’t combusted) than the other things he finds.

          1. L.H. Puttgrass*

            The SSN needs to be backed up by documentation, though. That documentation doesn’t have to include an SSN (for example, a passport serves as proof of both identity and employment authorization but doesn’t have an SSN on it), but it often does (i.e., driver’s license + Social Security card is common). Or Other John could use his own SSN, but then Other John gets taxed instead of Smart John. Come to think of it, the whole arrangement would be a mess come tax time, and it’s hard to imagine how that would not involve fraud no matter how they arranged whose SSN the Johns used.

            Other John paying Smart John for the job”placement” seems a lot simpler to me.

    3. Three Goblins in a Trench Coat*

      That’s a very interesting theory. It jives with a lot of the bazaar details in this story.

    4. gnomic heresy*

      I’m also kind of betting there are people who do this just to see if they can get paid for a week or so and then move on to the next mark.

    5. Lasslisa*

      Oh, yes, this makes it all click. And then the part where he shows up and can’t do the work is totally irrelevant to the scheme, because it’s just “we said we’d get you a job, you have to be able to keep it”.

  17. Reluctant Manager*

    So… Alison had been clear in the past that you need to pay people for time worked, even if they quit in training. What about here??

    1. Amber Rose*

      IANAL but… Arguably no? I mean, I can’t just go into Walmart and start working and expect to be paid. I have to be hired first. Since they didn’t technically hire that man you could make the argument that they don’t owe him anything. Although I suppose you could argue that they did…

      It would be a weird court case anyway. One of those things I’d like to throw to an actual lawyer and see what they say.

      1. NerdyKris*

        They hired the John that showed up, so they would have to pay him. It’s unlikely the John who interviewed supplied his information for payroll.

        1. Burger Bob*

          Yes, but that wasn’t the John they thought they were hiring, and Real John was well aware of that when he accepted the offer under these false pretenses.

      2. EPLawyer*

        If the John they hired was the one they intended to hire and the interview was fake, then John worked and would be entitled this paycheck. Honestly the sorting of this out would cost more than just cutting the check for the little time he worked. He has to pay taxes on that money so its not like he is getting free money. Just one more W-2 to keep track of.

        1. L.H. Puttgrass*

          I wonder if the employer could claim that John committed fraud, if they wanted to press the issue. I don’t know if it would get them out of having to pay him for time worked, but some of what they paid him might go to damages (plus maybe the company’s recruiting expenses). And I can see a particularly aggressive employer saying that they won’t pursue a fraud claim if John doesn’t insist on getting paid. But as a practical matter, just paying John for a week of work is certainly the quickest, easiest, and probably cheapest option.

    2. ecnaseener*

      My guess is that if they proved fraud they might be able to get out of paying him, but that it would be cheaper to just pay him.

    3. ResuMAYDAY*

      I’ll bet the company will pay him, because it wouldn’t be worth their time to create the case against payment. The company should pay him from their entertainment budget.

      1. Elenna*

        +1, I’m sure everyone involved got way more entertainment from this saga than the company could otherwise have bought for a day’s salary!

    4. Burger Bob*

      Because he “worked” there for so little time, it would be cheaper to the company to just pay him, but if they really wanted to fight it in court, I think they have very good grounds to do so. He provided a fraudulent interview (more than one, in fact!), and that was what they hired him based off of. He isn’t who they thought they were hiring, so I don’t think they’re legally obligated to pay him. But again, in this case it would be cheaper to just pay him.

  18. Alex Beamish*

    Wow. Wow. WOW.
    I knew that job searching was going to be different in this age of the pandemic, but I had no idea how truly weird it would get.
    This is so bizarre. Thanks for posting this — truly, 100% insane.

  19. DW*

    My office buddy’s field is 100% tied up with government work and he says this would be a nightmare scenario for him. My field is mostly private but we have lots of poaching and proprietary tools that companies keep a tight leash on…it would be pretty bad for us too!

    1. Mm*

      Yea I think the systems breach is the really scary bit here. Especially when you take the sheer access IT has. I work in Health IT and we would have to report a breach like this to sooo many different agencies.

    2. anonymous73*

      Yes it would be a big problem if John’s intention was to get access to company information, but it could be as “innocent” as him not being qualified, desperately needing a job, and trying to get away with a “fake it til you make it” attitude. When he realize they were on to him, he split.

    3. STG*

      Yea, in IT in government myself. This would be a major event if there was an actual breach.

      In fact, I’d expect it’d be in the local news within a couple days.

  20. irene adler*

    Wonder if references were contacted- or even provided. If so, and they supported the abilities John claimed, then the mystery deepens.

    1. Khatul Madame*

      Oh please. I’d expect fake references supporting the fake candidate to be part of the service.

      1. Mockingjay*

        It’s sad that scammers have better business plans than many legitimate companies. On the other hand, are they hiring? (LOL)

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I like to think the scammers are one of those companies from which, mysteriously, once hired you can never be fired.

  21. Mike*

    This is definitely a thing — it happened at my old workplace a few years back. It’s super-weird because you feel super paranoid and conspiratorial when the thought “is this the same guy?” occurs to you, and then when someone else says it out loud, it’s like “YES! ME TOO!”

    (My boss was great, and matter-of-factly was like “well, whether he’s the same guy or not, it’s clear he can’t do the job, so let’s just shut this down” inside of the week.)

    1. SomebodyElse*

      One of my favorite quotes from a book (Septimus Heap Magyk by Angie Sage) that seems to fit with the this your situation and the OPs.

      Bert waddled unsteadily over the heap of quilts and sat herself down by the fire. The duck was cross. She very deliberately turned her back on Aunt Zelda and ruffled her feathers. Aunt Zelda leaned over and stroked her.

      “Let me introduce you to my cat, Bert,” she said.

      Three pairs of bewildered eyes stared at Aunt Zelda. Nicko inhaled his milk and started choking. Boy 412 looked disappointed. He was just starting to like Aunt Zelda and now it turned out she was as mad as the rest of them.

      “But Bert’s a duck,” said Jenna. She was thinking that someone had to say it, and they had better say it straight away before they all got into the let’s-pretend-the-duck’s-a-cat-just-to-humor-Aunt-Zelda thing.

      I feel like more people should think like Jenna :)

    2. Oui oui*

      Something similar happened in my workplace, except it was a long-distance contractor in the days before Zoom interviews, maybe 10-15 years ago. Contractors were hired over email, after completing a paid test assignment. A recent grad in a remote community somehow managed to produce the most outstanding test assignment we had ever seen from even the most senior and experienced applicants. Once she started doing actual work for us, it was awful. We all assumed she must have hired someone to do the test assignment for her.

  22. Lab Boss*

    All I can think is that, if I were LW’s husband, I would be absolutely drooling at the chance to be involved in this before I left. The company has a guy who can take on any amount of awkwardness, because he’ll be gone in a week and it won’t be awkward any more. In his shoes I’d be tempted to just start asking “John” point blank awkward questions to see how deep it went, secure in my knowledge that I had a foot out the door.

  23. Falling Diphthong*

    What an excellent start to the week!

    I hope for synergy with the opening post:
    • The connection between the person who did the interview and the person putting detergent in the coffee.
    • It’s ridiculous to focus on your coworker’s lack of a hoodie, yet reasonable to focus on their being a completely different human than they were last week. Context matters!

  24. HBM- LW*

    Hey everyone! I wrote in and do have one (I think final) update. As of Friday afternoon, the legal team got in touch with John who was more than happy to respond to the requests to return equipment. Apparently he was strictly business but friendly and all equipment is being shipped to back to corporate.

    My husband reminded me (maybe legal reminded John lol) that the sum of the equipment value would absolutely fall into the felony theft category. The cynic in me thinks “John” and friends didn’t want law enforcement anywhere near this so quickly returned everything!

    1. EPLawyer*

      Support my theory that John got bad advice, realized he was in over his head, bailed out, and now just wants to pretend this never happened. So he is sending back the equipment so he doesn’t have to be reminded of the incident.

      1. Mockingjay*

        Now all John has to do is dream up an explanation for this gap in his resume…Nevermind, I’m sure he already has a plan or three.

        1. Jasper*

          An “explanation” for a one week gap in your resume? Come on. It’s not like he abandoned an existing job for this, so this just gets added to the existing gap.

      2. Anne Wentworth*

        Nah, a scam like this, he probably goes in assuming a certain % of companies won’t be interested in pursuing legal action after bricking it, so he returns the equipment in a friendly manner to those who do follow up so they’ll leave him be after that. Then on to the next mark.

    2. Nitpicker*

      Thanks for this last update!
      The commentariat often says they’d like to be a fly on the wall, thanks for giving us this opportunity with this glorious story!

    3. ecnaseener*

      I’m keeping my fingers crossed for one last update where John puts someone from your husband’s company down as a reference!

      1. Lab Boss*

        Or one year to the day after the scheduled start date when “fake-John” showed up, the John they remember from the interview arrives to start work. He seems totally unaware of the lost time.

      2. Phoenix Wright*

        I’d be so tempted to reply to a reference check with a mysterious “Which one?” and (internally) laugh at the recruiter’s baffled reaction before explaining further.

    4. Kimmy Schmidt*

      I think the cynic in you is on to something!

      Thank you for sharing this fascinating story on a slow Monday morning. Better than coffee.

    5. Polly Hedron*

      Oh, HBM, I hope that this is not really your final update. If you ever find out any more, no matter how trivial it might seem, please continue to share. An audience of thousands will hang on every word.

    6. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      I would also hope that the company would have sent out equipment that could be remotely wiped, bricked or tracked (or all 3) if it were lost or stolen. Here’s hoping he actually returns it and doesn’t…forget.

    1. LemonLime*

      Isn’t crazy?! I hate interviewing but never in a MILLION years would it have occurred to me to try to get someone else to interview for me. Like unless they’re your twin, how do you think it’s going to play off when you show up completely different than when you interviewed?

  25. Stitch*

    A coworker of mine has a common name (for our purposes we’ll say something like Ashley Johnson). Apparently when she was hired another Ashley Johnson applied and got mixed up so my friend got both a call saying she got the job and a rejection email from HR. Our boss sorted it out.

    Obviously that doesn’t sound like what happened here.

    1. Junior Assistant Peon*

      I had something like this once. Got a rejection after a phone screen, then an invitation for an in-person interview. They explained that they had mixed me up with another candidate who had the same last name as me. The other person had been invited for an in-person interview, and then disinvited when they figured it out!

    2. kicking_k*

      This sounds totally believable. (I once mixed up the actresses Ashley Johnson and Ashley Jensen… they’re not that similar.)

      I once got a letter calling me to interview _and_ a rejection letter for the same job. They did interview me but I didn’t get it.

  26. Hiring Mgr*

    John should have sprung for the deluxe package which includes job training as well as an interview debrief.

  27. Chocolate Cake*

    When I was job searching in 2020, I got an interview invite from a company that insisted I get on a 2 minute call with them prior to the interview so they could get a screenshot of my video. It seemed so weird to me that I refused purely on this basis, but now I see why they’d want to do that! I have no words, wow

  28. HBM- LW*

    OH also- the company has implemented a new policy already (unsure of the record on how quickly a corporation can enact a new policy but I imagine they could be close)….all video interviewees will have to give consent for their video interview to be recorded.

