I originally assumed that a very difficult co-worker was a very inexperienced Junior developer. After talking to the original interviewer, I found out he claimed to have multiple years of experience and was supposed to be a senior developer.

Mystery was solved after I was recommended by LinkedIn to his "second" account: he had certifications showing he actually learned programming basics a few months before being hired, which explains his lack of experience.

He admitted it. Since our company is in an at-will state, he was let go for lying on his resumé; for being difficult to deal with; and for lack of productivity. However, he boasted about going to another company to work as lead developer, and mentioned to some co-workers that he claimed an even bigger amount of development experience to this other company than he did to us.

What is the etiquette here? Should I alert his new company, or just wait if they ask for references? The new company is in the same city as us, but we're unrelated.

EDIT: To answer some questions: Yes I was his direct manager. He did a lot of damage to my team, but nothing personal to me. Btw, we were called by the other company and HR asked me to give references for him. I'm contacting legal about what I should do.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Neo
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 15:18

9 Answers 9


TLDR: Don't do anything. It is not worth the pain.

You are under no obligation to do anything

Firsty, its likely the story Inexperienced Junior Developer (IJD) told about being lead developer in his new job was a way of saving face. But either way, there is no responsibility on you (especially since he wasn't even your report) to do anything.

Even if you feel like you ought to do something, it's probably a terrible idea

There is a fine line between sharing information and slander. Assuming you are able to stick to provable facts, you may have a hard time proving them, and your advice might still be ignored. Furthermore, it's likely that you can provoke a less civilised response from IJD.

So what should I do?

You should probably talk to IJD and suggest that misrepresenting his experience is going to end badly and try to convince him (most likely he will ignore this) to stop his plan before it backfires horribly. If and when this fails, you should drop it.

After that, I'm in the minority here who probably would try to do something. This is partly because I am an asshole and can handle the drama. I can assume that you are not an asshole and therefore would take the sensible route - don't do anything.

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    There are ways to handle the references for bad former employees, but you need to check local laws. Your company may have a legal dept. That situation might be a different question. Commented Oct 3, 2020 at 21:25
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    I would like to add that if you write the other company out of the blue (and don't know them personally), they may find it weird that you tell them and have some personal vendetta against this person.
    – guest
    Commented Oct 3, 2020 at 21:26
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    @guest Not at all, don't worry! I really appreciate you comment, as I'm completely dumbfounded about what to do, so your comment gave me a wider perspective.
    – user119561
    Commented Oct 3, 2020 at 21:43
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    The OP has edited the question to say that HR have formally asked him. So he should pass a genuine opinion of them back to HR. It then becomes HR's problem to filter that for what the company is legally allowed to say.
    – Graham
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 8:42
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    He's not a developer, but a con artist (and there are people, who like to hear lies). And telling the truth about him isn't slander. Just provide them with the correct Linked-In profile URL... then there might be no need to state any further opinion.
    – user1026
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 9:16

Disregard everything he says as a probable falsehood.

Just say 'Good luck with that' and leave him to it.

Unsure why you would let the same person fool you twice.

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    And don't provide a reference for him.
    – Sascha
    Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 13:36
  • say 'Good luck with that' - I prefer "I wish you luck with that" or "I wish you luck in your future endeavours" deliberately without specifying good or bad luck. Though don't do this if passive aggression is not your intent! Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 10:04
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    @DavidSpillett where I learnt English 'Good luck with that' is not well meant, it's dismissing it as something you can't be bothered getting involved with.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 10:36
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    @Kilisi (naive English speaker) in my experience "good luck with that" is more "I know that will fail" without existing a wish at all. It is sometimes used positivity between friends (I think that is a bad idea, but I hope it does work out"). Though yes, depending on tone it can, and is often intended to, be dismissive. The latter use works best in person, where confirmation of intent is carried by tone of voice. Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 12:08
  • @DavidSpillett sure, that makes sense as well, my English isn't great anyway
    – Kilisi
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 12:27

Don't bother for the reasons that speciesUnknown has mentioned, but there's an even bigger one - you have no idea if he's telling the truth. You've already said he has a habit of misrepresenting his accomplishments, there's no reason to believe he isn't lying to your coworkers. Assuming the truth is that he has applied with a resume with exaggerated qualifications, it's up to the new company to figure that out. However, it's possible he learned the error of his ways and applied for a position appropriate to his skill level with a truthful resume, and is just boasting to your coworkers because he's embarrassed about being fired and lying builds his self-confidence.

Assuming he makes it past the interview (which for a lead developer position seems unlikely, but stranger things have happened), they'll almost certainly want to follow up with his previous managers. If that's you, they probably won't ask if he was fired for cause directly because companies generally don't want to reveal that information for fear of a slander suit - instead, it will probably be something like "Is this person still eligible for a position at your company," which you can confidently answer "no," and that's likely all the information they'll need. However, if you try to contact them yourself, you're spending your time to track down someone you have no responsibility to help, to tell them that someone might be trying to dupe them who may in fact not be trying to do so. It's just a bad use of your time and energy, and may end up making you look foolish.

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    If he's applying to jobs with fake experience he's probably using friends as fake references at his fake previous employers, and leaving off anywhere he actually worked. Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 6:08
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    @DanIsFiddlingByFirelight Definitely possible, still 110% not OP's problem imo, especially if OP isn't even a reference. Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 13:19

You probably shouldn't contact his "next" employer - simply because

  • you do have seen neither his application,
  • nor the exact job description, therefore
  • you don't know if there is any further wrongdoing on part of this employee.

