I was hired at my current workplace just over a month ago. During the interview process, I found out that someone I knew from university was also interviewing for the position. I'll call him Jim. Jim and I have never been close, but are merely aware of each other. Based solely on technical knowledge and relevant expertise, I believe that Jim would have been the better candidate for the job. In particular, he previously worked at a well known company in a position very similar to this one. I was therefore somewhat surprised when I received the offer.

On multiple occasions, my manager has made statements along the lines of “You'd be good at this project due to your experience with [some technology]”. I have only limited knowledge of the technologies mentioned, but I know that Jim has experience with them. Each time I've simply brushed it off.

More recently, I overheard my manager mention Jim's previous employer as though I had worked there. He's made this mistake twice, referencing the same company.

Given the above and some other hints, I believe my manager mixed up our résumés and may have hired me by mistake. The interviews were over the phone, so he would not have noticed by my face that I'm the wrong candidate.

I want my manager to know my actual background and areas of expertise and feel guilty that I “stole” a position using someone else's credentials. However, I'd also like to retain my position, if possible. How can I tell my manager that I was hired by mistake?

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    Even if your manager has mistaken you and Jim, are you holding the job well? For your manager to make such a mistake, you would at least want him to think "well, the other guy's doing fine anyway. No need to awkwardly sack him and hire Jim!"
    – user34587
    Oct 24, 2017 at 16:12
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    – Lilienthal
    Oct 27, 2017 at 10:52
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    Do you know why "Jim" is not doing your job now? Maybe they really, really wanted him, but couldn't make an acceptable offer to him, so they just went for the best candidate they could get. Point is, you cannot assume that you got the job because you "were" Jim, but maybe because you were not him.
    – JimmyB
    Oct 27, 2017 at 16:08
  • Regardless, you're the person they hired. If your superior thinks you have experience in a given field that you do not in fact have you need to diplomatically point that out to them next time they make the mistake. After all, your resumé accurately reflects your actual experience. Nov 6, 2017 at 12:21

9 Answers 9


I want my manager to know my actual background and areas of expertise and feel guilty that I “stole” a position using someone else's credentials. However, I'd also like to retain my position, if possible. How can I tell my manager that I was hired by mistake?

Skip the "hired by mistake" part - that's just silly. Deal with the "my manager doesn't know my background" part. You don't really know if your manager was confused during the hiring process, or is just now remembering details incorrectly. Deal with the real issue, not the imagined one.

Talk to your manager in private. Something like "You know, you mentioned [wrong previous employer]. But I never worked there." should start the conversation.

Don't make it about "You hired the wrong person." Make it about "You are confused about my background".

I want my manager to know my actual background and areas of expertise

That's reasonable.

and feel guilty that I “stole” a position using someone else's credentials.

Unless you did something intentionally, that's nonsense. You didn't steal his credentials any more than you stole his identity.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Jane S
    Oct 25, 2017 at 23:18
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    Could you explain how this will result in a benefit to the OP that outweighs the possible risk of being dismissed?
    – Richard
    Oct 28, 2017 at 8:56

How can I tell my manager that I was hired by mistake?

Short answer: You don't, you don't bring any of this up at all.

You have no real way to know if this is true or not, so assume it's not and continue on. Keep your head down, focus on your tasks, and do the best you can.

Now, if you feel this position is beyond your skill set, and you were really hired by mistake, then begin looking for another job. Remember it is always easier to find another job while you are employed.

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    What about future questions about "That time you did [that thing the other guy did] for [the company the other guy worked for]?" May or may not happen. Would be nice to clear the waters now then continuously have to think about it. Oct 26, 2017 at 13:38
  • I agree with this answer, except I would be sure to speak up right away in the future if the boss misstates your background. That way, you have been honest and direct to the extent possible. It's true that OP has no way to know what's really going on, so any speculative commentary about that hypothesis would be a mistake. There is a big difference between being honest and immediately expressing any thought that comes into your mind. Oct 26, 2017 at 16:44
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    @MisterPositive this is the most level-headed strategy. if, after a month in the position a mistaken identity has not been noticed, then bringing it up isn't "honesty" it's what an omega male with low self-esteem does.
    – faustus
    Oct 29, 2017 at 3:03

Always be honest; doing otherwise will come back to bite you in the end. If your boss mentions your previous experience (that you don't have), correct him politely.

You did not misrepresent yourself during the application and hiring process, and you don't want to make the mistake of doing so now by allowing his assumptions to continue.

That said, you do NOT need to tell him you are the wrong person for the job. They evaluated you and decided you ARE the right person for the job. If they made mistakes during that process, that's their blame and not yours. There is always a learning curve, and you do not need to apologize to your boss or to yourself that there may be others who are more qualified than you. Do your best, and become the employee they need.

