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Thursday, August 21, 2008

lying in an interview - should you be concerned?

A reader writes:

I recently left my job. Management was unethical and abusive, so I decided to concentrate on my job search full time. Despite the negative environment, I left courteously, giving 2 weeks notice and helping to tie up loose ends.

I am now under consideration for a great job, but I have a problem - I fibbed on my resume and said I was still employed there. I know this is wrong, but I've found I'm more desirable as a candidate if I am still employed. In the past, when I've been unemployed, I couldn't get an interview, because I assume the prospective employers saw me as "desperate." I cannot risk that in this economy.

I assumed that any prospective employer would not contact my current employer, but I am still concerned that they will find out when they ask me for my references. If it helps, I have 2 references from this former job that can vouch for me (they were senior to me on my team) and I have an excellent (honest) record for the rest of my history. Unfortunately, the HR assistant asked for my "current" supervisor's name during the first interview. I was honest with the sales director about my supervisor being abusive and it not being a good idea to contact him (I also told him I can provide another reference at the company). I'm still concerned that HR is going to call my supervisor and find out I resigned 2 months ago. Should I be concerned?

Uh, yes.

I think you might not be looking at this clearly. Let's put this a little more starkly. The facts are these:
- You left your job for a reasonable reason.
- You lied on your resume, and you believe this is justified because it would make you look better to employers.
- You lied again in the interview.
- Your lie is one that is easily discovered in the course of a routine reference check.

I'm sorry to pile on when you're in a bad situation, but of course you should be concerned.

If you had just written "2002 - present" on your resume, you could pass this off as an oversight, something you forgot to update before sending out your resume. (Sketchy, but you might be able to get away with it.)

But because you lied in the interview, saying you were at a job you actually left two months ago, it's clear that you deliberately tried to mislead them. Lying in a job interview is a deal-breaker, because of what it says about your integrity. (Speaking of integrity, you don't even seem to regret the lie, only that you might get caught.)

Accept that you're probably not going to get this job and move on. Correct your resume before you send it out again. Whatever your concerns about how it might look that you're unemployed, they're trumped by how it looks when a prospective employer finds out that you're someone willing to lie.
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