    1. HotSauce*

      That sounds like a very good idea and since I’ll soon be interviewing people myself I may do the same thing.

    2. Blinx*

      I was wondering about that! What about ID provided? My current job needed 2 photo IDs, SSN card, and a background check. I’m sure there’s ways to digitally fake them, but hoping that a background check would find anything fraudulent.

  29. Badasslady*

    We record our Zoom interviews, mostly so we can review them later if needed, but that could also help with this issue.

  30. Essentially Cheesy*

    They must be very nice as an employer. I’m pretty sure our HR/leadership would stop them at the door with a “what’s going on, you’re not the person we interviewed” stance.

    1. starsaphire*

      That isn’t necessarily possible, if the company’s a big one. The HR person who does “John’s” onboarding may not even be in the same department/building/time zone as the HR person who did the initial phone screen.

      This is so fascinating and I’m playing out dozens of scenarios in my head about how and why this happened, so many thanks to the OP for sending this in!!!

      1. G. Porcupine*

        Or even a sufficiently small company — where I work, everything except the legal hiring paperwork was handled by the hiring manager, because there’s only 1 HR person and she is busy doing other things. I met her once, for 15 minutes for her to collect information, witness a signature, and make photocopies. She’d never seen me before and hasn’t since (HR is centrally located and my tiny lil research group is not).

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          Where I am, the hiring manager usually does the interviews, HR only become involved where there’s a specific reason to be (example: in previous department, the shortlist consisted of two internal candidates, one guy the hiring manager knew really well from his old job, and a guy who’d put in a formal complaint after having not been appointed the previous time this job was advertised – that was only a few weeks earlier, on that occasion they didn’t appoint anyone). HR would then do the onboarding on the very first day, so “John” could have got that far, but he’d then have been met by the hiring manager on the first day as well once that was done, so that would be where it would have been picked up.

      2. Essentially Cheesy*

        My employer’s HR manager does all of the screening and interviewing; the interviews have been in person.

        We are an “essential” manufacturer so the telework situation is not a factor here and our location’s employees work at the physical office/plant (if they aren’t sick).

  31. Madame X*

    This is so weird! If t is true that the “John” who interviewed and the “John” who showed up/logged in on the first day of work are different people, you would think that they would make sure the biographical details match (married with kids vs single). Either way something was clearly off about the job candidate and he quit because he knew the organization had caught on.
    Even when i was desperately searching for a position when i was unemployed, i only wanted to be hired for a job that I had a reasonable expectation that i could actually accomplish.
    As someone who has only recently begun to get over my “imposter syndrome”, I cannot imagine the audacity to fake my way to job I am completely unqualified for. Faking your way into a job seems like it would be almost guaranteed to backfire.

    1. irene adler*

      That’d be my take as well. IF I can’t ‘bring it’ to the interview, how can I possibly ‘bring it’ to the job itself? Recipe for failure for sure!

      That’s why I’m very quick to make sure the interviewer understands my skill level. I want no misunderstandings.

    2. generic_username*

      Same! I’m in the camp of “This job description says I need 5-10 years experience doing this task in X software, but only 3 years of my 8 years experience involved X software, the rest was using Y Software. I can’t possibly apply! I’m not qualified!” I’ve been working on it because this is objectively ridiculous (especially when the softwares are near identical or have such intuitive interfaces that I could pick it up in moments), but the idea of faking my way into a role feel ridiculous…..

      1. Madame X*

        Right! This is exactly the type of mental calculus I use when I am assessing job applications. The idea of applying to a position where I don’t even meet the basic qualifications is unfathomable to me.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Two of those “yup, fake candidates are a thing” essays Alison links to start off with, basically “So if you want someone with 5+ years experience using X software, and the resume says exactly that, it’s a red flag! Too perfect!”

        You should definitely apply to those, because apparently an applicant exactly matching what they said the job required is a black swan event.

    3. Elenna*

      It’s such a poorly-thought-out scheme, too! Firstly, like you said, you’d think they would at least be careful about the details of appearance, family, etc to avoid immediately rousing suspicion, and secondly, what the heck did John imagine would happen when he wasn’t able to answer basic questions about the job??

      Like, if you insist on faking your way into a job, you should at least be careful about it? And pick a job you can actually do???

      1. HabitrailRunner*

        The fact that this IS apparently a thing makes me wonder if there are people for whom this WORKS. Like, they get a job this way and stay in it. Maybe not, though: maybe it’s just a widespread scam selling interview proxies to desperate job-seekers.

  32. Anon36*

    I heard about this too! My brother told me that it’s an apparent phenomenon they’ve been dealing with at his company (in the tech space) where interview candidates are lip-syncing to someone else answering questions for them, and blaming any disconnect on a poor internet connection. One guy actually got hired and they think he doesn’t even live in the US! Bizarre.

    1. Heidi*

      When this happens, does the person on the call put on a disguise to look like the person who will ultimately show up for the job? I’m wondering if Fake John kind of looks like Real John which is why no one felt like they could call him out on not being the same person.

      1. Anon36*

        In my brother’s case, it’s the actual person applying for the job that you see on the call, but someone else is answering the questions while the actual person lip syncs along.

        1. Heidi*

          Oh, I see. I got it backwards. I can see how that might work – bad connections happen frequently enough that we just stop questioning them at some point. John should have done it that way instead of having a different-looking person do the interview.

  33. Eldritch Office Worker*

    Legal being less than thrilled…I would love to be a fly on THAT wall as HR tries to explain what’s going on.

    1. A.D. Kay*

      *applauds* I bet the only people who get this are us certified Old Farts and younger people who used to watch Nickelodeon! :D

  34. Hairy Carrie*

    Oh PLEASE PLEASE can we take up a collection to hire a private investigator to find John? I need closure!! OP, promise us you will email Allison straight away if there are any updates!

  35. Three Goblins in a Trench Coat*

    My husband and I share a home office and I read the whole saga out loud to him. We were riveted. This is just wild. I’m honestly not surprised this kind of thing happens, but I don’t know what John the 2nd thought was going to happen. Was he just planning to fake it until he picked up the job skills needed? That’s kind of ballsy (and stupid).

    To be fair, my younger brother learned how to wield in his 20s by lying in interviews saying he knew how and then picking up the skills on the job until they eventually realized he wasn’t as good as he claimed then firing him. He’d then get another job doing the same thing and pick up a bit more. This was many years ago and in the construction field where they were (at the time) a lot less formal in their reference/background checking.

    1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I mean, a friend learned to drive a manual transmission that way, by lying to car dealers that he knew what he was doing and teaching himself on test drives, but that’s a lot lower stakes than lying about your qualifications for a job.

      1. Three Goblins in a Trench Coat*

        Your friend wouldn’t happen to be named Hugh would he? Because that also sounds like something my brother would do! LOL

        You’re right though, taking a job under false pretenses is considerably risker. At least in theory. The LW’s husband’s employer might be just content to be rid of this guy and get their equipment back. It’s one epic story to tell at company parties when those are a thing again.

    2. Chilly Delta Blues*

      Wasn’t there a story a few years ago about a guy who had outsourced all his work to someone overseas.. like for years? I seem to remember something about how he watched cat videos or something all day (which they figured out while looking at his computer when he got caught). Maybe real John was going to do the same thing??

      1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

        I remember that guy!! He outsourced it to China or India using Amazon (or Fiverr?) I feel so bad for the company’s infosec people, sounds like a nightmare scenario.

    1. L.H. Puttgrass*

      It’s even a Thing that Alison linked to! (It’s the hyperlink for “claims” in the last paragraph.)

  36. mcfizzle*

    While this was amusing for me on one level, I’m furious for the company and the sheer gall of the applicant(s) on all other levels. What a colossal waste of people’s time and resources for this kind of shenanigan. Could either “John” be on the hook for some kind of identity theft / fraud?

  37. gnomic heresy*

    I’m shaking my head at this guy’s audacity and shamelessness, but I’m also chilled to the bone about what this says about our society. This is capitalism eating itself to death.
    Our system forces people to behave in certain maladaptive ways to live, and people who want to not just live but compete with others under this system are prone to developing more and more extreme maladaptive behaviors. The people who are doing this are probably genuinely feeling desperate because of the artificial scarcity created by our economic pyramid scheme. And this is an absolutely harmful and maladaptive strategy. It’s part and parcel of the whole system starting to unravel.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Much of the history of civilization is trying to solve “So now that the number of people I encounter is greater than the number I know well, who is trustworthy?” Because scammers on the north side of Rome could just move to the south side and start over. Guilds, family, clans, all sorts of ways to try and solve “We have evaluated Galadriel and she is a qualified brewer of mead who won’t poison you.”

        As you say, long before capitalism.

    1. Qwerty*

      An Architect is a very experienced position in tech. In no way did the system force this guy to send someone else to interviews in his place, effectively lying at every turn. This role involves setting standards and mentoring others. He didn’t lie to get a junior or entry level role, but a senior one. Every time we’ve had someone pull this at my previous job, there was a more junior position available where they would have been taught the skills they needed but instead the fakers want the easier, more independent position with a higher salary. By lying your way into a senior position, you are effectively screwing over the other people on the team who need someone to mentor them or at least pull their weight.

      Had someone else been in the third round, John would have been directly taking this job from them. Since there wasn’t anyone else, the company would have eventually took another look at the role or their benefits package. Or the company may have been fine with the position being open until someone with the right skills was found (not sure how common Mulesoft is, but with less common skillsets that just gets baked into the hiring plan as a necessary timeframe)

    2. em_eye*

      I think that’s a bit of a stretch. I agree with your overall critique of capitalism but the “system” didn’t force this guy to do this. He wanted a (presumably pretty high-paying) job he wasn’t remotely qualified for and it sounds like he paid the fake interviewer a lot of money to pull off this scam. It’s not like he told a restaurant he had service industry experience because he was on his last week of unemployment and couldn’t feed his kids.

      1. gnomic heresy*

        I know that the system doesn’t force people to do this. My problem is that it incentivizes this kind of behavior. I did say yes I’m aghast at this dude… and I think that if there’s a rising incidence of this, it is a bad sign for where we are headed.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          We’re at the end stage of a pattern that has repeated since ancient times. The powerful take all the wealth for themselves and oppress the masses and after several generations the masses have a revolution and take back the power and the wealth. We’re at a late stage in that pattern and eventually the regular people will get the power and wealth back and the pattern will reset itself.
          Our founding fathers were trying to make it so that could be done without violence and so so few if any would be oppressed, and as you see the results have been mixed.

          1. BatManDan*

            Except the masses never really get to take back the wealth. It just moves from the business people to the politicians. Recent documentary on how, in communist USSR, there was a whole bunch of propaganda to convince the masses that all were equally poor (and it’s ALWAYS equally poor, not equally rich) while the party heads lived it up in fine Bezos / Gates style.

  38. Retail Hellmouth*

    Fake Candidates are so much a thing that there’s subreddits dedicated to this…and you can actually pay someone to do your interview thru some subreddits.