But what happened should reflect in the testimonial. However, in some countries (e.g. Germany) a testimonial is restricted to "well-meaning" phrases only by law.

Therefore the common process is that the new company will routinely call you (informally) at some point during the hiring process - just to verify her/his claims regarding tasks, job responsibilities and position... and - I assure you - they will listen very, very carefully to you, and then draw their own conclusions.

TL;DR: Due diligence is their job; just give truthful answers when asked.

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    In German, the wording might always sound nice... but they know how to encode just any misbehavior. For example: karrierebibel.de/arbeitszeugnis-formulierungen-bewertung ... in this case, that would be something alike: „Er verfügte über Fachwissen und ein gesundes Selbstvertrauen.“
    – user1026
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 9:40
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    @MartinZeitler OP here. Legal advised me to say only good but strictly factual things, so I was free to say that "he's a quick learner and only started learning programming in January".
    – user119561
    Commented Oct 12, 2020 at 12:44

I think it's simple. First, cut off all personal links in particular LinkedIn etc. Second, try to organise it so that all requests from other companies or individuals relating to him go to HR rather than former colleagues. Third, if explicitly asked for a reference other than via HR then explicitly refuse to provide one.

An acquaintance recounted that he'd once fired somebody in a not-dissimilar situation. Some while later he was contacted by an old friend:

"So-and-so has applied for a job with us. I know he used to work for you, but he hasn't listed you as the potential source of a reference."

"I think that displays unusually good judgement."

"Ah. Thank you very much."


How much time did you and your co-workers waste fixing this person's mistakes, that would would have not been wasted had someone told your company that they were an incompetent and a liar before you hired them?

If you can save other people the trouble you just went through by taking a few minutes to write them an email, it seems like doing so would be the ethical choice. If they ignore the warning, you're under no obligation to follow up further, but they deserve to be warned.


The other company has asked you for references, which is exactly the time to be brutally honest about this person's deceit. Make sure you go with nothing but facts: we hired this guy, he didn't perform, we investigated, it turned out he was lying to us, we let him go for that reason.

Should your legal department advise against you being honest, there is no reason why you cannot send an email from a throwaway account to his new employer's HR department. As long as you keep the content in said message brief enough (I would advise something direct like "I worked with this guy, he lies about his experience, here's a link to his LinkedIn to show it"), it will also be anonymous enough that nobody will be able to tell whether you sent that message... or another member of your team... or someone in your HR department.

And bravo to your for wanting to do this. Software engineering has far too many frauds and incompetents in it already, occupying positions that better people would do a far better job in - anyone willing to take preventative action against one of these bad apples is a stand-up person in my books.


In my opinion the most and least that your company should do is to verify prior employment dates and salary. You, personally, should not say word one, either pro or con. If either former employee or new company contacts you directly, you say "Due to company policy we are unable to provide any information about Joe Schmoe excepting his period of employment and salary, and you'll need to go through HR for that". Get yourself out of the middle of this mess. ANYTHING you say above and beyond dates and dollars (which are hard, cold facts, not opinions) can get you sued, by either former employee (if you give him a bad reference) or hiring company (if/when they find out he's lied to them).

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    OP here. Yep. Legal advised me to provide a reference, and I used strictly facts and dates, and left out the "con" part. I mentioned that he only started learning programming in January. It was 100% factual and we provided links. Worked for me. :)
    – user119561
    Commented Oct 12, 2020 at 12:47

Why would you want to contact his new employer out of the blue regarding this? Do you dislike this person so much you want to keep him unemployed for the rest of his life?

So, no don't contact his new employer out of the blue. Even when explicitly asked for references it would be decent to find something positive to say about him as well.

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    I wouldn't go as far as saying something positive, just say that you do not remember the person, or have nothing remarkable come to mind when asked for reference. While I agree to not pursue the guy like OP planned, no reason to make his life easier.
    – Aida Paul
    Commented Oct 3, 2020 at 22:34
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    @thieupepijn I don't personally want to contact anyone, I'm asking what's the etiquette here, and what I should do. Other people were able to answer without accusing me of anything.
    – user119561
    Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 11:28
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    @thieupepijn someone stole your wallet and on their way out is boasting about their next target, yeah totally only personal vendetta... (and no, it's not the same, that's why it's an analogy to point out the crucial part: they did 'bad thing' to you and now are claiming to do 'bad thing' to someone else, most people are not egoistical enough to just ignore that; but yes there are complexities to it in that they might be lying in this boasting too and there are other concerns like privacy etc. pp.). Commented Oct 4, 2020 at 17:55
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    @thieupepijn Sorry, but personal assumptions are inappropriate on Stack Exchange. Replacing "hate" with "dislike" is an improvement, but your answer is still based on a pretty unfounded assumption - actually I would have worded the question pretty similarly if I had been just an impassionate observer, because I'd want to have a higher percentage of competent, reasonable, honest people in the industry; the disadvantage for the imposter are unavoidable but I see no way to avoid that (and the person seems to continue to lie, so it's just karma, not ill will).
    – toolforger
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 10:27
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    @thieupepijn It so happens that I have flagged your response for exactly the same reason: I don't have any ill will towards you, and I am just an uninvolved observer, but I wish to keep Stack Exchange a place where allegations of ill will aren't the norm. But you can improve your answer by providing something for every potential motive that the somebody with that question might have. (Remember: Stack Exchange isn't just for answering the original question, it's for providing answer for people who have the same question, regardless of the original motives.)
    – toolforger
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 10:30

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