I've got a scenario where Applicant A has listed "United Nations" as their employer on the resume. The truth is, the UN was actually involved in the project, and subcontracted or were partnered with another, much smaller, unrecognizable company, which is the company this person worked for directly. This person did interact with UN staff.

I've seen this same practice with consultants and subcontractors before - a small university project or funded partner (let's say a media lab) contracts someone for some work, and then they list the university as the client. Or, they were employees of the university, and later as consultants state they were a client. Or, the university and the united nations partnered, and the consultants lists both as past clients, even though they were employees at the time. Hopefully with this example you catch my point - there are number of combinations that might lead one to act or state an affiliation.

I see variations of this frequently when I check references, and I'm never totally sure what to think. I can see a few different ways it could be considered dishonest or legitimate.

As companies do more and more subcontracting, does anyone have an idea of hwo to handle this?

Is it appropriate for the prospective employee or the consultant to be doing this?

Should it always be whoever paid the cheque? Are there any rules or laws surrounding this? If you are in HR, is there a best practice?


2 Answers 2


Many questions you are asking, but what I can say is that it depends.

Is it appropriate for the employee or the consultant to be doing this? Is this lying?

There is nothing wrong in boosting your application profile by carefully writing it and good word choice, as long as you are not actually lying or making things up.

You could be hired by small Inc., and they are the ones writing your paycheck, but if you did projects with Big Inc. then writing on your application "Implemented several projects with Big Inc." is actually true; it's just written in a more favorable way.

However, you are saying here that "Applicant A listed "United Nations" as their employer" when actually they were employed by other, smaller entity. If that applicant actually wrote it this way (by saying employer) then that is indeed not true, and unprofessional thing to do (as it is deceptive).

Another story would be if Applicant A wrote instead: "Developed and implemented big project with UN...", case were it would not be lying, but just a creative way of writing your resume.

So, give this a consideration and then decide if you still wish to consider for recruiting; probably he was trying hard (too hard) to make his profile look interesting, but that is something you have to think in order to make a choice.

  • For clarity, the reason for the multi-scenario is that for this position, we're considering both contractors and employee options, and I'm seeing the same phenomenon in both categories. The reason for the multi-question is I'm looking for any reasonable way to approach this. Thank you for your well thought out advice
    – Gryph
    Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 17:26
  • @Gryph glad I could help. IMO, creatively writing your resume is one thing, but saying things that are not is a whole different situation. Personally, I would discard candidates with false information in their applications (or at least the ones easily verifiable like this you found)
    – DarkCygnus
    Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 17:31

I think the problem is you care about the employing company, and presumably the title of the applicant as opposed to the work done.

Having a title, or working at a place, are not great ways to measure the things someone did. the things they did are better measures for suitability. this is because the things they did will then help you pick the person with the right interests, and experience.

Unless I'm mistaken, you aren't hiring for CV writing roles, and this kind of broad exaggerating your candidate had engaged in isn't really the kind of lying a hiring person should read into.

  • @Gryph predictive text!
    – bharal
    Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 20:45

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