    1. Sick of Workplace Bullshit*

      I accidentally read this as “Fake Canadians”. I remember in the early 1990s when I was working in England as an expat just after university, Americans would put Canadian flags on their backpacks while going through Europe to have an easier time of it.

  39. NotATerribleRecruiter*

    I can confirm this is ABSOLUTELY something that happens (honestly frequently) especially in IT jobs. I used to work in agency recruiting and this happened to my boss years ago, prior to everything being virtual (expect it took over a year to figure out and the manager ended up loving the hire in that case). That being said usually it’s discovered in the interview process – often the candidate will have an earbud in and having someone coaching them, etc. Some managers get really great at catching the signs.

  40. Falling Diphthong*

    From Alison’s links on the fake IT candidate phenomenon: I’m very disappointed that the first two essays open with how a solid resume that seems ideally suited to the advertised job is a big ol’ red flag. Why is your job listing for impossible unicorns you wouldn’t believe if they sent you a resume? (Though: Everyone thinking of applying even if not perfectly aligned with the job requirements, this says you should do it.)

    The third has practical advice on how to separate “is awkward about video calls” from “is being fed the answers.”

    1. o_gal*

      It might be because the resume of a fraud would be only those skills. Like if I were looking for a programmer who knew Python, Docker/Kubernetes, and the Atlassian suite of tools. The fraudulent resume would only list those. A resume that is not fraudulent might also list experience with Ruby on Rails and Java.

      1. Littorally*

        Yeah, this. While it’s great to find a unicorn, you wouldn’t necessarily expect them to have the exact set of skills and experiences you’re looking for to the exclusion of all else.

        Sort of like if you match with someone on a dating app and they apparently have all your exact interests and opinions and don’t think or enjoy anything you also don’t think and enjoy, that would be… concerning.

      2. Tinker*

        Tailoring the resume and cover letter to the individual application is a job search best practice, though.

        I’m actually in the very position of being readily simplified to a Python + Docker/Kubernetes + “yeah that’s a ticketing system I’ve used” + “we don’t talk about HP ALM” guy, such that if I was applying to say a JS role I would still say that historically I’ve done a ton of Python but also enough of JS to get the gist of how I would reason around using it, but wouldn’t necessarily tell the Python folks about the bits and pieces of JS, Go, Logo, Scala, Swift, VBA, Matlab, that one language for Siemens programmable relays that I forget the name of, etc etc etc.

        Hence, although at this point there’s a limit to how precisely I can fit a box while not looking like I might have been hiding from the law for ten years, it’s not so hard for me to imagine a junior to mid level person who really is mostly one thing. Especially since software job listings have a way of making it look like not committing to a narrow stack will make you undesirable to everyone rather than just the options you don’t choose.

  41. Nonny*

    I wonder if this was a security test, to see how well HR vets candidates and then how quickly does the office respond when it’s clear that dodgy stuff is going down?

    Off to ask my sibling who works in cyber security…

      1. Nonny*

        He thought it was unlikely to be a security test, partially because of the sheer amount of prep work and also because the industry that does major “in person” testing is finance and banking, not IT. Still fascinating though!

    1. LemonLime*

      Oh man, don’t give the criminals ideas.
      *Gets caught* “HAHAHA! This was just a security test. Whew, you guys passed it with flying colors. Corporate will be sending down gift cards as a reward in 10 days. See you later. *waves and walks out*

  42. just another bureaucrat*

    Thank you so much OP for writing all the updates and thank you for sharing this. It absolutely is wild.

  43. Cataclysm*

    I’m not even sure the government ID thing would solve it. What about non-intuitive nicknames? I hate my given name and use it as little as possible, my professional existence is under my nickname, which isn’t normally short for it and is also a name in its own right (ex: my legal name is Linda, I go by Lee). I have an incredibly common surname (think something like Kim for Koreans or Singh for Indians). I can prove I’m Linda Kim, but how do I prove Linda Kim and Lee Kim are the same person?

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Yeah. And if you’re going to run this kind of thing as a scam, it’s pretty easy to set up a batch of fake LinkedIn profiles and then edit everything as needed for each new bait-and-switch candidate. Like a spy agency stockpiling stolen identities in a John Le Carre novel.

    2. pancakes*

      Maybe I’m missing something here, but I don’t see why it would be an issue if you provided I-9 documentation proving that you’re Linda Kim at hiring and then told everyone you prefer to be called Lee. That alone wouldn’t cause anyone to question your identity.

      1. Cataclysm*

        What I’m referencing was Alison saying you could ask applicants to show government identification during the interview and having to prove I’m the person who applied at that point. Unless the application required my legal name, I’d have applied as Lee Kim, and so the name on my government ID isn’t going to match the one on the submitted application. Obviously, if we get to background checks and I-9 verification, I do explain that Lee is short for Linda and so you need to do the verification on Linda Kim, but in the fraud case, if you just hired someone to do the interviews for you, by the time you’re submitting I-9, you would’ve already swapped back and so the I-9 for John was presumably valid and matched up to being John.

        1. pancakes*

          If that became a common practice you would have a reason to use your legal name for applying, though. I would think employers asking for ID as part of the process would want to tell applicants in advance so that they come prepared and aren’t caught by surprise.

          Idk, I saw a number of people earlier in the thread say that they’ve never been asked for ID at an interview and I haven’t been either, but I’m in NYC and always have to show ID to security in the lobby to get upstairs. In a small employer like a restaurant that is a non-issue, but for those of us who tend to work in big buildings in midtown or the financial district there is always security in the lobby.

        2. Very Social*

          Do you really apply as Lee Kim? I apply as (say) Susan Adams and on my first day ask everyone to call me “Sue.” Maybe I’m the weird one for not putting Sue Adams on my resume!

    3. EPLawyer*

      I run into this all the time. I have completely changed my first and middle names from my birth name (think REALLY COMMON GIRL NAMES to something still common but less OBVIOUS THANK YOU VERY MUCH). I just keep what I call the “evolution” of my name documents handy. There was a marriage in there too. So I have birth certificate, first marriage license, divorce decree which changed the first two names and took back maiden, second marriage license to explain the hyphen. Most people stop me when I start bringing out a file folder.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Yup, I also have the folder.

        birth certificate
        [first marriage, first divorce] (balance each other out for no net change in name)
        legal first name change
        second marriage (changed last name)
        second divorce (put my maiden name back in as a second middle name but kept the last name)
        third marriage (dropped my second husband’s last name, moved my maiden name from middle to last, and hyphenated)

        At this point the only thing that matches my birth certificate is my middle name :P Which, like half the women born in the 80s, is Lynn.

        1. retired3*

          Now imagine yourself 40 years in the future, retired, pandemic, files somewhere and being asked to give all this info as a contractor…not a business need, nopity, nope…and I changed the spelling on my middle name through usage, not legally

    4. em_eye*

      I don’t really see that being an issue because you’re just trying to prove that the person who shows up is the person that interviewed, not that the person interviewing matches the application.

      So you’d put Lee Kim on your resume, then when you showed your ID at the interview you’d say “I go by Lee but my legal name is Linda”. Then when you got hired, you’d show up and present government ID that also said Linda for your I-9.

      I’m in the same situation as you and what usually ends up happening is that after going as Lee during the entire hiring process, I put Linda on the background check authorization if there is one and then on my I-9 and any other legal documents. I often don’t even bother to explain the situation. It has literally never been an issue.

      1. Cataclysm*

        I’ve never had an issue either, but people also haven’t asked me for my ID in interviews. If they’re going into this with the mindset that I might be a fake and they need to see ID to prove I’m me, my ID isn’t going to solve that concern and we’re probably not even going to get to the background check and I-9 stage. I’m also from a minority that people tend to think all look the same and where family members often have similar-sounding names. (A background check frankly makes it easier because then I can prove Linda has the same job history listed on Lee’s resume).

  44. ahhh*

    Alison I’m just curious in this situation, how would go about getting computer equipment back? What avenues does the company have

    1. Littorally*

      OP updated in the comments that Legal gave John-the-worker a call and possibly reminded him that *not* returning the equipment would be a slam-dunk felony charge. He sent everything back nice as you please.

    2. anonymous73*

      When I was laid off, I didn’t get my severance pay until they received my equipment. I don’t know if it would be legal to withhold someone’s regular paycheck until they got the equipment back, but that would probably be the only leverage they have. It’s probably not worth a lawsuit to get a laptop back.

  45. Catabodua*

    This is fascinating! If it was a case that he had someone who could do the job interview for him and he thought he’d just pick it up on the go / they wouldn’t notice, you’d think they would at least get the basic details of family and workspace ironed out before the interviews happened.

  46. SK*

    This is a thing in tech. I remember being in coding school and a new instructor admitted to “helping” one of his on an interview. I think he was feeding his friend answers during the interview. I think it was for one of those big companies like Facebook or Amazon. Either way, it wasn’t a good anecdote to share with students who were mostly Black and POC because we were most likely to be called cheaters and liars.

  47. Bee Eye Ill*

    I’ve seen multiple times where people lied about their education and work history, but never went quite this far. Doesn’t surprise me at all, though.

  48. Jaxgma*

    Since this was an IT position I wonder if this was really a ruse by a nefarious actor to get access to the company’s files. It’s entirely possible that the company’s passwords, etc have been stolen and a ransom attack is heading their way – and possibly also heading to their clients or vendors, depending what business they’re in. It’s hilarious on the surface but potentially actually quite sinister.

    1. Emily*

      If you’re were going to corporate-espionage someone, wouldn’t the guy who actually interviewed want to show up and be aggressively normal for a week or so and then quit after he got what they wanted? (If he were working on behalf of a another company, they’d presumably give him the time. If he were working for himself, he could take some PTO or even try to do both jobs simultaneously.) This seems like a way to get far more attention paid to you and your computer behavior.

      1. No Tribble At All*

        (speculating here) The scam has 2 people: one charismatic John to ace the interview and get the job, and one awkward hacker John who needs access to the laptops.

      2. Elenna*

        Unless worker-John is the one who wants to do espionage, but he knows that he can’t get through an interview (maybe he works for a rival company but in a different part of the company?) so he hires interview-John to do that part for him? It would be a poorly planned attempt at espionage, but this is poorly planned no matter what it is.

        It’s probably just a guy trying to fake his way into a job, though. Occam’s Razor.

    2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      Stealing data would be one concern. But depending on how well structured the company’s network permissions and the like are, it’s entirely possible this person could have left them a nasty surprise for the future, as well.

      Could totally see this being an attack vector for a ransomware group – just get someone in the building for a couple of days so they can plug in a flash drive, and then wait a few weeks before it goes off…

      1. SongbirdT*

        Way easier to drop 30 thumb drives in the company parking lot and wait for an employee to find it, get curious what’s on it, and plug it in to a work device. (it’s happened!)

    3. SongbirdT*

      Mulesoft architects don’t normally get into that kind of thing. They’re mainly designing and managing integrations between business systems, and there’s no data stored in Mule. You could maybe figure out how to pull data into a separate system where it could be compromised, but to do that without detection, you’d still need to be a skilled Mule architect.

