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I had applied for a developer position with a company. The company trains its employees on mobile app development, then finds contracts with its clients (their clients include several fortune 500 companies). I have passed all but the final interview, however in the last conversation I had with the recruiter she mentioned something that sounded strange to me. The company would insist to rewrite my resume for me as to increase my chances of being placed with one of their clients. The recruiter said that if I don’t have enough required experience, they would have to add to it. I have trouble believing I understood right, but basically they are saying they need me to lie on my resume. Though she never used the word "lie" she was rather direct about "adding made up experience".

From my question on law.stackexchange.com, this seems to be legal. How common is this and what are the negative ramifications? One thing that doesn’t make sense to me is, they haven’t hired me yet, so why would they be looking to hire someone who doesn’t actually have qualifications and then asking if they are ok lying? She said so many people do it anyways it’s just leveling the playing field.

I have my final interview coming up and was wondering what type of questions I should ask regarding this? The company would require a 2 year contract to work with them.

Per comment, here are the details on the 2 year contract:

2 YEAR Agreement / PAY

  • Our 2-year agreement ensures that you have job security. We invest in you as a consultant, and want to make sure we maximize your development potential, which we do in the two years you spend with our company.
  • Non-disclosure and non-compete clauses are in place to keep our business model and clientele secured.

  • You are paid your hourly project rate when you are working on client site. (Keep in mind your taxes and optional benefits are deducted) During the time on unpaid bench – your benefits premium is covered by the company.

  • You are paid once every two weeks

  • The reason the position is paid hourly is that there will be plenty of opportunity for overtime. How this works is if the client needs or wants you to put in OT, you will have the opportunity to work extra. The Standard -Industry Practice is to pay at the regular hourly rate; however, if a client pays time and a half, we will extend that to you. Some clients, on the other hand, do not offer OT.

  • Should you break the 2-year agreement, you will be expected to pay back a repayment cost that will be broken down from your flight, housing, training and expenses (each cost that we have invested in). This cost is per individual consultant which can approximately add up to $16,000. Please keep in mind that this cost CANNOT be charged by accident - this would be for personal resignation or termination for cause.

  • You will sign your 2-year contact during your orientation.

Also in the other contract it says I can be terminated without cause and the relation is "employment at will".

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    Consulting companies "stretch the truth" all the time to their clients about the skill-level/experience of their workers. Putting that fib into your resume with your name on it, however, is going too far. The contract terms you cite are kind of weird: it is ridiculous for a consulting company to promise "job security" and employees having to pay back expenses upon quitting or getting fired is a red-flag that the company is run by a petty tyrant. – teego1967 May 25 '17 at 9:44
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    Hum ... they can "terminate you for cause" on Day 1 because you made up some experience on your resume and you have to pay 16,000$. The manager at this company have a good leverage with new employees. – Sebastien DErrico May 25 '17 at 13:20
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    I would not sign this contract under any circumstances. – mfcrocker May 25 '17 at 13:42
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    RUN, don't walk away from this contract. – Richard U May 25 '17 at 14:04
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    Do NOT sign this contract. This is a setup for ripping you off. – xxbbcc May 25 '17 at 21:50
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Why would they do this?

Because you are cheaper and easier to get than someone who actually has the qualifications. They can bill the client more than you are worth, which means that they have a larger profit margin. Clients will pay for you by the hour, so if you take twice as long as you should, that's even more profit for them.

Is this common? According to anecdotes its not unheard of. I have heard various stories from colleagues who were sold as experienced specialists for technologies they barely knew existed. It wasn't very enjoyable for them.

What are the negative ramifications? It means you will be put on assignments you lack the qualifications for, but you will be expected by the client to perform as if you had them. This will put you under a lot of pressure. Expect to do a lot of overtime. If the amount of overtime gets so ludicrous that the client becomes reluctant to pay, you might get pressured to do upaid overtime to not lose the client.

You must hold out this pressure for at least two years, because if you resign, you will pay exactly $16,000, and not a cent less. You can expect that they will find enough things they can shoehorn in under "flight, housing, training and expenses" which adds up to the maximum amount. You might also want to look at the exact phrasing of the non-compete clause. These are sometimes phrased in a way that if you resign, the non-compete period keeps going until the end of the contract. So you aren't allowed to work anywhere else in the industry.

What should I ask about in the next interview? It is already established that this company isn't very honest, so whatever they answer might not be 100% trustworthy anyway. But what you could ask is what would be expected of you if a client notices that you don't have the qualifications you are supposed to have, what kind of assistance the company provides to you in that case (do they have some seniors on hand you can call if you are stuck on a problem or do they expect you to help yourself?), how much overtime consultants are doing on average and anything about the exact ramifications of the non-compete clause. But keep in mind that any promises they make during that conversations aren't worth anything unless they are put on paper.

