I put on my resume that I obtained a Bachelor degree at an University but in fact I enrolled and didn't complete my bachelor there.

Now I know they will run a background check and will see that I am only "enrolled" with no degree. Should I come clean after I accepted the job offer? Feels miserable and I understand the consequences are coming back to me I but really need this job. Plus, I do intend to finish my bachelor.

  • 55
    Did you really say you had a degree or did you list the university as having gone there. I have the university I attended on my resume, but I make it clear that I did not finish due to the universities being so far behind.
    – Neo
    Commented May 3, 2018 at 18:56
  • 6
    Isn’t it common in your country to give your education certificate (at least the highest) along with your application? I’m just curious.
    – Kinaeh
    Commented May 4, 2018 at 5:14
  • 18
    Could you include the relevant section of your CV in the question (probably annonomised). The question of exactly what was said is being speculated about in the question. Specifically if you explicitly stated obtaining the degree Commented May 4, 2018 at 8:36
  • 3
    @Kinaeh It certainly doesn't happen in the UK, and I didn't do it when I (successfully) applied for jobs in Germany and Switzerland. In CH (only) they wanted to see all the qualifications eventually - and it may well be conventional to send them with the application. Commented May 4, 2018 at 12:54
  • 2
    @Kinaeh: In the UK being asked for proof is pretty rare. Commented May 4, 2018 at 15:34

13 Answers 13


If you really full fledged lied, you're probably hosed. If you just listed as having attended the university, you might be okay. The whole purpose of a background check is to verify that "this person did what they said they did". If the initial honesty check fails outright or raises any red flags, it is a bad sign for you in that the employer will be very unlikely to trust you at your word.

The best thing you can do at this point is to take this as a learning opportunity to remember these words: Do not lie, ever.

Going forward, be clear to any potential employers that you attended the university but did not graduate. This is not necessarily the kiss of death and is in fact fairly common, but lying is.

As far as your current situation is concerned, I would ride it out and hope for the best. If directly asked about it, I would definitely take the opportunity to clear up the mistake.

Remember, lying almost always bites you in the bum.

  • 13
    This is a good answer. One who lies about their educational achievements is "hosed" because employers do background checks which does, in most cases, include verifying education. Claiming degree achievements that did not happen is not a small stretch. It is cause for termination. Those asking for sources: business.financialpost.com/executive/careers/… Commented May 4, 2018 at 11:35
  • 8
    @teego1967 "Best to come clean if you get an offer. No need to admit to deliberate deception, but say it was in error". So in other words, lie to cover up your original lie. There are many things wrong with lying, to belittle the act of lying is not doing anyone favors. To compare, things like white lies are innocuous because they are really about social acumen--eg "why do you want to work here"--rather than blatant deceit. In that sense they are not in the same spectrum.
    – James
    Commented May 4, 2018 at 13:24
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    @james, saying it was “in error” is perfectly fine. An elaborate confession of deceit caused by desperation and not thinking things through will certainly vaporize the already slim chance the OP is going to move forward in hiring process.
    – teego1967
    Commented May 4, 2018 at 13:59
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    @teego1967 I don't see how you could accidentally claim to have a degree you don't have. A confession doesn't have to be elaborate. You're right that the confession will most likely lead to not getting the job, but trying to cover up for your previous lie almost certainly will lead to not getting the job. It would have to be a very dense employer to believe that you 'accidentally' claimed to have a degree on your resume.
    – reirab
    Commented May 4, 2018 at 19:16
  • @reirab you could say the person you paid to put the resume together mistakenly assumed you graduated when in fact you had only attended, or something along that lines. I would think if they were contacted by the OP before they found out they could possibly believe that, maybe 50/50 chance. Of course it really all depends on how the resume looks and how many times its mentioned. If it states the OP graduated cum laude with honors in widgets and minors in basket weaving, etc. then it would make it more unbelievable.
    – ed.hank
    Commented May 4, 2018 at 23:41

Judgments aside, I suggest coming clean. Waiting to come clean will not change their response when you come clean, and if you wait until they find out on their own then I think you know what'll happen: you will almost certainly lose the job.

You didn't mention a field, but if you are skilled then companies may accept you before you have the degree. Not having a degree is not usually a death sentence, but claiming to have a degree you don't actually have usually is.

