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I'm in a somewhat unusual situation, and not sure what I should do.

Last week, I had an interview for a mid/upper-level manager. I'm very unqualified for this position (I don't have any management experience, I haven't been in the industry all that long, etc), but I somehow managed to get an interview. Since I recently lost my job with this whole COVID-19 thing, there was no reason not to at least go through the interview and try.

I bombed the interview. Over half of the questions, I responded with "I don't know". Several of my answers, the interviewer actually corrected me and explained why my answer was wrong. They cut my interview off early. No big deal. It was a long shot that I'd actually get the job.

To my surprise, they called yesterday and offered me the job. Some unusual things they told me were:

  • They said they really liked my ideas about motivating people (I don't remember answering that at all).

  • They said they were really impressed by my technical background on mobile (I have very minimal experience, probably not even enough to be a mid-level engineer).

  • They said they were impressed by my volunteering on the board of some charity (I've never been on any board, and I never said anything in the interview to lead them to believe that I was).

They then gave me an offer for a huge amount of money - way more than I've ever made, plus a huge signing bonus.

The more I think about it, the more I think they've got the wrong person. I know they were interviewing other candidates, and it's all remote interview (because of COVID-19). Also, they had rescheduled my interview from 10:00 to 2:00 at the last minute. I'm guessing they're mixing me up with somebody else.

But I have an offer in front of me. I'm unemployed and need income, and this would be huge, especially the signing bonus. Is there any reason that I shouldn't take this job? It's not like I'm committing fraud or anything (it's the company that's screwing up), but are there any repercussions that can come from this?


Update - 5/7

I thought I'd share an update. Sorry for the delay. I REALLY needed the money, so I went ahead and took the job. Huge signing bonus has been deposited in my account, and I've read through the fine print in the contract and confirmed that there are no strings attached to the bonus. I've now been working for a few weeks and will get my first paycheck soon.

To answer some questions I'm sure you all have:

  • My name was definitely on the offer letter
  • Yes - I feel a little bit guilty for taking the job, but I really needed to. (I was about a week away from homelessness. Please don't be so judgmental unless you know what it's like to be in my situation).
  • No - I have no idea what I'm doing in my job. I'm mostly making this up as I go along.
  • No - nobody has called me out for being a fraud, but there are several people who sound very suspicious when I talk to them. (But that could just be me being paranoid).
  • Yes - I am terrified that somebody will find out.

Thank you all for the very helpful responses. This is a great site, and I'll plan on asking more questions as I navigate my way through this unusual situation.

12 Answers 12

207

I'm guessing they're mixing me up with somebody else.

That certainly seems to be the case, unless you've been sitting on board of a charity without knowing about it.

Is there any reason that I shouldn't take this job?

Yes, the job offer is not for you, that's the solid reason why not to do it.

It's not like I'm committing fraud or anything (it's the company that's screwing up)

Are you intending to correct them when accepting the offer that your name is XYZ, and that you never chaired a board of a charity, among with other factual inaccuracies (you can leave the subjective ones alone) and say that you suspect that they may be thinking of the wrong person when speaking with you? If so, go for it. If you don't plan to get the story straight, ask yourself why - and the answer is because those points are critical in the company decision making. That's a big thing on top of "is this a fraud" checklist, whether you would've gotten the financial benefit without the "miscommunication".

As for them making mistakes, yep, they likely did. They may very well even mixed the person with the name, so just confirming what's your name may not resolve the discrepancy. Hence why you should set record straight about stuff like chairing a board of the charity, and if they still want to hire you after that - great. Otherwise, lie by omission is a thing, and I would be very careful of making money based of it.

are there any repercussions that can come from this?

If you continue on the path, clarify nothing, and somehow manage to collect some money, as soon as the mistake is found and rectified you will almost certainly be fired and need to repay the sign-on bonus money at the very least.

So what should I do instead?

The unasked question. What you should do is get back to them and lightly mention something along those lines: "The offer you sent me is great, but I think there may be some confusion as I've never sat on board of a charity, are you sure that there are not some wires crossed?". If they then proceed with the offer, you are in the clear.

