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A friend of mine has been unemployed for nearly 8 months, and is coming to the end of his unemployment benefits. After reading about how difficult it is to find jobs after 6 months of unemployment, I recommended adding a (fake) part-time job in his field of expertise to his resume. My boss is fine with him using our company name, and even offered to provide a reference if needed. We're a small company, and every other employee would be able to deal with a surprise call for my friend,

After thinking on the idea, we're not certain whether we should proceed.

  1. How likely is it to have fake work experience like this found out?
  2. If found out, what would the consequences be to my friend's chances of employment?
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It would be better if you had something that you did during your time of unemployment that you could cite. If you did volunteer work, for instance. Or took some courses to learn new skills. Or contributed to open-source projects. And so on. Any of those things would look better than a made-up job. –  aroth Mar 26 at 3:58
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Hey fireflight, and welcome to The Workplace! I'm going to make an edit to your question in order to get you better answers. Generally speaking, "Should I...?" questions are closed here as 'primarily opinion-based' but I think that you have the core of a good question here. If you think my edit totally misses the point or won't get you the information you need, please feel free to make an edit of your own. Thanks in advance! –  jmac Mar 26 at 4:29
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@Mordred Unless you actually had been President of the United States, that would look terrible on a resumé. –  starsplusplus Mar 26 at 13:00
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The idea described in this question (making up a job) is a terrible idea, but the question is a good one. People do this and it's valuable to have a question about it. I hope the downvoters will consider that distinction. –  Monica Cellio Mar 26 at 16:12
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A falsified job application, including your resume, are grounds for immediate dismissal, in perpetuity. In case that wasn't clear, you can have the same job for thirty years, but if it is discovered that you falsified any part of your original job application, you can still be dismissed on the spot. –  RBarryYoung Mar 27 at 2:33

10 Answers 10

Lying on a resume can have serious consequences for your employment prospects, not just now but in the future. It's pretty normal for companies to check up on previous employment; they may or may not call your boss, and if they call someone who has never heard of your friend they will be exposed. If your boss goes along with this and the company finds out about it, he might be fired.

Even if your friend gets a job, if the company subsequently finds out he lied on a resume, they can (and probably will) terminate him. If they terminate him, then anyone calling that company for a reference in the future will (perhaps) be told that he lied on his resume and was fired.

There are so many ways this can go wrong.

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Plus, agencies and recruiters tend to hold on to CVs. Once you've sent out a false one, there's very little chance you'll ever be able to make sure they are pulled back in again. It could come back to haunt you many years down the line. –  Julia Hayward Mar 26 at 10:24
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Maintaining lies is difficult, that's why they usually are discovered. –  Jan Doggen Mar 26 at 11:10
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I've known multiple people who have been sacked because of dishonesty on a resume. Falsification of licensure, education and work history have all been grounds for termination, and every company I've worked for has a standing policy of termination regardless of job performance. –  Joel Etherton Mar 26 at 12:17
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While I don't advocate it, to be fair, even if you get busted with a fake job. Employers don't really communicate any information about an employee across employers very often to avoid legal entanglement. Heck, a CTO made it all the way to the top without a real Comp-Sci degree. But I guess that's a slightly different lie. The reality is that while most, like myself, don't lie on their resume, many do, and they often get away with it. –  Mark Rogers Mar 26 at 14:31
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@BrianS - Oh hey, yeah the CTO claimed to have a CS degree, but did not. I found a link Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson to stand down after faking computer science degree on his resume –  Mark Rogers Mar 26 at 15:45

How likely is it to have faked work experience like this found out?

You never know who will be reading your resume. As part of the screening process for new members of a team I was on, each of us was given a candidate's resume. One was from a person who started at my previous company a few weeks before I left. That person claimed more experience and time at that company than they actually had. In fact, they stated that they'd started there around the same time I did!

I mentioned this to my manager at the time, and that brought their entire work history into question. Suffice it to say that the person didn't get an interview.

You might not get caught. Or you might. Why risk it?

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I've had a similar story - been given a resume of a person who claimed to have written a webapp that I actually wrote myself. That was funny. –  sevenseacat Mar 28 at 5:32

@DJClayworth has it - the correct answer is do not, its bad idea. Its way over any boundaries any company that has an ethics policy would accept.

