For an entry level candidate, staffing/recruitment agencies ask to add fake experience which increase the probability of landing a job interview.

While this question is asked by many recruiter agents (who recruit for their clients), so that they can showcase the candidate to their clients as their clients want. However, as a prospective candidate, I feel it's unethical to put experience, of which I never had, on my CV.

Is there any general consensus as to whether such requests are indeed unethical?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – enderland
    Commented Mar 12, 2017 at 22:39
  • The most common correct answer on this site is "Tell the truth." Considering this, it's not hard to assume that lying is a bad idea. Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 18:55

9 Answers 9


You pretty much answer your own question:

However, as a candidate perspective, I feel it's unethical to put something on table as my experience which I never had.

This is true and you should stick to your own ethics. Don't put it on there. While it may help to get more interviews, the on-site recruiter or people you'll have the interview with should very quickly realise that you do not have the experience listed on your resume. That makes your chances of being hired very slim either way. And even if they'd hire you, you would probably not make it through your first month before they realise you're a "fraud" and lay you off anyway.

So other than pleasing the recruiter, there's really no upside to this.

  • 25
    Agreed, and if the employer found out you had done this, it may go beyond just being fired. They will certainly give you a bad review to any future potential employers, and they could potentially sue you for misrepresenting yourself (I know I would want my money back from someone who got a job by scamming me)
    – Kevin
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 18:48
  • 7
    Living in Canada, I've known people to get laid off because they lied about speaking French. All their other skills were legit, and they worked in a city where 99% of people spoke English anyway. The particular person I'm thinking of had been in her position for YEARS without issue before this detail was found out, and she was still fired for having lied on her resume. Ethics aside, it's a terrible idea and any recruiters who ask people to do this should be fired themselves, IMHO.
    – Steve-O
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 19:39
  • Unfortunately, it’s been my experience that employers would rather keep an underqualified résumé embellisher than admit to having made a mistake in the hiring/interviewing process.
    – VGR
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 20:27

Unethical. Super unethical.

While it may pad their stats, what they're actually doing is helping to place workers in jobs that are a bad fit and setting them up for failure.

It's unethical for a person to decide to pad their own resume in this way but at least I get it - they're trying to land a job and provide for their family. But when a staffing agency pushes it, it's about greed and nothing else. That's low. What they're doing is trying to fluff their stats so they can say something like, "We place 94% of candidates so if you're looking for a job, choose us!" Or, "98% of the companies that choose us hire a candidate within 2 weeks. Choose us!"

Doing so at the expense of both employers and employees is pretty low.

These agencies should be helping to find jobs that are a good fit for both the employee and the employer. That's their whole function. When they fail to do this, it hurts everyone involved.


In addition to what the others have said here:

When I am working with a recruiting company I always arrive at an interview with my OWN copy of my Resume (and usually five extras, because you never know who you meet with) and provide it to them immediately and say, "This is the Resume I am prepared to discuss, regardless of what you have received from my recruiting company."

In the past I have arrived at interviews to find out that some experience (I did not have) was added to a resume (without my knowledge) that was provided to the company I was interviewing with.

Unfortunately, there are LOTS of unethical recruiting companies out there, and even more unfortunately the best places to work at seem to utilize only the worst companies, so sometimes working with a less then scrupulous recruiting company is not an option. However, I have not been afraid to tell company's I am interviewing with that the recruiting company did/encouraged/said for me to lie in order to land a job. Otherwise the company would have no idea what was going on.

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    If I ever had a recruiter add experience to my resume without my knowledge I would tell the interviewer what had happened, immediately fire the recruiter, warn anyone I could about their unethical practices, and potentially report them to any relevant business ethics groups. If they had caused any harm to me in doing so I would also contact a lawyer and consider suing them. That is unbelievably unethical and should be treated as fraud.
    – Kevin
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 18:43
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    @KevinWells I think you're pretty much reporting it to their client company in this case. Beyond that I can only assume you're speaking hypothetically because that would be spending a lot of time you don't have for an ill-defined gain you likely won't achieve.
    – user42272
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 19:36
  • @Kevin From a practical perspective, you're not going to change anything with this approach. It's enough to inform the company and move on - it's their choice whether they want to continue using a recruiter that provides them with false information. In an interview where this comes up, your only job is to defend your personal integrity.
    – user8712
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 20:07
  • 1
    The reason I would go further is because what they are doing is likely not just unethical, but illegal (likely fraud, though I'm not a legal expert). For the small amount of work it would take me to report them I would do it. People complain about unethical recruiters, but if no one ever takes the time to deal with them properly, how will that ever improve?
    – Kevin
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 20:13
  • +1 I've been on the interviewer side of this. I highly recommend doing something like what Mark is suggesting. Even if the recruiter isn't fabricating stuff, they often "improve" the resumes they pass through. This readily leads to a mismanagement of expectations that will doom your chances. Commented Mar 11, 2017 at 2:45