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    That's the correct answer. Although many of us probably understand the sentiment of wanting to simply accept the offer, the potential problems are huge and the probability they won't happen tiny. I would add to your argumentation that the world is a small place and if OP doesn't watch out he can end up with his name being associated with a fraud. It's simply not worth it. – BigMadAndy Apr 14 at 19:51
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    While I completely agree with the answer, the part as soon as the mistake is found and rectified you will almost certainly be fired and need to repay the sign-on bonus money at the very least. completely depends on the jurisdiction and the terms of the contract. "Fired as soon as ..." does not work in the EU for instance (past the x months testing period (the correct name escapes me right now), the sign-on bonus can be non-refundable (for instance as a protection from failing the test period above). – WoJ Apr 15 at 9:09
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    @WoJ Citation needed, as last time I checked use of deception will very likely nullify the formation of the contract in pretty much all EU countries. – Tymoteusz Paul Apr 15 at 9:10
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    Where is there deception? There is a contract provided by a company to someone who they met, they have all his data as provided by him etc. The contract has been read by both sides and signed by both sides. It is ultimately the problem of the company to have their records straight. – WoJ Apr 15 at 9:12
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    No,I completely agree with your answer- that is that he should explain the company they likely/certainly made a mistake. The bit about the company being able to fire easily afterwards and take back the sign-on bonus is the one I do not agree with. – WoJ Apr 15 at 9:16
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I feel like the easiest thing to do would be to ask them to confirm your name. Presumably they have interviews and interviewees recorded by name, like "here are the notes for Bob, here are the notes for Bill, here are the notes for Jamie". If they got you and Bob mixed up, then Bob's notes should have Bob's name on them, and your notes should have Jamie on them. If you ask them to confirm your name, they will likely ask if you are Bob, and then you say no, and then problem solved. In any case, when the offer letter comes, it will say Bob on it and not Jamie and you won't be able to legally sign it as you are not the addressee.

That said, if you are the addressee, then I guess the offer is extended to you. Maybe you did say something that they liked; it's very easy to think you bombed an interview when you actually did great, so maybe you're just being too hard on yourself.

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    Along these lines, have one could also accept the offer and wait for the contract to show up to the other persons email/address, with their name on it, or to the OPs address with their name on it...either way it’ll be a nice surprise for someone! – morbo Apr 14 at 17:19
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    This will weed out some, but not all sources of error. I'd expect most job offer letters to be personally addressed, so it should be obvious very early on if Jamie gets a letter for Bob. The more subtle, unaddressed error is if Bob's interview is mentally attributed to Jamie - the interviewers might remember liking their 3rd candidate greatly, and mistakenly remember that Jamie was the 3rd candidate. Getting an offer with the name Jamie on it does not necessarily mean they meant to extend an offer to Jamie. They could have meant to hire Bob, but thought his name was Jamie. – Nuclear Wang Apr 14 at 18:13
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    @NuclearWang with the rescheduling comment, that seems highly possible -- the schedule might read one way (Alice, Bob, Jaime) but they were actually interviewed in the order (Alice, Jaime, Bob), so you might remember the 3rd person and look at the schedule to remember the name, which would be incorrect. – Giuseppe Apr 14 at 18:41
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    OP's question is "should I tell them? what problems will arise if I don't" not "how should I tell them?". Your answer is good but it doesn't answer the question asked. There are plenty of good ways to validate whether OP is the person the company wanted to hire. – BigMadAndy Apr 14 at 19:34
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    What if they had two people with the exact same name? It can happen. Then just clarifying the name won't help. – Val Apr 16 at 10:52
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It seems clear that the company has gotten confused about something, but to me it is not clear whether (a) the company wants to hire someone else than you and called the wrong person, or (b) the company actually wants to hire you but just got confused about some of the details of your file. You seem to believe it's option (a), but when you're applying to a job you can never know where you stand relative to other applicants, and it's too easy to lack self-confidence and believe the others must be much better than you are.