    4. Emmy Noether*

      Mh, if it was espionage, wouldn’t it make more sense to have the spy that did the interview also show up to do the job to be less conspicuous? And to send someone competent in?

  49. Dust Bunny*

    OMG I went to one little department meeting and came back to . . . this.

    You would think if you had somebody interview for you the two of you would do a much better job of coordinating stories?

  50. An Anecdote*

    I had a boyfriend who worked as a software engineer. He was on an interview panel where they interviewed someone from a different country (the interview were conducted remotely), they offered the job, the person relocated and it was a different person who showed up the first day. This person was also not a capable worker who very clearly hired someone to interview for them! Apparently it had happened MULTIPLE times at this one company.

    1. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      Interesting. So they are hiring a professional interviewer? Why? Is it because of English skills? Or is some kind of scam via a fake placement agency?

      1. An Anecdote*

        I guess so! The person who interviewed was very knowledgeable and it was quite apparent that when the (different) person started, there was a discrepancy. They were never sure if the person who showed up for work as the new hire just desperately wanted to come to the US, or thought that all people of a certain nationality looked the same (to the employer) and that they might get away with it and be able to fake their way in the job.

    2. NotJohnTheSecond*

      Wow. I am a sw developer, so I know all about this problem. First heard about it several decades ago.
      But to actually do this on a job that requires you to relocate to another company. That’s instant deportation territory. You have to be very, very stupid to do this. Or I guess very desperate.

  51. Phony Genius*

    Dear Ask a Manager:

    The company that just hired me doesn’t seem to recognize me. They say I told them about skills that I have during the interviews, but I don’t remember discussing this, since I don’t have these skills. They say I spoke to somebody named “Holly,” but I don’t remember her. They even say I look different that I did during my interview. Do I have imposter syndrome?

  52. Gary Patterson's Cat*

    I wonder if this is a case of Real John being legal to work, but fakeJohn not being legal to work.
    Real John does the interview and gets hired, but fakeJohn shows up for the job and is not actually qualified to do the job. Or maybe Real John is running a ring of several people taking jobs and then pays “his subbed” or non-legal employees. The main goal being to get away with it as long as you can. Or was it less nefarious, and John hired an actor to help him interview?

    I’d have to think people are desperate to do something like this. Either way, it is SO weird! I wonder how many companies don’t notice? I’m kind of laughing at the audacity of the concept… except that I feel bad for the people who didn’t make it to the 3rd round who probably also wanted a job.

  53. Qwerty*

    A previous job of mine has run into this many times! They usually try to target companies that have at least a couple hundred people where they think its possible to fly under the radar for a while. That job spent a while training interviewers on how to catch if it seemed like someone was being fed answers and our virtual interviews were recorded so that the recruiter could see if it was the same person in every interview (sometimes the fake candidate only attended the coding interview and the real one handled the hiring manager and behavioral interviews). A lot of tech jobs can be hard to get fired from so I think the thought process is that if you can get in the door that you can coast for a long time on poor performance.

  54. the cat's ass*

    OMG, that is QUITE a saga! Thank you OP for your great writing about a really odd experience and thank you Alison for providing us all with a front row seat to the weirdness that is The Workspace in 2022. And it’s barely February! Strap in, folks!

  55. ArtsyGirl*

    …what…a…journey. Thank you for this and I agree with camp that thinks John 2 contracted with John 1 to land the job and figured he could fake it until it made it but they didn’t coordinate well. Likely they thought J2 would not interact much with the people who hired him especially if it was a fully remote position and didn’t share notes on names, interview questions, and appearance.

  56. Emotional Support Care’n*

    This doesn’t surprise me. There are places on the internet dedicated to “helping” people by any means necessary so they can secure the job they think they want, whether they are qualified or not. Sometimes, they actually are, they just don’t have the education, or they have a spotty background and it’s being used as a barrier to the job. Other times, they have no clue what the job actually is, they just want a cool sounding title in something they vaguely have a faint idea about and shoot from the hip hoping they’ll be okay because the money’s decent.

    1. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      I have heard of companies that provide fake reference services to people who have been fired or do not have a good work history. But less so actual fake interviewers.

  57. Three Flowers*

    This is one of the wildest things I’ve ever seen on this site and that’s *saying something*.

  58. Aerin*

    One of our recent new hires showed up on her first day looking entirely different than she did on the video interview (like, her hair was very short, dark, spiral curls on the video, then the first day she has elbow-length, very straight, bright blonde hair). I definitely had the “is this the same person?” thought, not gonna lie, but I refrained from saying anything because “it’s just a wig” was the more logical answer. And sure enough, the next day she went back to the look she had in the interview. Guess this is a preview of the other way it could have gone…

  59. Interview Who?*

    Wait…all of this is absolutely insane. But….did I correctly understand that HR and Legal can surreptitiously put a trace on your personal computer if you are using their network? Or should we assume they are using company hardware?

    That is the most concerning part to me right now. Can companies just decide to trace your personal computer because *reasons*?

    1. Veryanon*

      They can if you are using your personal device for work-related reasons. You have to agree to it as a condition of service, though.

      1. Interview Who?*

        Yeah you “have to” “agree” but they still have the power to do so, whether or not you agree. They *shouldn’t* if you don’t, but companies *should* also be ethical….

      2. Antilles*

        You have to agree to it as a condition of service, though.
        This is true, but odds are you agreed to that condition in your first 10 minutes on the job as part of the flurry of paperwork.

      3. David*

        Hmm… I wouldn’t quite say that. In order for the company to trace a computer, they have to install monitoring software on it, and in order for them to legally install software on your computer, they have to get your permission. (Well, it depends on local laws, but I can’t imagine that doing it without permission would be legal in the US or any western European country or anywhere else with a similar legal system. I’m not a lawyer though.) Now, they certainly can make it a condition of service that you grant the company permission to install that software, but not all companies do that.

        If the company wants to illegally install monitoring software on (i.e. hack) your computer, then it’s pretty much the same as anyone else hacking your computer, except that if you’re using your computer for work, the company probably has easier access to it than a random hacker does. Still, that doesn’t automatically mean they’ll be able to do it.

        1. David*

          Actually I should say: even if you have a well-protected computer, the company can still hack it if they have a very good (and extremely unethical) penetration tester on staff, or if they have a few thousand(?) dollars to pay a third party to do it, or if they’re doing extremely sensitive work for the military and have highly-placed contacts at the NSA, or so on. So, yes, your computer is hackable for someone willing to invest enough resources, but what I wanted to say is that, probably at most workplaces, you can use a personal computer for work while keeping it difficult enough to hack that it wouldn’t be worth the trouble for your employer to do that.

    2. Nonny*

      It was a company company they had sent the candidate. I assume set up for IT to remotely access when/if needed.

    3. HBM - LW*

      Nope it was not his personal device – company device only from what I understand.

      I’d be with you, I think hacking someone’s personal device would be concerning!

    4. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I was assuming John was using company hardware, and that was what IT was going to be tracing. If there is evidence that work has been done, but no evidence of it being done on the computer the company provided, then it’s reasonable to assume it was done on a non-company computer.

    5. L.H. Puttgrass*

      Others have already mentioned that John had a company-supplied computer. But even with a personally owned computer, the company can monitor any traffic over their VPN (which, in some configurations, is all traffic while the VPN is on).

    6. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      In general, if your device touches a network and asks it for data, you should assume the person in control of the network can see and know anything about your device they choose to. Most devices are configured to trust the networks they connect to, which means a malicious admin can do a lot of things to them, and learn a lot about the person the device belongs to.

      If you install any software from a company or the like? Yup, assume it comes bundled with spyware at the least, and more probably with the ability to destroy all data on the device.

  60. oranges*

    This reminds me of the Friends episode where Joey tries to hire a fake Joey.
    “How are you DOIN’?”
    “No, no, no! It’s ‘how YOU doin’, damnit Carl, go wait in the hall!”

    If you’re going to find a fake person to interview for you, at least make the basics correct. Don’t be so sloppy, sheesh.

    1. anonymous73*

      Looks like I’m not the only one who can relate pretty much any real life scenario to a Friends episode LOL

  61. Veryanon*

    This happened to me years ago, before remote interviews were A Thing. One lady showed up for the interview with a very impressive resume and skills. We hired her. The person who actually showed up on the first day of work…was not the person we interviewed. They looked similar, and to this day I think they were probably siblings, but definitely not the same person. We ended up terminating her after a few days when it became very clear that she didn’t know how to do anything we hired her for, and she had falsified her references, to boot. Ugh.

  62. JohannaCabal*

    This reminds me of something I’ve heard about in other places and from a family member who works as a counselor with high schoolers: bypassing a criminal background check by using a family member’s ID (with their permission) to get a job. Usually, it’s someone who’s having trouble finding a job due to past convictions.

    My family member has had a handful of students admit to letting older siblings and cousins use their identities to get jobs. And she can’t get through to them that this is fraud and they could get in a lot of trouble, because in their minds it’s okay because they gave their family member permission.

    (Of course, this all comes back to the fact it’s hard to find work after getting involved with the U.S. legal system so myself and my family member can understand why some people might due this.)

  63. squirreltooth*

    Wow, if hiring someone to interview for you is a thing, then John and Not-John are both really, really bad at it. Why wouldn’t you attempt to know a few things about the person you’re posing as so you don’t set them up for inevitable contradiction? (I.e., saying you’re single when John is married with kids.)

    Also, I worked at a place that did legitimately accidentally mix up candidates with the same name and hire the wrong one! They both had a very common name—let’s say Alex—and were about the same age and gender, so no alarm bells were rung when they were called and offered the position. However, they looked strikingly different, so when Oops Alex showed up for their first day of work, their manager about almost died, especially since this candidate was much, much less qualified for the role. The solution was to shuffle Oops Alex into another but less complex open position and quickly hire Other Alex for the role they’d been intended for, so it worked out in the end.

  64. ResuMAYDAY*

    I’m a career coach and help all my clients prepare for interviews. I can’t tell you how many times, over the past 20 years, a client asked if I could do their interview for them. We would laugh and then get back to work.
    This letter has left me thinking about the existance of that tiny space – the sliver of a thread – that exists between laughing about this, and actually trying to pull it off.
    I suppose there are people out there who have done this successfully.

  65. Phony Genius*

    I’ve heard of this happening to help people get work visas to enter the country. But this position is totally remote, according to the writer, so that doesn’t make sense as a reason.

    1. EPLawyer*

      If you can’t legally work in this country, it doesn’t matter if it is remote. They would have to be hired according to the laws of that country and the company would have to comply with all their regulations. Which the company might not be set up for. Like we are hearing about all the people who want to move to another state and work for their company remotely but their company isn’t set up in that state so is not allowing it. They think the company is being unreasonable but its really a compliance thing. The company could get in a lot of trouble if they hire someone and don’t follow all the laws and regulations.

      1. UKDancer*

        Definitely. If you apply for a job with a UK based company you need to be legally allowed to work in the UK even if you want to do the job remotely. Otherwise the employer could be in serious legal trouble.

