I got an offer for a tech job at a big company in Seattle. I am excited about the job, but I have a problem and that is that I lied on my resume. I put my undergrad, even though I didn't graduate.

Normally it wouldn't be a big deal, since my resume does not say I finished school, but I filled out a form before my onsite interview and I checked a box that says I did in fact graduate.

I accepted the role and they're going to start a background check on Monday. They're almost certainly going to call the school and find out about my educational background.

For starters, this was a grievously stupid decision and one I'll continue to look back on as a really, really dumb thing to do. I want to get out ahead of this and see if I can salvage the situation.

I have lunch with my manager next week and I think I might say something like this:

I made a stupid mistake. Please allow me to explain - I started at undergrad and then started a job over the summer, received an offer and never looked back. I indicated that I completed undergrad in my application. I'd very much like to work with you, but I understand if that is disqualifying.

I'm not sure how to handle this, and whether it's better to do it in person or over email where I can provide more information and be a lot more intentional about my words.

What would you do?

  • 1
    In person, as soon as possible. Phone would be the quickest. If the company wants to back out, they can save some of the hiring expenses. Hiring paperwork, background checks, reference cost a lot of time and money so the later they find out the madder they will be
    – Hilmar
    Commented Jun 22, 2019 at 17:05
  • You should also look into what it would take to complete your degree. That way, you would get the benefit of checking that box on the application without lying. Commented Jun 23, 2019 at 1:33
  • you worry too much, nowadays degrees aren't that useful just tell them you checked the box by accident
    – user86742
    Commented Jun 24, 2019 at 16:00

4 Answers 4


As very well noted in other answer and comment, talk to your potential manager ASAP. Do not wait until your meeting next week.

Be prepared that confessing about the lie will most likely lead to disqualification. Good that you are planning on confessing, better to do it before the company starts the background check and approach your school.

I'm not sure how to handle this, and whether it's better to do it in person or over email where I can provide more information and be a lot more intentional about my words.

Definitely don't do it over email. Best to do it in person. Since you already understand that this may lead to disqualification, which there's a high probability that it will.

As you have decided, the least good you can do is confess in person to your manager, instead of email and be honest about the misdeed. Not sure if your candidature will be considered, but you certainly win brownie points for displaying honesty and owning up to your mistake.

You never know this honest act may end up covering up for your misdeed. Doesn't hurt to give it a go.


Inform your hiring manager ASAP, but do it in person or over a phone, so as to both impart more urgency and leave less of a paper trail. Don't say you lied and don't make excuses, just state as a matter of fact that your application was incorrect. People know what it means, but it's best not to admit to more than you need to.

Lies about education are the most common kind, and the one most commonly verified. You can get away with lying about being a self-starter, a top performer, goal driven, as everyone assumes it's a lie anyway. Degrees are legal documents that don't leave wiggle room.

You'll probably lose this one opportunity, but you'll at least have a good chance of avoiding legal problems or severe damage to your reputation that may go beyond the company.

The worst thing that can happen at this point is just getting hired. That will constitute fraud, and sometime down the line you can get fired for cause or even prosecuted for this lie. If you stop the hiring process in time, you can avoid much worse consequences later.

Many tech companies hold college degrees in some contempt and don't care for them, so it's not the lack of a degree that will disqualify you. It's the fact that you lied that will be a problem.

  • 1
    "Present your actions as a mistake - they'll know it wasn't, but that's safer." I disagree with your advice to cover up a lie with another lie and thus cement their opinion of OP as liar.
    – Niko1978
    Commented Jun 24, 2019 at 9:08
  • @Niko1978 You're right, I didn't put it the right way. Trying to explain it as a mistake would be a bad idea. But so would be saying "I lied". Basically, the less one says, the better.
    – Therac
    Commented Jun 24, 2019 at 12:16

You need to alert the manager. Phone or email are fine, especially considering the outcome will likely be disqualification for the role regardless. The sooner you alert someone yourself, the better the chances are that you might be able to salvage the role.

Learn from the error: Amend your resume to correctly reflect your education. Include your incomplete undergraduate degree - even an incomplete degree is a positive experience.

Favorable errors on resumes are unfortunately common, and almost always discovered by an employer. Best you let them know before your manager learns about it from somewhere else.


Don't ever lie about your education on your resume

It can not only get you disqualified from the hiring process (or fired years after you've already been at the job), but in a lot of places apparently including Washington state it's actually illegal.

This could be far more serious than "a really, really dumb thing to do". You should find a local lawyer (there may be a local service you can use for a free consultation) and consult with them, especially before you admit to your manager that you committed fraud. They will be able to tell you the likely consequences, and the best way forward that also protects yourself.

  • 3
    This is an over-reaction - the issue doesn’t need a lawyer.
    – Jay
    Commented Jun 22, 2019 at 17:23
  • @Jay I'm not suggesting escalating it in any way, I'm suggesting consulting with someone with local knowledge of the consequences of breaking a law and the likely outcomes from it. I'm not sure of how it goes in the US, but in my country there are free services you can use to do this
    – Player One
    Commented Jun 22, 2019 at 17:27
  • 1
    @PlayerOne Are there any cases where someone was actually prosecuted for lying on their resume, where the process was terminated at the hiring stage?
    – Therac
    Commented Jun 22, 2019 at 17:29
  • @Therac I don't know, I'm not a lawyer in Washington
    – Player One
    Commented Jun 22, 2019 at 17:30
  • 2
    @PlayerOne To the best of my knowledge and research, this hasn't happened. And millions of people lie on their resumes. So a lawyer is an overreaction at this stage - just halt the process. P.S. Someone seems to be mass-downvoting all the answers.
    – Therac
    Commented Jun 22, 2019 at 17:32

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