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I recently moved back to Western Europe to a country where my parents live. I'm about 35 and have solid work experience of about 8 years. The job market in this country is pretty tight but I recently managed to find a very good job. The reason I chose to go to this country is because I spent my teen years there and my parents still live there. On my CV when job hunting I omitted to mention the fact that I had enrolled in law school (this is now 16 years ago) in this country after high school because I didn't sit the exams. Subsequently I went to do law school in the UK and did a masters at a very prestigious and selective law school elsewhere in Europe. During my interview my current employer asked why or if I had ever studied in this country and I said no. The company employs some 2500 people. Unfortunately, the other day whilst walking in the office, I crossed a girl whom I immediately recognized to be a good friend of mine from law school from that first year of law school (from 16 years ago) She didn't seem to recognize me either. However I have crossed her twice now and am absolutely terrified of being found out and fired for lying at my interview and omitting this information from my CV. She works on another floor but in a related function. What should I do? I really need this job.

Additional information: They asked because there's a perception that expat people like me don't integrate properly and some of them think that people who go and study in the UK and US have a much easier time with their studies. Many think their own system is better even though I don't see many of these institutions on global rankings (certainly not the school I enrolled at) and I did do my Masters at an extremely selective European school anyway. The expats think the locals are snobs and elitist in a who knows who way. Also, most employers here are international companies. My company happens to be local and is trying to internationalize so has recently started recruiting more expats.

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    I'm under the impression we are not getting enough context here. Why would you lie to such a simple question? Switching to a better University, getting your degrees there would surely not have been seen as a negative? On the other hand, why did they even ask? Is there anything connected to studying locally? – nvoigt Oct 24 '15 at 14:14
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    Don't worry about it. In the incredibly unlikely event that the interviewer discovered that you were at a local law school you could just claim you misunderstood the question and thought you were being asked if you'd graduated. – TheMathemagician Oct 26 '15 at 17:52
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Clearly, it was very careless to lie to a direct question in the first place. Why should the employer base his decision on what you did 16 years ago when what followed after that is so much more relevant?

I also find it worrying that you would knowingly ignore someone you once considered to be a "good friend". That's already your second ethical mistake in a short time.

Personally, I think fear makes you overreact in ways that are just not healthy or productive. That's something you need to learn to deal with otherwise you will find yourself soon in a much worse situation (i.e. by trying to cover up a big mistake out of fear to be reprimanded).

This is how you might want to proceed:

First of all, get back in touch with your friend. Tell her you finally remembered her (a little necessary lie). I'm sure you'll be both happy to meet again, she might even become your ally in the company.

As for your employer, try to review the situation calmly and make a rational decision how to proceed. Is this really relevant information that could affect you negatively one day? I understand he asked and that you lied but one could also say "I was just goofing around for a year and didn't consider that important enough to put it in my CV". A fair point, in my view. However, if there is more to it, or even if you just can't shake the bad feeling, it might be liberating to talk to your employer about this. Just don't blow the issue out of proportion yourself, it's still a lot less relevant than all your achievements after that.

  • Thank you so much for your response. When I said she was a good friend, I meant at the time. We haven't been in touch at all. I recognized her about 8 years ago and said hello to her in a store and she said that she would never have recognized me. I told her we should see each other for coffee and gave her my number but never heard or saw her again until a couple of weeks ago when I saw her again. – officegirl Oct 24 '15 at 10:54
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    I'm really not qualified to tell you how to best act in that situation, there are so many aspects to this. Personally, I would still talk to her. To meet someone by accident after a long time versus seeing each other regularly is very different. Maybe you won't be best friends but you could still be good colleagues. And even if not, you at least will have tried. Don't hide. – vic Oct 24 '15 at 12:30
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This seems very much like a case of mistaken identity. The girls is very likely someone else who just happens to look like your former friend. Conversely, if the girl happens to recognize you, then surely she has you mistaken for someone with the same name as you. In fact, if you reconsidered the situation more thoroughly, you will come to realize that this is all definitely a case of mistaken identity where you mistook her for someone who looks like your former friend and the girl, if she thinks she recognizes you, has you confused with someone else who has the same name as you.

So if your employer ever brings up this matter with you, you can easily clarify to them what the actual situation is, which is exactly what you have concluded after careful reconsideration.

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    It sounds like you are recommending more lies? I'm struggling to see how this is in the original poster's best interest... Maybe it's because I'm an American and don't understand all the cultural implications of being "caught". – emragins Oct 24 '15 at 18:31

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