But, if you decide to go ahead your reputation and career is on the line, as is your boss's and your company's. Your boss should not be going along with it, as he represents the company you work for.... Its also you friends, and if he gets employed, the recruitment agency that put him forward. That is potentially a lot of damage...

Even asking your boss was a dubious career move.

Your friend should work part time in your office (or work from home) - even if unpaid - on something. In a couple of months its the truth, no lies, no ethical concerns. He could also do volunteer work for a worthwhile cause - a local charity, school or church.

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In the US, it is not always legal to work unpaid. But +1 for pointing out the potential hit to the boss and his company. –  thursdaysgeek Mar 26 at 15:40
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A for-profit company can have unpaid internships under certain circumstances, but no, they can't just accept volunteer workers. "Under the FLSA, employees may not volunteer services to for-profit private sector employers." from dol.gov/elaws/esa/flsa/docs/volunteers.asp –  thursdaysgeek Mar 27 at 16:48

If found out, what would the consequences be to my friend's chances of employment?

It depends on your friend's employer.

If caught lying on a job application, your friend could be fired immediately, or the application could be tossed if discovered before he is hired. And your friend's professional reputation could take a severe hit.

Or not.

The employer could just laugh. Or the employer could just shrug but your friend could lose a level of trust.

Here are more reports of consequences: https://www.google.com/#q=dismissed+for+lying+on+resume

As a manager, it's very important to me that I am able to trust folks on my team. Lying puts a dent in that trust. Whenever I'm interviewing a candidate, any lie usually means he/she is crossed off the list immediately.

If you search here at workplace (perhaps for "lying on resume" or such) you'll see that this topic has surfaced many times in the past.

Personally, I think you gave your friend poor advice. Your mileage may vary.

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" like to trust folks on my team. Lying puts a dent in that trust. Whenever I'm interviewing a candidate, any lie usually means he/she is crossed off the list immediately." Agreed. Same here. –  reirab Mar 27 at 20:37

There are a myriad of ways to fake an employment history. By far the simplest would be to state that he worked for a startup which went out of business, hence his need for a job after only 8 months. You could easily just pick a fake name out of a hat (make sure it doesn't exist) or pick the name of one that recently folded which would have zero ways of confirming. It's likely that any company he interviews with won't even quiz him about it.

Heck, he could just say he founded a company that ultimately wasn't able to get off the ground and went out faster than expected...

Small businesses go under all the time so it wouldn't even be a blip on the cursory checks that are performed for the vast majority of jobs.

HOWEVER, there are dragons here.

If this person ever rises to the point of serious responsibility, such as C level. Then the odds increase that the background he puts on a resume will be examined in quite a bit more detail; not necessarily by HR but rather by share holders. And not just the resume he sent to a current employer, but the investigation might likely go through prior ones.

Scott Thompson made news in 2012 because he apparently lied about having a particular degree. He did have a college degree, just not the one his resume indicated. This seems like a minor thing as he had obvious tech credentials from previous employment, however it was the lie itself that resulted in his ouster as the CEO of Yahoo.

So, to answer the questions:

How likely is it to have faked work experience like this found out?

Likelihood is commiserate with the level of job he is seeking and the diligence of HR. Entry/non managerial job - unlikely to uncover if it will take more than an hour. Higher than that? It'll come out eventually.

I think I've only be contacted once about a previous employee. It was a recruiter trying to find someone to say the person was good. Usually HR departments ignore the "who to contact" and simply dial up the company directly asking for their HR department to confirm employment. So unless the HR dept is also in on this then the likelihood of discovery goes up.

If found out, what would the consequences be to my friend's chances of employment?

Usually immediate termination/dismissal OR an emphatic demand for resignation. If found out during the interview process, then immediate disqualification from consideration. Beyond that, other effects will depend on how often people in your particular industry talk. It would make an easy story to tell so I'm sure it would be passed around.