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    I totally agree with the last sentence. There's no substitute for someone who knows the job specifically to their methods and "house style". The likelihood is if he's learnt any of this, his boss will prefer to keep him rather than start from a blank slate with "Jim".
    – John Bell
    Oct 25, 2017 at 11:22
  • I agree; be honest only when required, and do your best to fill the position so they have no reason to be sorry they hired you.....Also, if you need to correct your boss for wrong assumptions about your background, at least you will know if they let you go that it was because they realized their mistake, and it wasn't necessarily you performance.If you keep quiet and they let you go you will never know if it was that you couldn't match their expectations, or just because they realized the switch. Oct 25, 2017 at 18:20

Don't overthink this.

Boss, I don't have experience with [some technology]. I have worked with [some other technology].

Let him figure out what to do next. Don't go looking for trouble. It is not your problem.

Not correcting your manager's mistaken assumption about your skills would be trouble, however. Just clarify the misunderstanding and be done with.


You are suffering from imposter syndrome. Just use your new job as an opportunity to learn the new technologies. Once you gain confidence with the new technologies, the imposter syndrome will disappear.

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    Would you care enhancing your answer so other users can see why your suggestions if valid?
    – DarkCygnus
    Oct 24, 2017 at 20:16
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    I think the imposter syndrome doesn't apply here, as the OP has clearly stated a bunch of solid reasons to believe that at least some resumee details have been mixed up in the mind of the manager. It's not like "I feel they hired me because they did not see through my masquerade of competence", but more like "everything my manager says seems to show that he thinks of Jim's background instead of mine".
    – Thern
    Oct 25, 2017 at 7:29
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    Usually with imposter syndrome, there isn't a specific person you think you're impersonating! Especially not the stuff about specific facts of previous employer. The reaction might be a sign of imposter syndrome, though: like @Joe Strazzere's answer points out you shouldn't assume that you got the job by mistake and that the mixup was the cause of your hiring. Oct 25, 2017 at 7:53
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    I'd like to add - it looks like a combination of impostor syndrome, brought on by the fact you think they 'accidentally' hired the wrong person. If you're doing your job, day to day, then you're doing fine. Oct 25, 2017 at 12:22
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    You are suffering from... -1 for diagnosing people based on 18 lines of text
    – user8036
    Oct 30, 2017 at 15:14

Ask yourself: If you convince your boss that you were hired by mistake, what's the benefit to you? Because that is the only thing that matters, the benefit to you.

I can't actually see any benefit, and huge risks. What you are doing will be considered weird. You destroy your reputation. There is actually the risk of losing your job. And why? You applied for a job, you've got it. Jim may not have got that offer because he found a better job elsewhere. Whatever happened to him, his problem, not yours.

  • "Because that is the only thing that matters, the benefit to you." :( Oct 27, 2017 at 15:28

I think that is excellent you have a conscience, however, it does not seem that you are certain that you are certain regarding the 'facts'. It would seem that the issue is that you need to face is to understand whether your supervisor has an incorrect understanding of your background and if you need to address this.

If you think you were hired by mistake, then think again...

It is unclear if you are able to do the job you were hired for. Can you do the work?

  Name one thing you kept from your childhood -- Vogue interviewer

  My insecurities.    -- Taylor Swift

Insecurity is a real thing and it lies to you all the time, and tells you very elaborate stories over and over. What's worse, it sounds like you so you want to believe it!

Don't be fooled. Presume things are alright. Yes, politely correct the boss's misconception about your experience when he mentions it, don't go out of the way to do so.

Other than that, do a good job and don't let insecurities tell you you are unqualified or a fraud. Everyone's insecurities tell them that all the time, and it's just noise.

Frankly, all human minds say a lot of trash all the time, it's nearly an endless stream of gibberish... if you doubt that, look at Youtube comments! LOL! Honestly I think the brain works by creating every thought possible and then filtering out the wrong ones, and insecurity is an error where self-doubting thoughts make it farther through the cull than they should.


Joe's answer seems to be about right. You need to let them know when they are checking things that are not true.

You are basically lying by omission. You claim your boss has checked these details with you a few times now. If your boss discovers the mistake, at best they will be angry that you didn't correct them. At worst, you will be fired with no reference. It may even be possible for them to take legal action as they will be relying on you to do something you cannot do.

If you think you can do the job to the expected level and not raise suspicion, you may be able to get away with it. But do you really want to? Do you really want to start your career at this new company with a lie? You are always going to be waiting for the day they find out. This would be incredibly stressful.

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    Please comment for the down votes if possible, the information may help others.
    – David
    Oct 25, 2017 at 15:29
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    Upvoted. OP seems concerned about this, so I agree that keeping it covered up will be stressful for them. It's also unclear how much they've been nodding along with things that might be untrue, which I think is definitely problem even if "pure" omission isn't. Oct 26, 2017 at 18:27

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