  66. Momma Bear*

    Wow, what a saga! How do these people think a company wouldn’t notice??

    At an old company we had someone be called out by HR when some things didn’t line up and he quit very suddenly after 3 days. Another person ghosted and we thought maybe he was dead or something. There was bad weather the last time anyone saw him. The company cut off his access and counted his laptop as a loss. The team was told by HR to stop digging for info which made us all the more curious. Years later he showed up again on social media and I found what I think is a police report of him being arrested for DUI. Our guess is he ended up in jail.

  67. Zuzu*

    Just wanted to add to the comments that this is definitely a thing that happens in IT! I work in recruiting, and my former team did a bunch of tech hiring. There were certain agencies/subvendors that it was a real problem with. We had a whole process in place to identify these people. The most common situation was having the real candidate interview, but with someone feeding them the answers. Since so many interviews were already being done virtually (pre panini) it made it harder to catch. I don’t know if we definitely hired anyone this way, but I’m sure one or two slipped through. A lot of times it was really sketchy staffing agencies just trying to get their fee (they get paid if someone is hired, and then it’s harder to take the money away) and they got blacklisted pretty quickly, but some of it was on individual candidates as well. The world of hiring is wild.

    1. knitcrazybooknut*

      I was really confused about what era would be considered “pre panini”. Then the other shoe dropped! :-)

  68. ian*

    We’re all going to feel real bad in a week when it turns out that in the time between the interview and starting, John got Lasik, a haircut, and hit his head in a way that gave him a new personality but also caused him to lose his memory of his former life and his IT skills…

    1. Elenna*

      And also he met a woman and, in a whirlwind romance, married her and is now living with her and his new step-kids!

  69. TJ*

    We had this happen at a previous company well before virtual interviews.

    The person we interviewed and the person who started work looked similar but different enough it was commented on. They also seemed to struggle with accounting concepts they’d understood at interview.

    Turns out they were a twin and their sister was already settled in an accountancy career so had done the interview for them.

    They were let go (the day after a rather interesting team building day but that’s another story)

    1. Corporate Lawyer*

      So bizarre, what did she think would happen once she actually started the job? I can almost (if I squint) see why someone might think this would work when interviewing for a job that doesn’t require specialized skills or knowledge. But technical fields like accounting or IT? You can’t fake that sort of expertise, and you’re going to get found out and fired pretty much right away.

      1. Antilles*

        I could understand the novice twin naively assuming that it’d be doable; everything looks easier when someone else is doing it.
        But the twin who’s an actual accountant: How do you hear your sister’s wacky scheme and think it’s going to work?

      2. Becky*

        I took a basic web design course in college (html, css and JavaScript) and the final exam was “open internet”. We were given a time limit and the specifications for the website we were to build. Because if you had to look up every single thing you would never be able to finish, and every programmer I know will go to stack overflow for a solution to one issue or another.

      3. Berkeleyfarm*

        In a larger group you can often cover up better by shuffling work off to others/asking someone.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      The trick is to hire both twins.

      I worked somewhere with a set of identical twins. I knew them well enough to tell them apart, but it did occasionally confuse new staff. (“Why is Tara acting like she doesn’t know me?!”)

    3. EPLawyer*

      You can’t just leave it there. What was the interesting team building day and how did it tie into her being let go?

  70. A Simple Narwhal*

    This has been an absolute delight and 100% the highlight of my morning. 10/10 *chef’s kiss

    1. Littorally*

      Right? My Monday kicked off on a crappy note but this is delightful. It turned my whole day around.

  71. AsherCat*

    That was a ride! How fascinating and weird.

    Tangentially related, when I was interviewing for a technical position on my team last summer, I got several candidates who all had similar resumes – I thought they were plagiarized. We interviewed a few, and it was obvious they didn’t have the technical knowledge they were claiming, so no one ever made it past the first screening call. I did some digging on them because it was bugging me, and learned that they were all “working” at this company run by one person from a house (I looked it up on the maps), and this person’s website had a sample resume, and offered job placement “services” that I’m pretty sure was just him fleecing these poor people. Some of the people we interviewed were very obviously reading from scripts or googling answers as we asked questions. I wouldn’t put it past the person who was “employing” them to send someone else to do their interviews.

  72. Fiona*

    I’m sure I’ve told this story before, but many years ago I worked with a young woman, Mara, who was an intern at our media company. I knew she had a twin sister, Sara, but I’d never met her.

    One day I went to this other company that we did a ton of work with – like, we went there ALL the time for meetings and sessions. I show up and see the twin working the reception desk and say “Oh hi, I’m Fiona. I worked with your sister, Mara, over at Media Company.” She stared at me and said “*I’M* Mara.” It was honestly one of the creepier moments of my life, because even though they were twins, I knew she wasn’t Mara??? I had no idea what to say. I think I was just like, “Uh okay” and she was like “It’s nice to see you again.” Again, VERY creepy.

    It turned out Mara had interviewed for the job but I guess didn’t end up wanting it and “gave” it to her twin sister who went and performed the duties until she was found out. I’m sure it has all kinds of legal and fraud implications for your social security number and taxes, so I think it’s pretty dumb – especially since the job was in the same industry so she was going to be found out pretty quickly.

    1. RagingADHD*

      Some identical twins are mirror copies instead of carbon copies. If they have noticeable features like a mole or birthmark it can be easy to see that they’re reversed.

      If they have subtle facial asymmetry they will look nearly identical but be slightly “off” in ways that could be easily overlooked. Could be you noticed a slight difference that other people didn’t see.

    2. JohannaCabal*

      I mentioned above that I’ve heard of this happening with family members “lending” their identities to siblings or cousins looking for work, usually stymied due to some type of past legal trouble. They figure if they resemble the person enough, no one will question it (besides who looks like their DL or passport photo anyway?). Usually it’s for retail or restaurant work.

      The tax thing is a good point, plus, because I’m sure this is a social security issue since SS looks at your work history to determine earnings.

  73. Hibiscus*

    So, funny thing–according to family lore my grandfather and his brother did something similar during the Depression. George had two job offers, one from the civil service exam and one from the local telephone or electric company. Mickey was still looking for work. Their mother said, George, you have two jobs. Mickey has no job. You give Mickey one of your jobs.” So Mickey went to work for the government under his brother’s name and no one knew a thing for 20 something years until they had to do a background check to send him to Europe for some post WW2 nation building and he had to come clean.

    1. jane's nemesis*

      I love this story! So Mickey went by George at work? Or did he tell them “oh, call me Mickey, it’s just a nickname” when he started?
      Also, what happened after he came clean???

      1. Hibiscus*

        Irish- American family, we really only used about 5 names up until the 1970s, so I don’t know if Mickey said, “yeah, please call me Mickey, ‘George’ is just on my birth certificate.” According to my aunt who told me this story he came clean and the 20 years of work and clear background check (no Communist ties) meant they kept him on, but I don’t know.

  74. Imaginary Number*

    Here’s my wild guess. I feel like this wasn’t a situation of someone being paid to interview because then they would have at least gotten the biographical details correct?

    Original John was interviewing with multiple companies and received an offer for this company and elsewhere. The elsewhere job was a better fit, so he “gave” Fake John the job at this company.

  75. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

    This is just beyond insane. However, I remember a story about a husband and who both graduated from law school. She passed the bar exam the first time and he kept failing. Then she disguised herself as him, including a false beard, and took the bar exam as him and passed. The thing is, they might have gotten away with it if people hadn’t heard them joking about it. Both were disbarred.

  76. El l*

    I always wondered if the “Don Draper is Dick Whitman” thing could happen in today’s working world!

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      Difficult, but possible. I won’t name her, but back in 1970, in the Boston area, a group of five people knocked over a National Guard armory, stealing some advanced weaponry. They then used those guns to knock over a bank. Unfortunately, a police officer (father of nine) was killed in the holdup – shot in the back with what is called a dum-dum bullet. This woman remained “on the lam” for 23 years under an assumed identity.

      It’s also possible to get a new identity under the witness protection program – just as the woman above did – they find a birth certificate of someone around the same age, who died in infancy, and left no survivors, or might have been put in an orphanage. A few bank records, a retroactively issue SSN and voila, a Don Draper.

  77. Angela*

    January 31st and I think this will probably take the cake for the most bonkers story of the year… then again, who knows what bananas situations are just waiting to be uncovered!

  78. LKW*

    I love how this place breaks down how it could happen and then all of the potential pitfalls and ramifications. The collective evil-genius here is a good resource for those less ethical and less creative.

  79. Choggy*

    We had a similar situation with an (IT) consultant who was interviewed over the phone, so there was no way to know what they looked like. I think this may have occurred a couple of times. In this case it was a bait and switch by the consulting organization to get lower level employees in the door and hope they could just do the job without anyone noticing.

  80. idwtpaun*

    “My husband is getting sick of me sitting against his office door eavesdropping” – Thank you for doing this important work, OP, your letter and updates have made my entire week. I hope your husband understands that had you been blogging this live, hundreds of AAM readers would’ve been waiting on your updates with bated breath.

    1. HBM - LW*

      OP here – Husband is very amused with all of this! He’s loving the comments. He has 2 more days at company so maybe we’ll get one more glimpse of John/the fallout before he leaves, but I think we will never know the truth about ole’ Johnny boy.

      1. Koneay*

        Yes, thank you LW and Alison, this has turned blah Monday to smiling Nonday. Love all the updates.

      2. school of hard knowcs*

        Honestly, I DON’T have time/watch reality tv. However, a Teams meeting with the only camera on the door while you were eavesdropping. I think a few of us would have found the time and snacks and possibly coached questions/snark to add to the outrageousness. Although reading about it is a close second.

  81. Dust Bunny*

    A friend of mine who participates in hiring interviews at his company says that they once had a guy come in for the first two rounds and then suddenly try to become a similar-looking-but-definitely-not-the-same person for the final round. It failed: The interviewers recognized–or, rather, didn’t recognize–him immediately and sent the substitute packing, and tossed the candidate’s resume.

  82. blackcat lady*

    My jaw just hit the floor as I read this. I can’t believe this is a thing and it happens often. I feel very old because my response was – what about honesty? My parents raised me with integrity and that’s the way I raised my kids. Both Interview John and Fake John have serious character flaws. Both should be blackballed from the industry. Yes, I know I sound smug. But sweet Baby Jesus, what a scam!

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      I think it’s especially a problem in IT, where there are a lot of auto-didacts. You generally can’t pull off “fake it till you make it” for even a 2-year associate’s degree, let alone a 4-year degree or post-grad work.

  83. jbrandt*

    A couple of months ago I phone-interviewed somebody for exactly the same position as I have, pretty much. He answered my technical questions with weirdly specific detail, but when I asked for examples of when he’d used various technologies he got real vague. This continued through the interview– I’d ask what if he had used something like VLANs, and he’d respond with a definition, and I’d ask how he’d used them and he would reply with something vague or just keep replying with various forms of the definition. I started off thinking it may have been a language issue, but finally realized he was googling stuff in the background (or somebody was feeding him answers) and cut the interview short with a do-not-hire recommendation. The other engineer he talked to agreed that he was clearly feeding us quick web searches. The sad part is that he’d managed to impress the hiring manager, who doesn’t know enough about what we do to recognize somebody who is massively unqualified but trying to fake it.

