A friend of mine recently commented on an article I contributed to, 7 Signs of Bad Resumes, with the comment, “…Maybe you should write one (an article) on all the “untruthful’ and “unverifiable” resumes. I have seen quite a few that were actually “one big lie” that landed a person in a good position.”
That is an interesting point. Particularly in the wireless telecommunications industry, I can’t count the number of people who continue to get reshuffled around who are incompetent, sleazy, or just shouldn’t be hired.
Now I’m not saying they shouldn’t be able to make a living, but you’d think they’d be found out eventually.
And many do. This is a small industry and word gets around fast. If you do your due diligence as a hiring manager, you can often ferret out the bad seeds.
But when companies get an influx of work and don’t have the staff to support it, they hire fast. And they often hire off the resume.
Why? Because at that point available candidates with industry knowledge, who aren’t already working for another company, are few a far between. And hiring someone and training them from scratch often doesn’t work because either the company doesn’t have the infrastructure/size to support the training, or the client doesn’t want to have a newbie tested out on their project.
So people keep getting recycled.
But what if you’re a candidate?
Should you lie to get that job?
That is an interesting question. Does the ends justify the means? If you’re already screwed by past actions or lack of knowledge in a certain area, shouldn’t you be able to shade the truth if you know you can get the job done?
There are absolutely times where that little white lie or stretching of the truth in a resume or job interview makes sense. You don’t necessary want the hiring manager to exclude you just because they can’t check a box.
But there’s a big difference between that and the “One Big Lie”.
What is the “One Big Lie”?
- It could be that degree you never got (people get fired over this if HR finds out).
- It could be the job you left out (that you left on bad terms) covered up with extending the job duration on the job before or after (yes this will typically be checked as part of the background checking process).
- Or it could be that felony you had expunged that you claim as “never happened because it was expunged” but the background check still shows it – and the job offer gets revoked.
- Or your get super creative with your prior job titles when the company went under and there is no one for them to verify your history there with. So your project coordinator role became a project manager. Or project manager becomes Director or VP of Operations.
What’s the harm in telling the “One Big Lie”?
Well, for people who look at the short term (like I’m out of work and need a job now or I lose my house and don’t eat, so anything goes), you might sneak by or be able to talk your way past an issue.
But here’s the real problem.
Big lies (and little lies) require thinking. And covering. And remembering what lie you told to who. So it takes a lot of energy and attentiveness to keep the lie going..
And then what happens if you are caught in your lie? You could be fired. Now you may be able to justify that because you didn’t have the job in the first place. But the timing may be more inconvenient and unexpected and leave you in a more difficult financial situation than you were previously.
Or you could be prosecuted for fraud. If it was something you lied about that was material, the employer could take you down.
Or, what is often a much bigger impact, is you could lose your credibility. And this is critical in that it could kill your career in that industry. Because word gets around fast. It is just like people who sue their employer. You could be right, but no one will want to hire you because they could be next (they don’t know if you just sued because it was a horrible situation or if you’re just sue-happy…and once you sue once, it is easier to do the next time because you broken through your resistance).
And if you’re going to have a chance to build a career and build wealth over time, a career killing lie that forces you to start over in a new industry, often at a lower salary (because you don’t know as much in that new industry) will set you back 5-10 years.
Don’t do that!
How do you expose the Big Fat Liar?
- Check, check, check.
- Drug test.
- Police Background Check.
- Fingerprinting (in some industries) or license checks (do this if you’re hiring a contractor too).
- Call prior employers (not often as useful as it used to be due to litigation risk for the former employer).
- Call prior coworkers (this is a gold mine of very useful information that very few people use – even without a straight answer, the tone of voice or pregnant pause can often tell you all you need to know).
- Ask probing questions in the interview – you often get the benefit of body language too.
- Have multiple interviews with multiple people at different levels of your organization. And possibly meet them for drinks or lunch or dinner, even with their spouse or significant other. Each situation will uncover more about the person as they get more comfortable and out of a familiar environment.
What are some war stories you have (you can leave names out)? Share them in the comments. And share this with your friends. You’ll be doing them a favor.