By all means clarify with the company the factual points that they got wrong about your file, and of course confirm your name with them (which I guess should appear in a formal offer).

But I don't think you should tell them that you believe they have the wrong person. You should communicate with them by assuming (b) above: they want to hire you and just got some points of the file wrong. Indeed, if it's case (a) and they actually wanted someone else, they'll realize and let you know. But if it's case (b), it would be pretty strange if you told them that they got the wrong person: why is this person so insecure that they can't believe we want to give them a job? do they have so much doubts about our offer? how could they imagine we could make such a mistake?

And to clarify: if the company made you a formal offer in your name for the position that you had applied to, and had actually been intending it for someone else, and you didn't actively try to hide things from them, I fail to see how it could look badly on you if you simply accepted it. This would very much be the company's mistake, and applicants can't be expected to second-guess companies "they said they wanted to hire me but didn't get some points right about me, so is it really me that they want to hire?".

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  • I think Occam's razor suggests it must be (a) because of the details in the question - the OP answered "I don't know" to half the questions, got some other answers 'wrong' and the interviewer terminated the interview early! And OP didn't have any of those things they mentioned (charity board etc). – seventyeightist Apr 26 at 8:41
  • To me all of this falls under the spectrum of things that can easily be misinterpreted because of insufficient self-confidence because they are subjective: having the impression that you get corrected on some questions, the interview was shorter than expected, etc. My opinion would have been different if there had been some non-ambiguous outcome, i.e., the interviewer textually saying at the end that they will not be giving OP the job. – a3nm Apr 26 at 10:03
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Is there any reason that I shouldn't take this job? It's not like I'm committing fraud or anything (it's the company that's screwing up), but are there any repercussions that can come from this?

I can think of several possible ways in which this can go wrong. They all assume that the offer was intended for someone else, which seems to be the case based on what you described.

  1. The person they intended to hire might ask them for an update, and recruiters will realize that they made a mistake. Your contract will be cancelled before the start date.
  2. You will encounter your interviewers at work. They most likely remember you, or at least the person whom they intended to offer this job. They will notice that you are not this person probably already on your first day at work.
  3. Some companies require to return the money spent on bonuses, relocation etc if you leave the company within the first months.
  4. New employees often have to introduce themselves to their colleagues and talk about their former jobs. Since you don't have the experience that is required for this role, this might lead to very awkward conversations.
  5. If they fire you, you probably won't get a good review. It doesn't matter whether it's a fraud, the company won't be very happy about it in any case.
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2

If you decide to clarify everything and they end up realizing the offer wasn't for you, then you still have an opportunity at hand!

When they look at your profile (they will, thrice, since they're triple checking), they'll too notice that you're currently out of a job and that they're offering you more money than you ever made. But you still rejected their offer, simply because it's the right thing to do (you should probably mention something like "I can't accept an offer that wasn't made for me. It wouldn't be the right thing to do"). You're a person with good moral judgement, who was in need and had the chance to take advantage of the company and didn't, simply because you think that's wrong. Right now, they think the world of you! (just not of your management skills).

Capitalize on that. Talk to the recruiters and hiring managers, tell them what your ideal position actually looks like, make a connection with them. You've already won them over, I assure you. Even if they don't have a job for you right now at that company, they'll be thinking about you when the next position opens up. And/or they can refer you to another company.

Don't overdo it though. Don't reject this job just so you can be seen as a moral person and so they can help you land another job. Acting up for your own benefit is the opposite of what these people will admire about you. Don't try to act like a good person, try to actually be a good person, and capitalize on that.