It seems super unethical to me and I would not touch them, but my experience is only in the US, I don't know if its common in other areas. I've had recruiters encourage me to reword sections or push me to include things I have minimal experience with, but never to just lie.

It's also very dangerous for you. If you put experience with software "ABC" on your resume and they expect you to be productive immediately with ABC, you may find you don't have that job very long.

It seems dangerous for the recruiter too. Most interviewers aren't dumb, they will be able to figure out if you are BSing about your experience. If I'm a recruiter and I send 5 people into interviews with false experience, I wouldn't expect to keep that client long.

  • You have sent or received?
    – SpongeBob
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 15:49

I feel it's unethical to put experience, of which I never had, on my CV.

Is there any general consensus as to whether such requests are indeed unethical?

I agree that it is completely unethical to lie on your CV and during interviews. Additionally, I would never work with a staffing company that wanted me to lie.

As a hiring manager, I never hire people who lie.

My career and my reputation are very important to me. I'd never let someone ruin it.


Of course this is super unethical and you should never do it for that reason.

I wanted to add though that ethics aside this is still a very bad idea. What happens when the company does a background check and finds out that your fabricated experience is, well, fabricated? At best they rescind the job offer, at worst they do harm to your reputation.

  • 1
    I am not sure why you have not gotten an up-vote. I will fix that! Your answer is short and simple, yes, however, it does bring up a perfectly valid and important point that most companies can easily determine if a resume is factually accurate or not through several mechanisms that are highly effective these days. Cheers!!
    – closetnoc
    Commented Mar 12, 2017 at 17:07
  • I'm not sure how they would get that info from a background check. My experience is that background checks usually just look at addresses, credit reports and criminal records (don't want a terrorist working for me). Usually references only verify you worked there and is they would hire you again, they don't go into your skills and assignments.
    – bluegreen
    Commented Mar 13, 2017 at 11:37

The rest of the answers are clear. Yes it is unethical. But please allow me to take it another step further.

It is not good for you!

Here is a real example. I had temporarily joined in on a project in the very earliest years of the World Wide Web as an expert for which I was at the time. I had started back writing router code for what was to become the Internet back in the day and had spent a lot of time working with various Internet services such as the web and e-mail as well as for other products and competing networks. I was, at that time, uniquely qualified and had worked on many products and protocols and could do just about anything that was possible including writing protocol stacks and products specifically designed for a given purpose.

I found out within first one or two days that the government contracting company had modified my resume and presented me as an expert on a particular e-mail product for which I was indeed familiar. The promise was that I would be able to resolve a particular problem. The resume and promise was based upon a lie that I had no knowledge of. I got into the meeting and realized that the problem to be resolved was a well known bug that the e-mail software company was aware of and was resolving in the next major release due in a few months.

My dilemma was that there was no work-around for the bug, and that I was not able to modify the code directly. I was a systems internal engineer and could certainly reverse engineer the compiled code, make the modification, and recompile a working product, however, that would be illegal and take significant time. The contracting company promised that the problem would be fixed by Friday a timeline that was not only arbitrary, but also impossible. They made this promise to gain unique access to the contract. No other company was understandably willing to take on such an effort and excluded that portion of the work from their contract negotiation with a caveat as to the reasons why.

This not only put me in an impossible position, it also painted my in an ethical corner. After the meeting, I met with the contractor who hired me and stated that the promise was impossible to keep especially within the promised time-line. The company said do it anyway. I then went to the customer, Walter Reed Medical Hospital, whose care is critical to wounded veterans of war, and explained that what was promised was impossible. They appreciated my honesty and pushed back on the contracting company within minutes. During the fallout, I resigned and went home.

I called a lawyer immediately. Why? Because this was a major hit to my outstanding reputation. Afterall, I had full and complete access to Bell Labs, Dec Labs, and was a consultant to Digital Equipment Corporation, the Bell Corporation (the split into regional Bells with a parent company), Wang, IBM, Unisys, and many others supplying the government with critical services for which I was often called. One bad word about an individual would stop my ability to gain access to contracts forever and this was just a case that could do it.