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"It's likely that any company he interviews with won't even quiz him about it." I would disagree here, especially depending on industry. When I'm interviewing a candidate (or when I've been interviewed for positions,) most of the discussion has been about previous experience. There's no way that at any engineering job, for instance, they'd not ask about what you were doing at your last job and they'd probably ask some questions you hadn't thought to make answers for ahead of time. –  reirab Mar 27 at 20:35

Rather than faking work experience, a better tack would be to make relevant experience. During periods of unemployment, there are usually volunteer projects that can be found which can fill in the gaps. During a period while I was waiting for clearance, for example, I did some freelance programming for Prison Fellowship. I made my own "company" hired myself, and did freelance volunteer projects. It wasn't paid work, but it was real work - and yes, it is on my resume under "Self-Employment"

Pretty much as long as you are doing something, you can call it experience. Indeed, even if you try your hand at coding a project and launching it into the world, that's self-employment.

Don't lie - you will be found out. And, you can be fired for lying.

But you can hire yourself and use that time to fill in the gaps.

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If you are working in a company that is willing to pull strings like that for your friend, why wouldn't you just get him to do some sort of token project? Submit an invoice for no money and call him a consultant. He will have the actual paper trail, something he can put on his resume and no one has to lie about it. The work could just be a make work project but provided the token paper work is in place no one is lying that he 'worked' for your company.

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It's really simple, like the others said: DON'T DO IT !

My father had a friend that worked in a company that handled a part of the finances of other companies (don't know exactly how this works, not very familiar with this field). When he was hired, he lied about graduating from college. They discovered this 7 years later (don't know how) and, even though he had excellent job performance, they fired him.

It's more likely that this will be discovered than it is to go unnoticed. Even if it's reasonable to believe that, after 8 months of unemployment, he's getting kind of desperate, don't encourage him to do it. If you're a true friend, do anything to stop him from this course of action. Slap him if you have to. Slap him again if he doesn't get it.

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I am a litigation attorney. I prepare, vet and present witnesses, including technical and medical expert witnesses . I also work in the labor and employment area.

You gave your friend very poor advice. I find it difficult to believe your boss agreed to back up the non-existent job. Your boss has put his own job at risk.

If a future employer found out, it would be grounds for immediate termination, for cause, for either your friend or your boss. It could impair their ability to get unemployment compensation in the future. It is an action which goes directly to their propensity to tell the truth or lack thereof.

Should he ever be involved in litigation , either as a party or as an expert witness, a lie on a resume or curriculum vitae is a death knell to his credibility.

If I want to verify his background employment, it is very easy to do, legally, with currently available public databases and a phone call. Say I am a future employer in 2 years and I call HR at your current company to confirm his past employment. I can get dates of employment, last salary and, in some states, whether he is eligible for re-hire. I do not go to the person listed as contact on his resume- I go to HR. HR would have no record of him.

If he applies for a job that requires a background check and he signs an authorization to release information, it is even easier.

It will not take very much on-line research to find examples of people who have padded their resumes and been caught. As a fairly recent example, see George O'Leary who lost the coaching slot for Notre Dame football for a resume "inaccuracy" which lay unexamined for 20 years. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_O%27Leary

If your friend is concerned about the period of unemployment, he can say he free-lanced--if he did so-- as John Doe's Odd Jobs and Computer Clean Up Services or something similar. All that is needed to make that legitimate is to run the antivirus program on his grandmother's computer and rake his parents yard.

Call him up, tell him you reconsidered and that your first advice was off base.

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I will go against what everyone else is saying.

The economy is extremely difficult right now, and your friend should do anything it takes to get a real job. If that means lying through his teeth, do it.

I was in the same situation 10 years ago, my industry had a lack of roles available and I was lacking experience. Falsified my resume with lies to get a job, friends were my references. Never applied for jobs I couldn't do, or something beyond the scope of learning on the job.

I was desperate for work and nearly broke, within a month doing this I had a good job. As long as your lies are well constructed you are fine, HR and recruiters do not care, as long as you have 3 references, no criminal record and pass the drug tests you are good to go.

Obviously it depends on the level of role as well, anything higher than middle management and there could be more scrutiny on your past.

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Hi Nigel, welcome to The Workplace. I'm wondering about your paragraph, claiming that HR and recruiters don't care that you are lying as long as you have references and pass their tests. Do you have any research or evidence to back this up as it's a rather bold claim? That would be much appreciated, especially regarding our back-it-up-rule. –  CMW Mar 28 at 8:37

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