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I was given an offer, to start 2 years from now.

The situation: I had a two year gap after my high school and before I started at the university which I graduated from. During the interview, I told my interviewers I took a gap to gain work experience and due to family's health reasons. Upon examining my resume, he noticed the gap was actually two years rather than a standard one year gap year. He then asked if I applied to university during the final year of high school at all. At that moment I panicked and said no (the lie), when in fact I did and I actually attended another slightly less reputable university for a few months. I eventually dropped out, took my gap year and applied to the more reputable university from which I graduated (hence two gap years). So one of the real reasons that I took the long gap was to switch schools - but I omitted and lied about that.

Now I am given the offer, I feel incredibly ashamed and guilty. In my situation, should I come clean and apologise?

The company does not run a background check so they would not find out now. However, there is a chance that by the word of mouth or for reason that people from my old university (I only know a very few of them) might end up working in the same company and identify me as having attended that previous uni. My contract is to start two years from now, I am not sure I should just let this go and live with it, hoping that by the time I start the interviewers would have forgotten about the lie, or if I should come clean, but which would probably cost me this precious job.

Whats the worst situation if somewhere down the future the interviewer found out that I lied to his question? Should I just give up this offer and assume I never got the job and apply elsewhere?

I feel really guilty and ashamed now.

  • So you do not start this job for another 2 years? – IDrinkandIKnowThings Aug 22 '17 at 19:54
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    take this lie to your grave C.Doe – easymoden00b Aug 22 '17 at 19:56
  • I don't start for another 2 years.@IDrinkandIKnowThings – C.Doe Aug 22 '17 at 19:57
  • @easymoden00b - is this a terrible lie? – C.Doe Aug 22 '17 at 19:57
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    Forget about it. If anyone calls you up on it, deny vehemently you ever said that. – user1220 Aug 22 '17 at 20:06
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On a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is "perfectly harmless" and 10 is "you're a terrible human being" this particular lie probably falls somewhere in the vicinity of 0.33256. I wouldn't get too worked up about it, if I were you.

That being said, even harmless lies can sometimes bite you in the arse when it comes to resumes and employment. I've read news stories here in Canada about people being fired from long-standing positions because it was discovered that they lied on their resume about having a skill they don't actually have - even though they never use that skill in the position they hold! The issue is about being able to trust you more than it is about the particulars of the lie.

With that in mind, I would recommend coming clean, just to be safe. You already seem to be beating yourself up more than you really ought to for such a small lie, so the guilt will probably eat you alive if you try to keep this hidden.

Here's how I would approach the situation. (I'm sort of assuming everything I say here is fundamentally true in your case, if not, adjust as necessary to avoid any further lies):

"I just wanted to reach out to you in order to clarify a minor point from our interview that has been nagging at me lately. You asked me a question about the two year gap in my resume in between high school and university, and my answer was perhaps not entirely clear. I told you that I had not applied to university straight out of high school, but actually, I did. It's just that I initially applied to a lower-quality school. I wasn't happy there and didn't feel challenged academically, so I took some time off before reapplying to the more prestigious school I had listed on my resume, and that's where the uncommonly large gap came from. I chose not to include the first school on my resume since I wasn't there long enough to complete any significant academic accomplishments. Everything included on my resume is accurate, but I've been feeling uneasy about how I handled this one question, so I just wanted to call and clear that up."

Based on the context you describe, he was probably just asking this question out of curiosity anyway, since he noticed an unusually large gap. The offer was more than likely based on your education from the second school (which is legit, at the end of the day) and any other work experience you may have listed.

Speak calmly and clearly, and give him time to digest and ask any follow-up questions he might have. It's possible that he might revoke the job offer as a result, but I honestly don't think he would. We all make mistakes from time to time. The fact that you would take action to correct the mistake of your own volition speaks volumes about your character, which is not nothing in the eyes of a decent employer.

  • I think if I come clean, I would probably lose the job now. This job didn't come easy, I have been applying for a similar position for 2 years. I don't know what to do. – C.Doe Aug 23 '17 at 9:51
  • @C.Doe: Like I said, the lie itself is nothing, really. You're not a terrible person for glossing over something that has basically zero impact on your ability to perform the job in question when all the actual reasons they chose you are 100% true. But if you feel this bad about it right now, how will you feel when you start the job and have to look these people in the eyes every day? Whatever you decide, this particular lie is not really that big a deal and you're not a bad person. I would personally come clean just to get it off my chest, but that's me. – Steve-O Aug 23 '17 at 13:28
  • The OP has nothing to gain but something to lose by "coming clean" about something completely inconsequential to their ability to perform the job. – Our_Benefactors Aug 24 '17 at 15:32
  • Given how worked up he appears to be about this lie, I would argue that he does indeed have something to gain by coming clean - namely avoiding the deleterious effects of stress. The OP has repeatedly emphasized that he feels very bad about this, and the potential consequences of living with that guilt should not be discounted as irrelevant. Also, as I mentioned, however slight the risk, it's possible that he might get fired, even several years later, if the truth comes out and management decides they can't trust him because he tried to hide this. – Steve-O Aug 24 '17 at 15:44
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One of many problems with lying is the need to cover one's tracks afterward. Remembering the truth is easy, but recalling specific details of a lie is difficult and error-prone.

In the grand scheme of things, this is a relatively harmless lie, except that it speaks to your honesty overall. Only your future employer can judge what this means.

Coming clean now and telling the truth may cost you your job, but it may not. You may find that the prospect of worrying about this for the next two years is not worth keeping the job.

If you decide to go back and correct the record, I think it's fine just to say you panicked and didn't tell the whole story, including whatever detail you think is needed to set the context. Then you can offer to clarify your education history if your employer thinks it's necessary. Don't over-explain or try to justify your actions.

  • I could recall details of the lie and remember them by heart. But I am not the only factor controlling whether this lie will be revealed. Someone might join the company and recognise I went to the old school etc. And the word might spread back to the partners / interviewers who interviewed me. It's a fairly big company, I believe if I come clean it would be against policy to keep me. If when I start, I work very hard and well, would it compensate this lie when one day it is discovered? And by then I just brush it off as a careless mistake and act like I have forgotten about it too? thanks – C.Doe Aug 23 '17 at 9:53
  • @C.Doe It's really up to you -- if I were in your shoes I'm not really sure which way I'd go. But most people are recommending staying quiet, which is fine advice in this case. My main point is by telling the truth now, you get rid of the need to worry about this for the rest of your career at the company. – mcknz Aug 23 '17 at 12:48
  • You are right, but it might also mean I won't be able to have a career at this company. Thank you very much for your advice. You have been very kind, thank you !! – C.Doe Aug 23 '17 at 17:33

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