In the end, my reputation did take a knock for being associated with the unethical misconduct anyway regardless of my innocence and lack of involvement. Why? Because this quickly became a fraud case for which I had to testify. I was able to regain my reputation once the fraud case was settled and I was able to present evidence of my innocence to the many who asked. And believe me, they all asked for about a year or so. This knocked me out of an entire industry for nearly two years. All well and good. I still had the trust of Digital and Bell who kept me very busy serving their customers and found a new niche anyway. That was the last of my government contracting and I never looked back.

I was lucky. Others may not have been. I have seen fraudulent contractor resumes float around all over the place painting the poor individual into a corner of explaining what happened. Some companies understand, most do not. The trust has been broken before you even arrived and you had no idea. Instead of a hopeful job interview, you walk into a difficult situation that you did not create. And believe me, this can last years!

My General Advice

Never walk into a situation unless you know you can 100% succeed. Know the environment, know the problems to be resolved (and there are always problems to be resolved), know that you have the skills to help without reservation, and know the ethics of anyone you deal with to the best of your ability. Trust is a major commodity within the IT industry and likely others too. Without trust going both ways, you can never have a rewarding and successful career. Trust me on that!


If you have 12 years and 6 months of experience in a field and round it to 13 is it unethical? Say you have 12 years 11 months 30 days 719 minutes and 59 seconds of experience is it unethical to call it 13 years?

I think this is an interesting notion. Fundamentally, what seems to be unethical is the misrepresentation of skills and experience the applicant does not have. I agree that this wrong. But it does beg the question what constitutes a "misrepresentation".

Consider an applicant put Microsoft Office on their resume.

Does this mean the person knows every application in the Professional Suite? And from which year? It has expanded quite a bit over the last few releases and knowing Word 2010 is not the same as knowing Word 2016.

Now while I agree with the premise that submitting an application that knowingly contains false information is wrong. However, what if that was not the intent? It was merely an oversight or even a failure to fully understand how the skills on your resume are being interpreted.

My point is there is always the chance that your understanding of the job requirements don't mesh with the employers. This is something you cant really know til you sit down and speak with them. Then it becomes a question of whether or not you can back up with evidence and for somethings like years experience this will be easy but for software skills not as much. Until you can form a common language with the employer there is no way to know if you would qualify by their standards in terms of knowing something well enough to say you know it.

In the end, I would just say be as honest as you can, don't put anything on your resume you cant speak to and represent yourself as best you can.

  • Don't use logical fallacies to justify making terrible decisions when writing your resume.
    – user42272
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 19:37
  • @djechlin im not. I actually agree that it is unethical to present yourself knowing it would be misrepresented. But it is not predicate logic, ethics questions never are. All I was doing was saying that we do the best we can to accurately represent ourselves but there are circumstances which doing so unintentionally would not be unethical.
    – Dan Temkin
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 20:10
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    And how, exactly, do you propose to measure that you have "12 years 11 months 30 days 719 minutes and 59 seconds of experience"? Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 22:25
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    Sorry, but how does this answer the question? The OP asked if it is ethical to put totally fake experience on their resume, which is vastly different than rounding up the amount of time you have experience with something.
    – Kevin
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 23:52
  • 1
    Yeah, but that one sentence is the only relevant one in the whole answer. Try to keep the whole answer focused on the question
    – Kevin
    Commented Mar 11, 2017 at 0:18

Asking for experience is often a fake requirement. For example, it's not uncommon for a company to ask for more years of experience than a certain field has existed (eg. "12 years of experience in developing iPhone apps" even though the iPhone has only existed 10 years).

  • 15
    "Other people do stupid things" doesn't make unethical conduct magically into ethical conduct.
    – ceejayoz
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 16:56
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    "He started it" stops being a valid excuse in kindergarten, and the number of ethicists advocating for "two wrongs make a right" to be true is probably about zero.
    – ceejayoz
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 17:01
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    If they claim twelve years, yes, they have acted unethically. They should claim the amount they actually have, and optionally note the issue with the requirements in their cover letter.
    – ceejayoz
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 17:03
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    Yes, it is super unethical. Obviously so. Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 17:19
  • 3
    There's a lot of jokes about demanding a longer experience than the product has existed. I doubt it really happened. Have you actually seen that?
    – pipe
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 17:44

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