There are three major practical reasons you should come clean:

  1. If you have any hope for leniency, then the best way to get it is to confess before you're caught. Edit: if there was a reason for you to believe you were going to have graduated by the time you started the job or some other mitigating circumstance, then you can point this out while clarifying.
  2. Actually getting fired can really set your career back, because you will likely find yourself in the position of having to explain why you were fired, and there aren't a lot of good ways to explain away falsifying qualifications to get a job. You'd probably find yourself begging for second chances. Lying about getting fired could become a vicious cycle. Edit: to clarify, I'm referring to any scenario where OP is hired and then fired later for falsifying qualifications.
  3. Stress. Since you already appear to be stressing out about getting caught, imagine how you'd feel if you don't come clean and you work there.
  • 6
    Is #2 actually true? If you get fired immediately then how will your next employer ever know unless you tell them? Seems to me it'd be exactly as if you had kept looking for jobs.
    – user541686
    Commented May 4, 2018 at 5:28
  • 18
    I think admitting to being misleading is the way to go, not admitting lying. "I realise rereading my CV that it could be misleading, I want make clear I attended X university on course X but I have not yet (or did not) complete the course". As long as there is no grade listed on the CV you can probably make that stick Commented May 4, 2018 at 8:04
  • 6
    @RichardTingle: Then you'd be misleading about the fact that you did this on purpose... or, actually, with the wording you proposed, you'd be outright lying, because you realized that before you even reread your CV.
    – user541686
    Commented May 4, 2018 at 8:09
  • 5
    @Mehrdad it all depends in the exact wording on the CV, if it was a downright lie ("I got a first with honors on the 2nd of March" you're in trouble. If the wording was "University of X 2014 - 2017 then frankly you have not lied (but are in danger of being misleading which is also a bad idea). Don't admit to lying when you've only been misleading Commented May 4, 2018 at 8:32
  • 8
    @Nick Silvestri Plausible deniability. This world isn't all fun and games, OP would gain nothing from being all self-berating and honest of how they hoped the employer would think they have already graduated; for every situation there is the most optimal solution - think of Nash equilibrium - and for this situation, if there's room for plausible deniability, that room must be used.
    – parsecer
    Commented May 4, 2018 at 21:32

If you should or not confess is really up to you.

If you decide to, perhaps the best approach for you would be to contact them (right away) explaining you sent an incorrect resume, and including one with such things corrected. Hopefully this will amend the situation.

Now, if you decide not to "confess", then the possibilities are that you get rejected or not. If you are not, then you would be again in a situation similar to this one, wondering if you should tell them or not. In that scenario, if you decide not to, then you will have to live up to the expectations of having finished that degree (whatever they were), something that could become evident if they give you tasks that someone with that degree should be able to do... see where I am getting here?

Next time, I suggest you stick to the truth when applying for jobs (and in life, in general).

  • @EdHeal yeah, I guess that's part of the problem of not sticking to the truth, it can really harm your chances and reputation. That is why OP should try to keep truthful for the next time. Now, if you wish to continue discussing about this maybe we can continue in chat, for the sake of what comments are for :)
    – DarkCygnus
    Commented May 4, 2018 at 23:44

Original question:

Should I come clean after I accepted the job offer? Feels miserable and I understand the consequences are coming back to me I but really need this job. Plus, I do intend to finish my bachelor.

Withdraw your application, if you have made one. You don't need this job if it lands you in jail and marks you as a criminal at the start of your career. When considering the worst that can happen if your lie is discovered, include in your deliberations not just being fired, but a prison sentence and a criminal record for fraud, which are not good on your resume/CV. In many (if not most) jurisdictions, lying about qualifications or experience on a CV or resume to get a job may be fraud, a criminal offence.

A man in Britain claimed to have a BSc, an MBA, and an MSc, and to be the author of an academic paper written by somebody else. He got a job paying £120,000 a year plus car package and relocation allowance. He was sent to jail for 12 months.


Another appointee to senior positions in the National Health Service (earned £1 million over 10 years) got two years in prison.


A less serious offence (only lied about 1 degree, didn't even get the job) got a 6 month suspended sentence, and was ordered to pay £9,600 costs and do 150 hours unpaid community work.


British fraud prevention officers have sent a new guide to every university in the country warning students of the consequences of inflating their degree grade, doctoring their employment history or making up personal references.

Some students have been jailed for six months for lying on job application forms, it emerged, but the offence carries a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in the most serious cases.


