A local reader tells me that he has been unemployed for four years. He goes on to say, ‘My odds of finding a job seem to decrease as time passes. A friend has offered to compose a fake resume and provide a fake reference stating that I’ve been working for her during all those years. I don’t believe I can lie to get a job I wouldn’t otherwise get. Is there any circumstance under which I can justify taking her offer?’
Let’s take a moment to walk through what would happen if you took her offer. Assume you’re hired. You have an immediate double burden. First, as with any new job, you have to prove yourself. Second, you have to maintain the lie. You have to remember two ‘realities” — the truth, and the ‘truth’ as you presented it. You can never slip up and forget. In addition to doing your job well, you have to do a good job preserving the fraud.
You’ll have to go out of your way to avoid situations in which you might be exposed. For example, if you said you had a college degree when in fact you don’t, you’d have to avoid discussions about college — or be prepared to make things up. And once you did, you’d have to remember them. The same goes with a phony reference. All these fictions must be remembered.
Of course, what does all this do to your pride and self-respect? It may be true that you’re good at what you do, but if your work is the only factor that matters, then why lie? And then there’s the question of respect for your employer. When you lie to someone, you’re not showing them respect. And trust me, the fact that you got away with it will lead you to respect your employer even less.
Desperate situations sometimes call for desperate measures; assuming that the desperate measure is effective. Lying undermines your relationship with your employer and it imposes burdens on you. Yes, you might claim, “I now have a paycheck whereas last week I didn’t. It worked.” But all you did was trade one high-risk situation (unemployment), for another (getting found out). The old “What a tangled web we weave” adage is true.
Sophisticated liars can often get away with it, but you don’t sound like a sophisticated liar. If you were, you wouldn’t have emailed me. You’re particularly at risk for getting caught for the simple reason that you’re divided on the subject. Commitment to a difficult course of action requires unwavering resolve. Without that, you’re going to create new problems rather than alleviate old ones.
Don’t underestimate the power of the truth. Before setting yourself up for exposure and embarrassment, you could say, ‘No, I don’t have that credential. But here’s what I do have to offer. Will you hear me out?” If nothing else, you’ll be liked and respected for being straightforward and honest — qualities in very short supply nowadays. It doesn’t guarantee you the job, but it does give you an opportunity to show a virtuous trait on which people place great value. It also shows confidence, security and strength; qualities that matter to employers.
Most of us are taught, “Don’t lie. It’s wrong. Do the right thing.” And then life gives us a simultaneous “wink-wink” implying, “Do what you have to do.” What passes for morality is often nothing more than a mishmash of dogmatic commands, hypocrisy and contradiction. Some people fall for it, and some don’t, but there’s certainly enough of it to go around — starting with politics and ending with your resume.
I suspect you’re already convinced that you shouldn’t lie. But you’ve got to have reasons other than the simple fact that lying is hard work. Otherwise, you’ll never feel good about your course of action. You don’t pour gasoline on a fire or use poison to cure a disease; other options are available