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    What? They are a company. They want people who bring in money (by working). They don't care if your morral Standards are normal or very high, they won't give you a position because of that. – guest Apr 15 at 16:40
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    Actually, companies care about their net results, not their income. If you bring in money but you cost a lot more money, they don't want you. An honest employee is less of a liability, and that means reduced costs. – Blueriver Apr 15 at 17:18
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    OP was very much wasting their time by going in to an interview for a management role he wasn't nearly qualified for, and he knew it, too. Is that "good moral judgement?" Companies may well appreciate honesty, but they probably don't appreciate having their time knowingly wasted. – Steve-O Apr 15 at 20:10
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    @Blueriver: Yes, of course. I was not careful enough with my words. However, you won't get a job just because you are much more honest than everyone else. This is because most people are sufficiently honest for companies, so "godly honest" people are not in higg demand. – guest Apr 15 at 20:13
  • @Steve-O no, it's not "good moral judgement". I'm not saying OP is morally good (if they were, they wouldn't be asking this question). I'm suggesting OP can control that narrative and use it to their benefit. I guess you don't think OP can gain some benefit. Why do you think my suggestion can't work? – Blueriver Apr 16 at 0:12
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To my surprise, they called yesterday and offered me the job.

(Bold face by me)

As long as you don't have that in writing, signed by them, i would not count on it. Could very well be that they resolve the error when preparing the contract. An erroneous phone call is something which definitely happens sometimes.

If they however send you a completely filled and signed contract, including your name (much harder to do an error then) etc. then you could just sign it, even if they would fire you instantaneously. Depending on the laws and jurisdiction at the location of work they may also just swallow paying the signing bonus since accidentally filling out working contracts is not something adding to your reputation.

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Nothing is legally binding unless it is written. if they send you a contract with a huge signing bonus and YOUR NAME and ADDRESS on it. Then why worry? why not be on your side? if anything comes up you can say that you actually believed you did well in the interview.
There is nothing that can incriminate you if they offered you the job and all the information in the document you are signing is 100% true.
They will not talk about your volunteering experience in your contract for sure. I see it going in 3 ways honestly:
- They will be too shy to decline the offer from you and you'll keep the job.
- They will retract the offer and in that case, you didn't lose anything.
- You will get the big bonus and keep and they will fire you since during your probation.

Of Course, you should not hide your identity. If they call you by another name or send you some wrong details, make sure to correct them. But never say something like hey I don't think you want to hire me. Be on your side and your side only.

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    The context that leads to the signed paper matters, -1. – Tymoteusz Paul Apr 15 at 12:19
  • > Nothing is legally binding unless it is written Btw, this is completely wrong. Even in Germany, where we write down everything, oral contracts exist, and not just for buying groceries. – mafu Apr 17 at 22:55
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First, you need to find out if you really have been offered the job - it's entirely possible, even if you don't think you did very well on the interview, that you were selected anyway.

Write a polite letter to the hiring manager that sent your offer, asking them to confirm that you are the person they want for the job - mention your full name and explain why you are looking for clarification. If you have concerns regarding your ability to do the job, bring them up during this email.

It may turn out that you are better qualified for the position than you thought, that the interview went better than you realized...or it may just be a simple error.

The important thing here is to clarify that you are who they think you are, and that the qualifications they're looking for are ones that you have - both are valid concerns, and the hiring manager should be able to address them for you once explained.

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  • I've made a significant edit to this answer - since I suspect the downvotes it has gotten is because I failed to recommend confirming their identity as the one being offered a job first - OP should confirm this, but also confirm that the requirements for the position are what they think they are - they may have actually gotten this job, and simply been misinformed about those requirements. If they are in fact qualified, and they aren't being mistaken for someone else, they should confirm both of these things with the hiring manager. – Zibbobz Apr 15 at 19:30
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    I mean, OP says the employer made specific reference to events he doesn't recall happening in the interview, and qualifications he doesn't have and never claimed to have. I think it's pretty obvious the employer is not talking to the person they thought they were talking to. – Steve-O Apr 15 at 19:53
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    @Steve-O True - but he might have also gotten two candidates mixed up and still intended to hire OP for other reasons - really, it's best to get clarification all around - and I just wanted to emphasize with my answer that there's still a slight chance he might be qualified, if the mistake isn't in them offering a position. – Zibbobz Apr 15 at 20:25
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With the update I think what needs to be adressed is how you move forward now in this situation, that might actually be better for a new question but I will give some input anyway.