Another point: Apart from the subject knowledge, a bachelor's degree is evidence to an employer that you have successfully stuck at, and completed, a three or four year personal project. You will have learned things about yourself, and gained skills from that. If you lie your way into a job, it may become painfully apparent to your employer and colleagues that you haven't learned those things and don't have those skills. Then the questions will start. Directed to you and the university you said awarded you a degree.

  • 3
    This is thoughtful and it's great that you included so many specific references, which is important when qualifying an answer - however, it doesn't really directly answer the question the OP posted - I think it's clear that you're infering an answer, maybe you could edit your post to make an actual answer a little more clear.
    – dwizum
    Commented May 4, 2018 at 16:38
  • hedd.ac.uk
    – Ed Heal
    Commented May 5, 2018 at 2:42

You cannot come clean. You lied and you are gonna get caught.

You might get some points if you speak up before they actually confirm but that's speculation.

The best you can do is start looking for a new job and do not lie again.

  • 3
    I don't understand the leap of logic in "You cannot come clean. You already lied." How does having lied making coming clean impossible? On the contrary, you need to have lied before coming clean is possible!
    – user867
    Commented May 5, 2018 at 22:34
  • 2
    @user867 Not true. Coming clean would have been if he spoke up before he knew there was gonna be an inspection. Now this is just an attempt to look honest when you haven't been.
    – Mr Me
    Commented May 7, 2018 at 8:06

If you confess, (because you really need the job, and hope for the best), then you won't get hired.

If they do verify whether you have a degree, then you won't get hired.

One honest way out would be to contact the company and reject the job. They won't verify the degree then at this point. Why for would they do this?

And then, you could indeed finish the degree as fast as possible. Maybe take some distance education for getting some credits.

Is there any chance that you keep studying and finish your BA for real in the next 1-2 semesters?

Some important points to consider:

  • if this is a regulated profession (nurse, accountant, engineer), you could get into a legal nightmare really soon.
  • even if the profession is not regulated, this could have legal consequences.
  • if you start working, get a salary from the company, and get discovered: you might be liable to return the money.
  • you are also being unfair towards the other job-seekers

It is unethical and potentially illegal to accept a job under these circumstances. As others have said, you should either withdraw your application or submit a corrected resume.

If you accept a job under these circumstances, you should seek to leave it as soon as possible. I mention this only because it seems like your financial pressure may lead to an unethical decision. You will likely be terminated once they discover your deceit, and this will return you to your state of financial distress.

The long-term consequences are even worse. There have been people fired for this 10 or more years after the fact in the US, so there is no time at which you should feel comfortable. At that point, you would either have to admit to being terminated for cause, or you would have to omit that period of employment on your resume. Since employers tend to view employment gaps as potential red flags, this job could pose a significant and ongoing risk to your career.


Should I come clean after I accepted the job offer? Feels miserable and I understand the consequences are coming back to me I but really need this job.

You should come clean right now!

Worst case you will feel a lot better about yourself.

Best case you will feel a lot better about yourself and you will have a new job that you need.


If you do not admit the inaccuracy/lie and they still offer you the job. Do not take the job.

  1. If the quality of the background check is so poor, that they offer you the job based on clearly inaccurate information. It is not a place I would want to work.

  2. If you just did not make the cut to receive the background check, they may never find out. You can hope that your application is purged after some years and will not come back to haunt you. In 10 or 15 years you may actually be qualified to work there and apply again. A previous falsehood is going to hurt your future options.


Just wait and see what happens.

If you come forward and say "i don't actually have a degree" then you're going to cause all sorts of problems. It's going to confuse HR and nobody will know what to do. Given you're apparently young, this isn't the end of the world for you, by the way.

However, "background check" normally means "check your financial situation and your criminal history and your work history". I've... I don't think I've ever had to show any of my degrees to an employer. Nor have I ever actually requested proof of degree - amazing, I know, I'll have to start doing that.

I would, for no other reason than that a bachelor's degree is a good thing to have, strongly suggest you strongly consider getting the degree. Little good ever comes of "working early", despite the desire to do so - I know I hated studying and would have rather been working during my first degree.

I would actually suggest you do whatever it takes - night classes, part time, whatever - to get that degree.

For now, you might as well wait and see what happens. If they check, you're probably in a bit of bother because it would appear you've just lied on your application form. That's a big no no, if only because if you're capable of lying, it sends a signal that you have uncommon morals, and now who knows what else you might have few moral qualms over.