Should you take the job? We can not make that decision for you. Being constantly forced to perform well in tasks you don't have experience with is very stressful. But it can also be a great learning experience because it forces you to acquire plenty of valuable skills in a short amount of time. When you are healthy (mentally and physically), have no dependents, are able to handle stress well and the payment is good, it can really bring you forward professionally.

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    Is that 16k even legal? I know it will be all part of a nicely signed agreement, but it feels like the definition of Indentured servitude. Plus the op could resign for any number of reasons due to bad behavior in the parent company. – Peter M May 25 '17 at 11:30
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    @PeterM That depends on jurisdiction and on the skills of their and your lawyer. – Philipp May 25 '17 at 11:32
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    The best way to use a lawyer is to avoid situations where you need one in the first place. – gnasher729 May 25 '17 at 17:46
  • @IDrinkandIKnowThings I added another paragraph about what questions the OP might want to ask. – Philipp May 26 '17 at 8:22
  • This is a great answer but in my opinion the contract is almost entirely unenforceable pretty much anywhere in the US. At the end of the day you can write anything into a contract but if it violates federal law (which this certainly appears to) any court is going to strike it down. – DanK May 30 '17 at 20:34
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This is an ethical conundrum we all face.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you consider yourself a liar?
  • Do you consider it acceptable to lie if "everyone else is doing it"?
  • Do you consider it acceptable to lie if you thought you could get away with it?
  • Do you consider it acceptable to lie if you could get a better job?
  • Do you consider it acceptable to lie if you could get a better salary?

For me, the answer is clear - I am not a liar. I would never work for a company that expected me to lie as a standard part of doing business. And I have to believe if the company is willing to lie they would be willing to commit other business practices that I would consider unethical. No thanks.

I would thank this company for their interest and walk away. I would find a company where I could work and still keep my reputation intact. For me, my reputation is very important. People who know me trust me to always try to do the right thing, and I would never want to betray that trust.

Your answers might be different. We all have a different approach to lying and we all have a different relationship with our reputation. This happens to be a hot button for me, although I know others don't feel as strongly.

How common is this and what are the negative ramifications?

Sadly, it's rather common. That's why hiring managers are always on alert when a new contractor comes aboard. If the contractor doesn't seem to actually have the abilities claimed, they are dumped immediately and replaced.

But that doesn't mean "they all do it". That's simply not true.

why would they be looking to hire someone who doesn’t actually have qualifications and then asking if they are ok lying?

Some contracting companies are little more than body shops. They only get paid when they fill an open contract and some are willing to lie to place a contractor.

Over time, hiring managers learn which contracting companies can be trusted and which cannot. (At least I learned and stuck with the reliable companies for a long time.)

what type of questions I should ask regarding this?

Based on what you are asking here, the one question you might want to pose is "If I refuse to let you change my resume, will that disqualify me from working with you?"

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    If I refuse to let you change my resume, will that disqualify me from working with you? +1 but only because I cant +100 – IDrinkandIKnowThings May 25 '17 at 17:34
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    Thanks, the last sentence really helped. I asked and they said it is a requirement of employment.. – someqs May 28 '17 at 0:45
  • "If I refuse to let you change my resume, will you fire me for cause?" At which point the so-called training costs would become payable. – stannius May 30 '17 at 20:13
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Don't do it.

Regardless of the ethics (which are in my book unacceptable) this is can be a real risk to your career. I once interviewed someone who listed a specific, if somewhat esoteric, skill on his resume. I happened to know a lot about this and asked some question: he didn't even know the basics and it was obvious that he had padded or at least seriously inflated his resume.

I cut short the interview process, did not hire him, and I also made sure he will never get a job at any place I work. I don't want to work with liars and being able to trust is non-negotiable for me.

  • This does not answer the question. Besides what if the OP misunderstood and this is actually a great company to work for. – IDrinkandIKnowThings May 25 '17 at 17:35
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    This seems to be one of those run of the mill consulting and contracting companies. I would seriously doubt its a great company to work for. – Frank2014 May 26 '17 at 8:51
  • @Frank2014 what makes you say consulting and contracting companies are bad to work for? – someqs May 26 '17 at 9:22
  • @someqs just posted a long answer with why I dont think you should sign this contract. – Frank2014 May 26 '17 at 22:51
  • If the resume came through any kind of third party, such as a headhunter or consulting company, they might have padded the resume on the candidate's behalf. I still wouldn't hire the person but I probably wouldn't blacklist them. – stannius May 30 '17 at 20:28
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Assumptions

I am going to make some assumptions about the person who asked the question while answering it

  1. I assume you are fairly new in your career and do not have significant work experience (the reason i state this will become clear below)
  2. The company is a consulting and contracting company where they outsource to larger companies like Banks or financial firms or large software development companies. They do not do any in house work and you will be working at the client location at all times

How do these companies work

The reason, I mentioned #1 is that most of these companies have a standard model of operation, hire someone who is fresh out of college or has some work experience and pitch them a fortune 500 company as an experienced professional. This allows them to sell you at a higher rate ($150/hour or more) while they can offer you something like $45 and they make a fairly good profit on it.