    I’m glad this guy didn’t get hired– it would have become clear real soon that he had lied to us, but it would have been difficult to get rid of him.

  84. Usagi*

    This happened at one of my ExJobs! It was at one of the Big Five, so I guess I can kind of understand the temptation of doing this? But obviously that’s a temptation that no one should answer. It went similarly to OP, up to the point where the employee quit. My employee doubled (and later tripled) down! It was entertaining to watch (but also kind of sad).

    HR apparently had recordings of some of the screening phone calls, and this company has a “check in” page right before any video interviews where you check your technology like internet speeds, webcam, mic, etc., at which point you can adjust everything. But also apparently the system takes a screen cap?

    Anyway, what that all led to was HR showed the employee that the person that interviewed looked and sounded VERY different from the employee that was now working, and also brought up the discrepancy between the skills discussed during the interview and what he demonstrated on the job. He explained that he was hiding from his family, who were trying to “kidnap me and take me back to take over the family business” (his words), which is why he got plastic surgery to change his appearance and voice. He also said the stress of said situation was getting to be too much, explaining his lapse in skills/memories.

    … okay, fine. HR said they’d give him the rest of his orientation period, and if he didn’t improve to the level he demonstrated during the interview, we’d have to meet again. At the end of the call, after the employee left, the HR person (who I adored, she always helped me through the weirdest stuff) just sighed heavily and said, “Usagi, please just document everything, and send it to me, okay?”

    Of course, the employee didn’t improve, so at the end of the 90 days, we were in a call again, essentially leading up to “… and so we’re terminating your employment.” But as soon as it became clear the employee was going to be let go, he starts going off about how it was a hostile work environment, that me and my team were targeting the “new guy,” stuff like that. The HR Specialist asked me to disconnect from the call, and later let me know that he was terminated, but that no one on my team, including me, was to talk to him. If he did try to contact anyone, we were to forward that to her and Legal.

    And he did try to contact me. He sent me a long string of (drunk?) texts starting off apologizing and hoping I could give him a good reference for at least trying, which then flipped over to accusations of retaliation (?) and sexual harassment (!?), which again flipped to what could be summarized with “I’m sorry, can we please at least be friends?” I forwarded all that to HR and Legal and that was the last I heard of him.

    … until later, after I had left that company, when one of my previous PMs who had also moved on told me that she saw him at a convention, working for a small start up. Apparently she saw him loudly arguing with an attendee visiting their booth, telling the attendee they were stupid for not understanding the significance of the work they were doing.

    So I guess he’s doing good!

  85. MoonMouse*

    Apparently this happened in my organization before I joined! The person’s webcam “wasn’t working”, and when he arrived the first day, it was a completely different person. After their developer welcome lunch, they had him up and out the door by EOD. SO WEIRD!

  86. CaptainMouse*

    Not really sympathetic to John1 or John2, but…
    My husband interviews really well and enjoys the process. I don’t. So I’ve never done this, but I’ve fantasized about him doing the interviews and me showing up to work. Our tech areas overlap enough that he could represent my qualifications correctly.

    But now I’m retired.

  87. StellaBella*

    I have had an emotionally taxing day at work. Thank you OP for making my evening better! This is bonkers!

  88. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    I had something similar happen, but with online dating. The guy who turned up at the coffee shop was much shorter/more muscular than and not of the ethnic group I expected. (To be clear, height and ethnicity are not deal-breakers for me). Coffee was nice enough. Got home and looked at the one photo he had – full-body from a bit of a distance and kinda blurry – and decided that no, it really didn’t look like the person who showed up. Date was fine, but not awesome and I never heard from him again. Still wonder what the heck was going on, though.

    1. A Friend with Friends Who Have a Lot of Friends*

      A friend of a friend said it also happens with escort services. But I can’t verify it myself.

    2. starsaphire*

      This was… super typical in online dating for a long time, although admittedly I’ve been out of it for a good 10 years.

      But, over and over again, so many of the pics would be blurry, or super cropped, or decades old — DECADES — or just not at all representative of the guy that would show up at the coffee shop.

      I swear one time the pics the guy sent must have been of his grown son or something, the differences were so dramatic!

      But it was a super known thing, and there were all sorts of advice articles on all the dating sites I frequented about it, IIRC.

      Honestly, I think it’s just that people wanted to not be passed over for their looks, tbh. Trouble is, once you’ve met, and your date knows they’ve been lied to… what do you really think will happen next? Just like John – what did he really expect would happen, anyway?

  89. Nikki*

    I work in IT and my (very shady) boss at a previous job once told me about a similar situation. He took a remote consulting job but rather than doing the work himself, he hired a developer in another country for a fraction of the pay to do the actual work. Former Boss would get the assignments, pass them on to Foreign Developer, who would send him back the completed work which Former Boss would send to the company. That way he could keep his existing job and rake in some money from this side gig without having to do any of the actual work. The company never caught on, which is crazy to me.

    1. RagingADHD*

      I hear about that a lot. As a matter of fact, outsourcing is recommended as a “productivity hack” in some books. I think “The 4-Hour Workweek” was one of them.

      At least your boss had the sense to collect the assignments himself.

  90. Jordan*

    We had this happen at my company. The initial interview with the client was done through zoom with the camera. The second interview about the specifics of the project with the client was done camera off because John said he was having computer problems. The guy who showed up to the client site to start the project was someone entirely different than the interviews and had to be escorted off the premises by security. It was so weird.

  91. A Feast of Fools*

    Based on the title of this post, I was expecting something similar to what happened at a gift store I worked at in college: Very timid, conservatively-dressed woman with long brown hair and glasses applied to work there and interviewed with the owners, a couple of managers, and some of us staff workers. We all thought she was lovely and would fit the “vibe” of this upscale, pricey store.

    But, on her first day, a woman in a subdued mohawk that was dyed light green showed up. She wasn’t wearing glasses and her attire was ultra-trendy for the time period (late 1980’s).

    It was the same person, though. She just decided that it was time to try a new look.

    The stuffy owners of the shop choked on their coffee but we staff and one of the managers convinced them that since her personality hadn’t changed, she was still a good fit. We were right.

  92. Salad Daisy*

    Company I previously worked for gave all IT candidates a written test. We discovered one person, after they had been offered and started working, had looked up all the answers on his cellphone. When confronted, he conveniently “fell down the stairs” at work and sued the company. Settled for $29K.

    1. Meep*

      No offense but $29K is not enough for me to even fake falling downstairs for any reason at all, let alone over losing my job due to lying. He is an idiot.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        I dunno, I used to know a guy who I am pretty sure kept re-injuring himself (same bad knee) every time he started a new job. He’d “slip, fall, hurt his knee” and go on workman’s comp again, repeatedly. Also, as it turned out, a compulsive liar. (He’s married to an ex-friend of mine. Guess why we’re ex-friends.)

  93. Fred*

    I wish I could say I was surprised someone thought they could get away with it – the HR at Toxic Job was fond of adding entirely unnecessary specifications to the job adverts, some of which were literally impossible (5 years experience with software that was only out for 2.). A lot of those requirements were just absurd, so I don’t blame someone for thinking they were pretty much all unnecessary. Some of the jobs I’ve done didn’t need any qualifications at all.

    But yes, it’s pretty dishonest even if you have been trapped in Unemployment Hell for the last few years.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      Yeah, Fred – many job postings do that intentionally so they can disqualify anyone. Yes, someone wants six years experience in a software system that came out last March…. when I was unemployed (briefly) I ran into that a few times.

      For “Unemployment Hell” see the movie “The Company Men”. During a few months of being on the street – nearly everything that happened to Bobby Walker (Ben Affleck’s character) happened to me.

    2. RagingADHD*

      I’ve always thought that in a fictionally terrible company, this could be a clever screener for job listings. Intentionally embed a significant error, and only pursue candidates who point it out.

      It would certainly select for a particular personality type, as well as knowledge of the field.

      1. Becky*

        I imagine it would also result in some very qualified candidates seeing the error, assume the company doesn’t know what they are talking about and skip it entirely.

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          …or assume the company is playing head games. What’s it going to be like once you’re inside the door? Even if you’re smarter at head games than they are?

  94. Ollie*

    I’m extremely good at reading and retaining information for a short period. Many years ago I took all the tests for a CNE and passed. I couldn’t have fixed or designed a network to save my life. But it got me a nice raise at my company and I never had to touch a network. I think later on they changed some of the tests to be a lab type test which was a good idea since I would not have been able to pass those.

    1. anonymous73*

      Yeah I’m a “use it or lose it” type of person. If I’m not actively participating in the task on a regular basis, I can’t remember anything. I’ve gotten into the habit of documenting a process if I don’t do it regularly so I can reference it later.

  95. Rachel Greep*

    When I was in college, I was accidentally hired due to an application mix up. I put in an application at a local bakery for a summer job (small, family-owned). I was surprised to get a call with a job offer without having interviewed, but the manager and I had spoken a bit when I dropped off the application. I arrived for the first day and began training with another sales associate several hours before the manager arrived. She had a deer-in-the-headlights look, but said nothing. I was a good worker, got along well with the owners, and worked there during summers/school breaks for three years. It wasn’t until the end of that first summer that the boss admitted that I was not the person she meant to hire.

    1. Prof Space Cadet*

      I work in a small industry and know many of the people who are interviewing for the same types jobs that I am. Several years ago, I had an interview where it was clear the hiring manager had confused me with someone else. Imagine that my name were “Carla Darson,” but the manager was asking questions clearly tailored to the resume of my former classmate “Darla Carlson.” It was really awkward and I nearly said “I think you have me mixed up with Darla. Should we end this now?” I decided to roll with it just for practice.

      I never heard back from them, not even a “thanks but no thanks.” Didn’t want it.

  96. Meep*

    I know it is less nefarious but part of me wants to pretend this was a Face-Off situation. I wonder how John thought this would fly and if LinkedIn profiles will not be referenced in the future.

  97. anonymous73*

    Wow that was a wild ride. My first thought was DID because that was the only thing that came to my mind as to how this was possible (and I watch a lot of crime procedurals/true crime series). It never occurred to me that someone paid someone to take their interviews for them, because honestly if you’re not qualified for a job, how long do you really think you could fake it? Especially in a technical role like this one.

  98. Ralph the Wonder Llamas*

    Is there any chance that this was corporate spying? Get the job, have your expert get on the system, get what you need, then quit?

    1. Brightwanderer*

      Why would there need to be two different people involved though? Why wouldn’t Interviewer John just start the job, do the espionage – without raising unnecessary suspicion – and then quit? I don’t think that checks out.

    2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      I would hope that in jobs where that would be a concern that the company would on-board very slowly and not give someone universal access to info on day 1 — no matter what level they were.

  99. quill*

    No matter what (else) happens to me this week, at least I don’t have to clean up after Doppelganger John.

  100. Hailrobonia*

    My sister once supervised a student worker who’s work was extremely variable… one day she’d be great, doing all the tasks as she was trained… the next day she’d be confused by the same project she was working with before. We joked that maybe she was identical twins secretly enrolled as a single student.