I would suggest that you start, if you have not already, to do your best to actually learn the job that you have been hired for. This means spending a lot of your free time working or reading up at home which may be hard. On the other hand, the motivation that you actually might loose your home if you do not have the job might encourage you to put those hours in. And who knows, perhaps you are even able to do your job so you do not risk loosing it.

Searching for another job might be a good idea when time permits. I understand that it's hard to get a new one now, but if you are able to get one and leave before you get caught with not knowing your current one you will probably be in a better position down the line explaining the short time period you were hired at your current one. You do not want the real reason to get out.

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Easy peasy: Get on the phone, and call them up!

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  • There are already several answers suggesting to clarify this with the employer, I don't think this one adds anything new. – lawful_neutral Apr 24 at 22:04
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You are not doing anything wrong by accepting the offer. Take it, then work your arse off to either fill the boots you are stepping into, or at least stay as long as possible.

Even if the chance is 99% that they made a mistake, what goes in your favour are these points. 1. They have more money than you. They won’t go broke by paying you (and if they do, they deserve it). 2. So someone made a mistake. A big mistake. Nobody will want to admit it’s their mistake. 3. If you get fired after two months, you made two months of good salary instead of being unemployed. But as I said, you work your arse off to make it three months or four or maybe longer. 4. If I look at the current U.K. government, I bet you are more competent than at least half of them. 5. Change your name from Jamie to James or Jamieson. And borrow or rent a good suit. Take a taxi for the last half mile to work.

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    Why exactly are you recommending that he changes his name? – Tymoteusz Paul Apr 15 at 13:40
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    It's kinda disturbing how many people have this idea of "They have more money than you, so you can ethically do whatever you want to them." Fraud, to the point where you're changing your name and your automobile to perpetuate it? Perfectly fine - after all, that company has more money than you. Geez. – Kevin Apr 15 at 13:54
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    This answer is tantamount to subjourning fraud. – Pyrotechnical Apr 16 at 14:28
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    @Pyrotechnical: No fraud at all. They offered the job. – gnasher729 Apr 16 at 15:51
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    @Kevin it doesn't make it right, but I think that in a world where the likes of Amazon put their profits above the lives of their workers, this sort of attitude is not really unexpected. – Aaron F Apr 17 at 10:46
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Congratulations on receiving an offer: be more confident in yourself (not cocky). Your credentials and experience placed you in the running. A good interview will test your limits of your knowledge and experience, so it is normal to feel a little beaten-up after the interview. You do not, nor should not know how the other interviews (if any) went.

At this point, you should ask yourself:

  • Do you want this job?
  • Do you think you can do this job?
  • Any reason why you would not fit in?

If the answers are yes, yes, & yes, then why aren't you accepting the position?

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    Did you actually read the question? It is most probably not his/her credentials and experience that placed hin in the running. – Jost Apr 15 at 17:21
  • Shouldn't a good interview test your fit with the role and the company, rather than your limits? – Blueriver Apr 16 at 0:15
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    OP was interviewed base on his application, which by definition put him in the running. A good interview will test your fit and your knowledge limits. If the OP has any doubt, then it is his responsibility to seek clarification, without signaling insecurity. No one, other than the OP (and there is a good chance he's got it wrong), has anywhere near-enough context to determine the hiring manager has made a mistake. – gatorback Apr 16 at 2:22
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    I would generally agree with this idea, but OP said the potential employer specifically cited OP's experience on a charity board that OP certainly did not have as a deciding factor in making the offer. So this looks to almost certainly be a case of mistaken identity, rather than imposter syndrome. – bob Apr 17 at 17:18
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    @bob It is the responsibility of the hiring company to ensure the correct candidate is hired, not the other way around. That being said, if there is doubt, then it is possibly in the interest of the OP to accept the offer and confirm with the hiring manager (not the HR). It is the hiring manager that is 'buying' (living with the hiring decision) and HR is the broker \ execution agent. – gatorback Apr 24 at 16:08

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