That said, The challenge with you being pitched at that experience level is that, very soon the client realizes you are not as senior as expected and you will be released from the project (A former colleague of mine who contracted with one of these companies said that the unsaid expectation is that "You,the contractor will definitely be fired from your first contract job and the contracting company knows that very well".

The contracting company then looks for another project for you and for the time you are not a project, you are expected to take trainings in whatever tools the clients might need (these trainings are not comprehensive, more like 1-3 day crash courses teaching the basics but you will be sold as a professional with years of work experience in that particular technology or skill set). You might also not be paid (illegal in the United states) and this continues until you clear an interview with another client and land another gig. However since your resume has been oversold again, you might still struggle and again get released and this cycle continues.

If you manage to last the two years defined in your contract, you would have then gone through 7-8 projects with a smattering of knowledge in different skill sets and not really gained experience in any one of them. Also if you become too much of a liability i.e. you are consistently dismissed from your client projects or are unable to be placed in the project, you could be dismissed or fired without reason. Also since your resume has been circulated in the market as a highly skilled individual with years of experience, you will have to carry that lie forward even if you move on to another company. If you have been dismissed from multiple client projects, you will also carry that stigma around. Also since you have undergone multiple trainings in various technologies, you will have not really mastered anything and are just as skilled as you were 2 years back (maybe even lesser due to the lack of focus)

Coming to your contract

  • Our 2-year agreement ensures that you have job security. We invest in you as a consultant, and want to make sure we maximize your development potential, which we do in the two years you spend with our company. - This basically ensures that even though you are being shunted around from project to project and do not learn anything new, you cannot escape the team since you have signed the contract. It's basically a form of indenture where you have to put up with anything and everything because you signed the contract. Even though they use the word "Job Security" you could be fired for any reason at anytime and hence the only people who win in this use case is the company (since you are tied to them for 2 years).

  • Non-disclosure and non-compete clauses are in place to keep our business model and clientele secured. : This can be construed in so many ways such as

    • You cannot work for a client as a full time employee even after you quit us (for a period of x years)

    • you cannot join another consulting company which competes with us for x years after you quit

    • You cannot mention the name of the clients whom you worked with on your resume or even mention the project details.

I do not know the exact wordings of your non compete or non disclosure agreements, but I am positive they will have something similar to what I mentioned above.It should be obvious to you that post your 2 year contract, your employment choices are very limited and your resume will look very skinny even after all the work you have

  • You are paid your hourly project rate when you are working on client site. (Keep in mind your taxes and optional benefits are deducted) During the time on unpaid bench – your benefits premium is covered by the company: You cannot be on Bench and unpaid. This is illegal. I suspect you are on a visa and thats the case, it's illegal for you to be unpaid

  • The reason the position is paid hourly is that there will be plenty of opportunity for overtime. How this works is if the client needs or wants you to put in OT, you will have the opportunity to work extra. The Standard -Industry Practice is to pay at the regular hourly rate; however, if a client pays time and a half, we will extend that to you. Some clients, on the other hand, do not offer OT. : I work for a large software firm which sometimes hires contractors. The contractors are not expected to work beyond 40 hours in any case (it's often written into the contract that the billing for the contractor is for 40 hours of work in a week, nothing more). That said, since your resume has been fudged, you will end up working overtime by a lot just to catch up and chances are you will not be paid for the extra effort you put in. Also this line "The Standard -Industry Practice is to pay at the regular hourly rate" does not sound right, I believe it's 1.5

  • Should you break the 2-year agreement, you will be expected to pay back a repayment cost that will be broken down from your flight, housing, training and expenses (each cost that we have invested in). This cost is per individual consultant which can approximately add up to $16,000. Please keep in mind that this cost CANNOT be charged by accident - this would be for personal resignation or termination for cause. - This basically states that you will be indentured to us for 2 years and even if we fire you, we can charge you $16000 without reason. Easily the strongest reason to not join this company

Finally

With regards to what question you should ask,you already have an excellent answer from Joe Strazzere but I would strongly stay away from this company.

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