    (The solution was, of course, less interesting but more valuable: just some basic work organization skills to impart and reinforcing the message “don’t be afraid to ask for help!”)

  101. Nick*

    Since we went to virtual interviewing I’ve definitely had some candidates that I’m fairly certain were either being fed answers or frantically searching for answers. Only a couple have accidentally told me what they were up to, as in “what I’m reading off the webpage disagrees with what you just said.”

    But yeah, I’d be shocked if this isn’t happening. Probably not exactly common, but it wouldn’t shocked me if it isn’t uncommon either.

    1. Mackenzie*

      And meanwhile, it’s not that unusual in the software engineering side of things to be allowed to look things up. Nobody’s expected to have the entire standard library of every programming language they work with memorized. You need to be able to figure out the logic, and you shouldn’t need to look up syntax, but looking up the order of arguments to a function or skimming the table of contents on the doc for a reminder of available function names? Fine.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        LOL. I have written code in something like 15 different languages between compiled, scripting and macros. I never remember syntax – I always have to look up the order stuff is in, and the exact punctuation. But a for loop is a for loop, an if test is an if test, and languages have variable degrees of typing. To read from a command line is different, but most of them have a method, so look it up. Some languages have their regex internal, some load it as a library, and some make using it like pulling teeth.

        After well over 20 years they all run together. Add in a memory that is a sieve, and you have someone who has to google basic syntax if they haven’t been programming in that language for a month. Needless to say, I have a hard time with coding interviews that want me to have stuff memorized, because I can’t. Too much cruft in my flakey memory.

        OTOH, I can become proficient in a new programming language in a couple months – it’s just another variation on a theme.

      2. Software Dev*

        I google syntax constantly. Most of programming is being good at logic and googling, honestly, but those are hard skills to test for so we end up with the mess of programming interviews we have today.

      3. David*

        I actually love it when I’m interviewing a candidate who needs to look something up because it lets me see their Googling skills. If someone knows how to efficiently find reference documentation or a relevant Stack Overflow question or whatever, that’s going to be a big plus on the job.

  102. Jamboree*

    Holy smokes. I am an AAM addict and this might be the best day of my AAM experience. I was up last night and so read the coffee machine poisoning letter right after midnight and thought Alison had hit a new high point. Then I’m away from my phone for a few hours and come back to Cyrano! CYRANO! deBERGERAC!! My cup runneth over! How in the world will you top this tomorrow, Alison?!

  103. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    Back in the late 80s-early 90s, I was involved in interviews and hiring. I am in the U.S.

    We were *not allowed* to ask for ID – more appropriately , is the person authorized to work in the United States – until we extended an offer, and it was accepted, and the person showed up for work. That’s a tough thing, because if your company does not sponsor, you can’t find out the person can’t be legally hired until he or she shows up for work on day 1.

    As much as I feel badly – because living in the United States or Canada is what many in the world want — I wish we could have screened BEFORE we get to the “first day on the job” …. and his / her “employment” ends before it starts. I know it’s the American/Canadian dream – but I don’t like being dragged through a process and have it end this way.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      Ugh! Your company could have made clear it would not sponsor before interviewing people and then at least the fault would be on the candidate who continued through the process after knowing that. I sure you’d still get those with the vain hope that they could show up on day 1 and get sponsored, but your company wouldn’t have been misleading them.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      That’s weird. “Can you legally work in the US?” is a common and legit question early in the process these days.

    3. Alexis Rosay*

      That’s pretty strange. I’ve always screened for ability to work legally in the US and never had a problem.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        I think my boss might have been afraid I’d say the wrong thing, and get us sued.

  104. Mimmy*

    That was probably one of the most entertaining letters I’ve seen on AAM! I hope there is some sort of update to this, but it sounds like one of those things where you may never find out the full story. All you can do, really, is to try to prevent this from ever happening again.

  105. antisocialite*

    If I could post a GIF, it would be the one with Stephen Colbert eating popcorn, haha.

    Oh man, I really hope there’s one more update on WTF happened.

  106. MelMc*

    We had the “wrong” person show up to work once, but it was an honest HR mistake. John Smith and Jon Smithe were the two final candidates and HR called the wrong one. At least it was an understandable mistake to everyone except the candidate who missed out.

      1. MelMc*

        The one HR called because they didn’t want to make the embarassing phone call that they made a mistake. The other one, who had been highly recruited by the department chair, threw a tantrum and declared he would never work for us because we were idiots. It’s ten years later and he’s currently working for us.

  107. Ann O'Nemity*

    Something similar might have happened at my previous job, but the tip off was the accent!

    Bob interviewed Diya over the phone and then in person. On Diya’s first day, Bob went to HR, concerned that the person who showed up was not the person that he interviewed, as she suddenly had a very thick accent and struggled with the English language. Both Diyas were similar in age and looks – both Indian American. But Bob swore that Interviewee Diya was a native English speaker, and First Day Diya was not. After much internal discussion, it was decided that the best approach was to do nothing. HR was worried that focusing on the accent issue stunk of possible racism. Thankfully, Diya was competent at her job! Bob had some Feelings about it for awhile – worried he was crazy, etc – but eventually settled on thinking that Diya probably resorted faking the interview so she could get past all the hiring discrimination she had faced; who knows if that’s true but it’s a sympathetic story that Bob could forgive. To this day, I think it’s equally possible that Bob was confused about who he interviewed. We’ll never know.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      In some ways this makes more sense than what appears to have happened here.

      Diya had someone who looked a bit like her but had no accent pretend to be her during the interview in order to get past the interview, but she was qualified and competent at the job.

      John’s problem was he was not qualified to be a mulesoft architect and that will stand out pretty darn fast.

      It’s like at least one other commenter said, I wouldn’t ever do this, but if I were to do it I could do it better than this dumb guy who did it so poorly.

  108. RagingADHD*

    I could understand trying this for some kinds of entry level positions, where a skill deficit would be less noticeable, and (lets face it) management sometimes doesn’t pay much attention to a new hire’s personality or life circumstances.

    Or if someone has a lower level skill set and is trying for a stretch position that’s a bit beyond them, or if it were a less-easily quantifiable “soft” skillset where they could inflate their accomplishments.

    But how could they expect to get away with this by claiming specific technical skills John simply does not have?

    At first, I thought maybe it was a scam to get their hands on company equipment for some reason. But in the update, John sent the equipment back promptly.

    The whole thing is nonsensical.

    1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      I don’t think they’ve received the equipment though — he just promised to send it on Friday. My thought was John & Friends are low-level thieves just after the equipment to resell it quickly. I bet a dollar that he has trouble getting it shipped for a few days (car trouble/bad weather). By the time they file a police report, it’s been sold to a new victim that doesn’t realize it’s stolen property. Hopefully the company can remote brick the device ASAP and write it off as a loss.

      On the other hand, if it is an entry-level IT position, there are a lot of jokes and internet memes about IT help desk fixes (turn it off and on again, check to make sure it’s plugged in, or Google the answer) so they could have thought he could get away with it at least long enough to collect about a month of pay; and depending on how many companies have hired “John”, it could be lucrative to simply work about a month at 4-5 jobs.

  109. Elizabeth West*

    Holy bananacrackers, Batman! I dip in here and this is the first thing I see today, wow.
    OP, if you ever find out what happened, you HAVE to tell us; I’m dying.

  110. Jovigirl*

    I’ve heard of people doing this so they can continue to collect disability or other government benefits while working or when they can’t get a job because of their criminal history. They pay someone else to use their identity.

  111. lex talionis*

    I sent a link to this post to my IT peeps in India (big Pharma, all IT off shored) they are beside themselves! It’s all they can talk about. Some disdain, some admiration, much shock.

  112. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

    I read that LinkedIn link that Alison had in her response and I might have refused a few of their recommendations without this sort of background info.

    Allow screen share? um hell no…
    Take off my headset and use the built in microphone? [suspicious face] ok…for 30 seconds I guess…I use a headset because of wicked feedback/echo that I can’t seem to remove otherwise.

  113. Teacup*

    I suspect he hired someone to do the interview. However, it could be competitor intelligence. We had an employee bring in her husband and child to the office on maternity. He walked around whilst everyone cooed over the baby. Someone who knew him personally from another company informed legal as he worked for a direct competitor. Luckily our director had a strict clear desk policy and the only items visible were for well known products/services. She was fired for gross misconduct.

    In the UK, before an offer of employment is made, the employer is legally obliged to check that the potential employee is eligible to work in the UK. Usually it’s two forms of ID including a passport or photo driving licence. However, if you don’t provide a photo ID you need much more like past pay slips, bank statements, utility bills etc. Fines for not having evidence if checking are steep, especially if they are found f to be working illegally.

    I’m surprised most places don’t just require some form of ID at interview.

    1. Guin*

      Wow, that is really harsh! The husband came along to help manage the baby. Who in their right minds though the wife set up the visit so the husband could conduct industrial espionage? I’m glad I don’t work for that company!

      1. Cat*

        I mean, if not for the clear desk policy it’s more of a red flag, but presumably employee would know that there was an enforced policy so the payoff was likely to be smaller?

      2. The New Wanderer*

        I don’t know, I think the husband wandering around the area without an escort is a little sketchy. But then I worked in a company where we didn’t allow onsite visitors without official badging and escorts (which required training), we had a clean desk policy, and any spouses/family members who work at direct competitors were reported on the annual conflict of interest form. If it was a security-minded place like that, having someone wander off would be something to be suspicious of. Though even with that, I can’t imagine anyone being fired over just a one-time visitor who walked away for a bit unless he was also seen taking photos or rifling papers.

  114. Mike B*

    Guessing he paid someone to do the interview but kind of crazy they didn’t at least get their backgrounds sync’d up.

    I do think this would actually be possible at larger companies like Google. They using interviewing pools within each job family and it’s very common to not actually work with anyone that interviewed you. The committee that hires you is not the same as those that interview you and so generally the interviewer never bothers to track who got hired and who didn’t. And those folks interview so many people (at least 1-2 per week) that even if you did work with them they might not remember you. Good chance some/many weren’t even in your same geo area.

  115. Mike*

    We caught this at the interview for 2 different candidates. Guy calls in to Teams interview and we ask him to turn on his camera. He agrees and joins video with another device but video is on mute and has incredible lag. Dude on video was who we were gonna get and he was lip syncing the other guys speech. Camera was wide that we could see him moving hands while talking. My boss muted him and we let him know. He unmuted himself without lowering his hands. Lol. We then give him another chance, hang up call and just talk from video. He says ok and both calls drop, he never comes back. Second time was a different candidate, he video called in but with same lag. We grew suspicious of lip syncing and his booming cough with limited physical reaction gave it away. It should be noted that both candidates showed drivers licenses which matches their face and name so that won’t help. The guy who face you see & shows up is “John” the guy whose voice you hear is someone else.

  116. JE*

    I knew of a situation like this second-hand where I used to work. The individual was working in the US (I don’t know his status) in a coding job in a hybrid role. The interview had been virtual. It became clear that he didn’t know the subject in meetings, but if he had a couple of days he would return good work. Manager and teammates were noticing and then he told a colleague that his relative in India was doing the work overnight. Colleague immediately told the boss and that was the end of that job.

