I was given a job offer, I signed the offer and was given a start date. This position, I never applied for it, instead I was contacted by a recruiter. The recruiter asked on the first call if I had a BA I told her yes, but really the truth is I ran out of money during my senior year of college and couldn't afford to finish. My mother was ill and I ended up relocating to help her out and never finished. This was nearly 12 years ago. Not finishing school has always bothered me however I've always felt like I had a degree because I had got so far in my education. Fast forward to this opportunity, I completed everything and then HR asked me the verify my degree. I don't know what I should do, they will be checking my education. Should I just tell them the circumstance surrounding not finishing or just decline the offer. I feel terrible that I wasn't 100 percent honest. Please help!
Should I just tell them the circumstance surrounding not finishing or just decline the offer.
Tell them the circumstances. Maybe it will help, maybe not. You have nothing to lose in this situation.
The next time, just start with the truth and you won't have to feel terrible.
Not finishing school has always bothered me however I've always felt like I had a degree because I had got so far in my education.
Feeling like you had a degree and claiming that you have one aren't the same thing. After 12 years, it's perfectly reasonable to feel that you have the equivalent experience+studies. That's something you could call out in your cover letter or discuss proudly in your interview. But claiming a degree you haven't actually earned is improper.
Instead, just list the years you attended and don't claim the degree you haven't earned. If it comes up in the interview (and it probably will), then you can explain the circumstances that prevented you from completing your studies and actually attaining your degree.
And remember, it's never too late to complete a degree program. You might consider going nights and finally earning that degree. That kind of drive goes over well in an interview.
Did you tell HR you had a BA, either verbally, or by stating so in your CV, or in any forms they asked you to fill out?
If you never actually said such a thing to HR, i.e. if you only told so to the recruiter and it was the recruiter the one who told HR you had a BA, you can try to make it seem like a simple misunderstanding:
Hey, I see here that you're asking me for proof of my BA but there must have been some kind of misunderstanding!
I did complete X years of formal education towards a BA in Whatever, but because of this and that [up to you how deep you want to go about the reasons] I was forced to pause my progress towards obtaining my degree, and I've been working and getting real world experience since then.
Anyways... Maybe this wasn't understood well enough on the phone when the recruiter asked me about it. I can get a certificate of hours and courses I passed, would that be OK?
- Do not mention the words "dropped out", "failed to obtain", "true", "false", nor (of course) "lied". Use "put on hold" or "pause" instead of "stop", since it implies that you might still get the degree... some day.
- Do not put the blame on the recruiter, just state that it was misunderstood on the phone. It happens.
- If you mention the reasons behind your "pausing", be sure to make them look like a once-in-a-lifetime event. You don't want HR to think that you'll be taking time off because of your sick mother or that you'll be asking for raises time and again because you don't have money.
- Do not make it seem like you think this is a problem or look like you got "caught". Smile. You know you don't have a degree, duh, why would you lie about that? So it must've been a simple misunderstanding, and surely not a problem given all your other skills that made you get the job. You understand that this is all just necessary paperwork and just want to make it easy for HR to be done with it.
Of course, this won't work if there's even the slightest trace of you actually saying "I have a BA". Which can happen if you wrote it somewhere or told so to HR themselves or if the recruiter recorded your conversation. However, you can also try to talk with the recruiter so they don't call you out: recruiters lie all the time about their candidates's skills and it's in their interest that you get the job (bonuses and such), so they might be inclined to help you out.
Phone the manager of your new position. Explain to him/her exactly what's happened. Don't make excuses - he/she probably won't care that your mother was sick 12 years ago. Just tell him/her that you don't have the degree, and that it appeared on your CV as the result of a misunderstanding with the recruiter.
It's possible that the manager doesn't care whether you have a degree. It's also possible that the company will help you finish your degree - they might give you time off to study, and they might even subsidise your tuition. Or it's possible that the manager won't want you to work for him/her - either because of the lie, or because he/she needs you to have the degree. But you won't know until you talk to him/her.
If the manager endorses your employment despite your not having the degree, then HR will accept this.