If they don't check, I'd suggest you might not particularly want to mention that issue when you start working - but please get the degree.

  • 8
    Your answer reads like anecdote, not something that can be backed up in any way. I can easily provide opposite anecdote: I know employers who do actually check for degrees as part a the background check (by contacting the school directly, not asking the employee for proof). I also know of people who have been rejected from the interview process, and worse - fired on the spot, years after having been hired - for claiming they had a degree they hadn't actually finished.
    – dwizum
    Commented May 3, 2018 at 20:06
  • 4
    @dwizum maybe, sure. the answer is "wait and see", the explanation for this view reads the way it does because there is no real answer for this question. but as it happens, with your "opposite analogy" there is no value to mentioning the issue now.
    – bharal
    Commented May 3, 2018 at 21:10
  • I agree, there is a lot of opinion buried in any answer to this question. I do see value in bringing it up now though, because it gives you the chance to proactively explain, versus get "caught in the act" of telling a lie. But of course, that's basically just my opinion (which is why I didn't supply it as an answer).
    – dwizum
    Commented May 4, 2018 at 13:19

As the others said, and you suspect, you will get caught.

But there are still different ways to go about it. In case you want to be smart, come "clean" and avoid confrontation/risk:

  • Refuse the offer without giving many explanations
  • Lie again and say you forgot to add your graduation year, which is in the future. Although you wouldn't have wrote "graduated" in the first place, it's not that uncommon to see people list their degree while not yet graduated.
  • Lie again and tell them you were trying to see if you would get hired holding that degree, to see if it's worth pursuing.

Or, if you want to go all in with your lie and eventually get caught (not advised):

  • Act normally, at least until they ask you for a copy of your degree because they need it to classify you (may depend on country, in 3 European countries I have personal experience this is normal). At that point you can extend the lie a bit and say you still didn't receive it because the university had some problems and postponed the release of the actual degree. They might ask you for a temporary certificate, which you could forge if you want to go in more trouble.

The truth eventually comes out. Might be today, might be in 5 years, but I wouldn't risk getting caught today hoping on an insignificant chance the lie could hold for years.


Third option: Contact them and ask for clarification on whether a degree is required for the job, since you realized that it isn't clear from your resume that your degree is in progress.

That way you can start the conversation on an upbeat note and they can give you the benefit of the doubt that you didn't intend to claim the degree on the resume. In my experience hiring in the US, it's common for students to list degrees that are still in progress and it can require a close reading to figure out whether they really have the degree, and I also see an array of mistakes on resumes that look like someone wrote it in the past (perhaps with anticipation of things happening in the future) and didn't fully update it (or update it at all). I wouldn't assume dishonesty just from a misleading education entry, without other evidence of outright lying.


There is nothing to be gained from telling the truth. If you come clean, they will not hire you. No employer will hire someone they know lied. If they find out that you lied after the fact, they'll probably fire you, unless you're some amazing rock-star employee.

Your best bet is to keep your mouth shut. You don't know what the background check entails. You don't know if they're actually going to look at your graduation record. If you get asked for transcripts, you'll have to come clean. Until that point, just shut up and wait. Best case is they believe you. Worst case is you get caught and don't get the job offer. No good can come of admitting that you already lied.

  • 21
    If you come clean, they'll rescind the job offer. If you don't come clean and they discover you lied, you'll be fired for cause. Guess which looks worse on your record?
    – Mark
    Commented May 3, 2018 at 21:57
  • 8
    @IDrinkandIKnowThings - lying about your qualifications is a legal reason to fire someone in most places
    – slebetman
    Commented May 4, 2018 at 3:15
  • 3
    Not sure why so many downvotes. OP acknowledges he did a horrible thing, but is now in a situation where his only real shot of getting to work this job is if he slips through the cracks and doesn't let on later. Best case scenario, he gets some years under his belt and puts that on the resume without academic lying. Worst case scenario, he is exactly where he his now. Commented May 4, 2018 at 12:32
  • 5
    Not sure why so many downvotes? Well, if he gets the job he may be depriving someone of the job who didn't submit a fraudulent resume, who actually did get a degree. Worst case scenario: jail. Commented May 4, 2018 at 18:54
  • 6
    @user1717828 The answer is advising to continue committing fraud. That would be why it's getting downvotes.
    – reirab
    Commented May 4, 2018 at 19:23

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