    I remember at the time thinking it was a shame because the overseas guy was apparently talented and we did work with Indian subcontractors!

  117. Danielle*

    I swear to Bob that this is happening at my work right now… Either that or they were bamboozled by white male mediocrity. We hired a new IT guy in November, and ever since there has been a mess of inconsistencies. He can’t figure out Zoom (we’re currently locked out since he messed up the password 10 times), didn’t know how to use Google groups (he set up extra emails that go nowhere then forwarded it to Google groups? We have a department of 6!?), he deleted all our bookmarks and they are unrecoverable, didn’t know our WiFi printer had an IP address, doesn’t know what alt text is, and so on. I’m just so confused as to how this guy got hired when he seems so incompetent.

      1. Danielle*

        Yep. Had to schedule four test runs to discover spotlight, can’t figure out chat or muting, and now we’re locked out of our institutional account because he forgot the password 10 times in a row.

  118. ap*

    Sloppy form on the fraud. He didn’t even watch his interviews while they were happening so he could remember people & details?

  119. World’s Coolest Dude*

    Not gonna lie, all these stories about switcheroo scams are pretty heartwarming. Hooray for chutzpah!

  120. ZucchiniBikini*

    One of my clients (I’m a freelancer) interviewed someone in 2020 during the long lockdown where I live. Obviously the interview was on Zoom and the position would be fully remote initially, with a reassessment when Covid conditions stabilised. The candidate joined the call at the scheduled time … but voice only, saying they were very sorry but their camera was broken. Interviewed very well, and were one of the top two options, but the hiring manager had a niggling concern about the lack of camera, so called them on the mobile number they’d provided to do some follow-up questions. A completely different person answered the phone (I am told the voice was not even close in timbre, accent or cadence). After some digging, it seems that the candidate’s friend had done the interview for them, because they were worried they didn’t come off well in interview. It was wild. (And sad too, bc the candidate was very well qualified and could have done the job, if they’d just done the interview themselves).

  121. Bowserkitty*

    This post is an instant classic for me and I put it up there with Michelle(?) whose appearance changed multiple times during the day/week. Fantastic.

  122. L'etrangere*

    And then there’s the true story of a friend of mine who interviewed all gussied up in a suit, with a skirt and even (!!!) stockings. Had a hard time following the manager down the hall, almost lost a shoe as she wasn’t used to pumps in the least. Got hired, all went well. And instead of easing them in slowly, she showed up on the first day as her real self – short little lesbian in jeans, tennis shoes and t-shirt. The manager visibly blanched, gasped but failed to say anything. By the time he recovered and might have tried to question her identity she’d spoken enough about work stuff that it must have been clear that she was in fact the same person, still competent, just no longer in drag..

  123. Murray*

    Most likely this guy’s highly skilled cousin did the interviews for him because he didn’t have the skills and experience needed to get the job he was looking for. People at Infosys told me that this happens a lot in India. So much so that they take photos of the person who does the interview so that they can compare them with the person who shows up for the job. They also independently validate everyone’s education credentials in India because there is a lot of cheating and faking there. It’s very unusual for it to happen in western countries though.

    1. Water Everywhere*

      Roll back your racism there buddy. Read the comments and it’s obvious that yes, this is a thing that very much happens in western countries.

  124. Evvie*

    I was John…minus the fraud. They literally had called the wrong person and offered them the job. In this case, that wrong person was me.

    I only knew because, on day one, the boss asked me about something very specific and I, honest to God, said, “that’s not me. That’s the other candidate who was waiting to interview after me.” (She and I had chatted while waiting.) I TOLD him he had the wrong person, in so many words. He looked confused for a second and then sent me on my way to get to work.

    We looked totally different and had completely different names to boot.

    Luckily, I was qualified and good at the job. Good enough that the creeper boss tried to violate policy and get me to move to a new location with him, but that’s another issue. (I said no.)

    I hope the other interviewee found something, though. She was also qualified and probably would have done well.

  125. Candi*

    I first heard of this in the Not Always Right comments, several years ago -with in-person interviews!

    Someone would interview under the name Wakeen Tetera , and then someone else would show up with same name and job credentials and entirely different appearance.

    One thing -if they investigated instead of just turning the person away, the person who showed up would frequently-but-not-always not have the paperwork to legally work in the country, or would not even be in the country legally. So there’s one motivation.

    (Don’t ask me what they planned to do about I-9 info. Although it wouldn’t surprise me if Person A was “loaning” their info on that score.)

    If you’re wondering why I picked Tetera -it’s a Spanish word and I find the translation funny. (It’s SFW.)

  126. Summer*

    I honestly didn’t want the updates to end. So many unanswered questions! LW please let us know if you learn of anything new!

  127. Who Plays Backgammon?*

    Maybe John has an evil twin Skippy who showed up and blew the job. This sounds like a TV movie; plots that thicken because there are twins involved can be fun.

  128. Jo*

    My boyfriend’s work uses a recruitment agency that does all the interviews. Twice now it’s not been the same person who has come to the actual workplace. And since they didn’t do any interviews themselves they never knew it wasn’t them. They only found out because of gossip. They ask for IDs once they get to the job now…

  129. theletter*

    I worked for a company that had an incident like this, back in 2014. They had interviewed the candidate over zoom, and then the new hire came into the office to train for a few weeks.

    On the first day, the people who interviewed her noticed she was gregarious, funny, and bubbly, which was weird because the woman they interviewed was shy, stern and quiet.

    They asked the new hire to re-interview for her job. She excused herself to prepare and never came back.

  130. SleepyWolverine*

    This is becoming a thing. I’ve seen at least two leaked clips recently of people in a Zoom interview getting busted. Generally, the person is on camera and moving their lips in time with someone who is off-camera speaking the answers to the interview questions.

  131. Jesse Chisholm*

    In a way, this reminds me of a situation back in the late 1950s. There was this fellow the newspapers nicknamed “The Pretender”. He would fake job acceptance letters, steal other people’s identities, make fake identities — all so he could get interesting sounding jobs without having to learn/do anything to prepare. When the stress of faking that job got too much, he’d move on to some unrelated job elsewhere.

    He _may_ have been my mother’s GP doctor when I was born in 1957.

    She reported he would do some non-traditional things, like: listen to her symptoms, disappear into the back room, then come back a few minutes later with a diagnosis and treatment plan. Sometimes bringing a big medical tome and showing her the diagrams while reading the text to her.
    He taught her how to recognize and self-treat many minor ailments that (if treated soon enough) didn’t really require a doctor visit.

    One day he came to our house, and asked for the bill to be settled, as he needed to leave town.

    The next week it was in the papers that the FBI was in the area trying to track The Pretender.

  132. Avocado*

    I once met someone who had no technical training whatsoever but wanted a tech job for the salary so he GOT HIS TWIN ENGINEER BROTHER to do the interview for a QA position for him. He got him the job in this well known tech company and the guy had been since then working there (for a few years already)

  133. Katrinka*

    When my kid took the GED last year, it was online and they had to scan their photo ID and send it beforehand, then hold it up just before the exam. They also had to leave their camera and microphone on during the entire thing. I was a bit surprised, but it makes sense.

  134. Brian S*

    What I don’t understand is why the questions over if this is the same guy if they saw his face on the interview. There is a mention of changing his hair….what about his face? I am a hiring manager and would be able to tell right away if I have a different person showing up on day 1. What am I missing? And if this company is hiring people without them turning their webcam on, then that is a fault of the company. They could avoid this situation very easily.

    1. Jarissa*

      Well for one thing, lighting conditions and other environmental factors can have a measurable effect on how a camera picks up the shape of a person’s face. Camera distortion is a heck of a thing even if the nearest clothing texture+color stay the same, the makeup is the same, the hair color and shape are the same, and the physical health of the subject is precisely the same. So, absolutely, I understand why Husband and Holly both knew something must be “off” but could not be certain it was more than just “hair and glasses make the Christopher Reeve thing happen”.

      But also, Brian, listen: If I look at your face, in person in excellent lighting, I see Angelina Jolie.

      If I concentrate carefully before you start exhibiting micro-expressions, if I see contextual indicators that help my brain figure out this is Certainly Not Ms. Jolie, then I suddenly see a close cousin of Dwayne Johnson.

      It’s once I get used to how you use your face that I start to see *Brian S.* And that might take months of regular interaction.

      I know a lot of hiring managers probably do not have even a mild form of prosopagnosia. On the other hand, “how John does his work” and other cues wound up being what tipped Husband and Holly off; and I am glad that “evaluating work skills” is a requirement of “being a hiring manager”, not so much “can tell the difference between Gerard Butler and Clive Owen at a moment’s glance”.

  135. Eric*

    This happened once where I worked, although not as egregious. We were looking for Contractors for a specific IT project, the Contractor put up a few candidates, we interviewed them, and awarded their agency the contract once we found the contractor we liked. When the contractor they sent showed up on Day 1, it was not the same person. Once they landed the contract they just sent whoever they wanted.

  136. Sam Von Schmamm*

    Best letter of the year so far. And so agonizing because the company may never have answers.

  137. Draig*

    Just chiming in to say this totally happened at my workplace too! It was really weird. We did multiple remote interviews with a candidate for an Developer position – everything went well. We hired him and on his first day my boss asked him to log in to our team meeting early to make sure his audio was working correctly and… it just was a different guy.

    We did a similar dance with HR and he was off our staff by the end of the day.

  138. Kathleen Greenwood*

    My husband has had this happen multiple times, particularly for off-shore contracting. One person interviews, and another person actually does the job, and they are typically less skilled than the original candidate. I’m actually surprised that this is not a common, known issue.

  139. Christina Welsh*

    Yes! This similar hiring experience happened to us except the panel interview and coding exercise with the hiring manager was onsite rather than virtual.
    After one week it became evident the new hire didn’t have the coding skills (could barely code at all!) and the team had questioned day one whether this was the same person they interviewed. Legal got involved and the individual resigned.
    Needless to say, we required ID during the interview process after the incident! Apparently this is becoming more common. Kinda like catfishing on the dating scene. Ha!

  140. Sam*

    I don’t get the issue here. I know a video interview is not the same as an in-person interview, but it should be pretty clear to everyone who interviewed John that the guy they saw later was not the same person. Would they gone through all that trouble if both the interview and the job had been in person? I highly doubt it, John would have been shown the door on his first day.

  141. Kurt The Wicked*

    I’ve been in IT for 25+ years and recently this type of behavior has become so prevalent that on a new hire’s first day, before they even begin to fill out their paperwork, we take 10 technical question from the previous interview (along with the answers the candidate provided) and ask them again. Roughly 33% of the time the new-hire cannot answer the questions and we terminate them at the conclusion of the meeting. This seems to be especially true of contractors hired from off-shore companies, where the “default” rate is sometimes closer to 75%. Not all cultures are encumbered by the workplace ethics we have in the US and the ole ‘bait-n-switch’ seems to be a normal part of their business model.

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