Resume screwup--now what?
May 16, 2009 7:32 AM   Subscribe

So I recently managed to score a job interview and offer with a company that offers very nice benefits and pay better than I've seen before. The problem is this: I realized yesterday or so that my resume stated that I graduated with honors when in fact I did not.

I would never exaggerate something like that when the fact is that the job doesn't even require a college degree, only a diploma/GED. My college GPA was actually 3.47 and I have transcripts handy should I need to prove it.

This is by no means a spectacular job, but it's the best I've ever had up until now and would mean a lot as far as having health coverage for the first time in years, having good vacation time, etc.

The inclusion of this information was pure (and yes, incredibly stupid) human error--I was working from multiple templates when crafting my resume, trying to make it as optimal as possible. I know that the company is doing a background check which is a condition of my hiring, and I have no idea how to, or even if I should, bring this up to the very kind HR representative who I've been working with.

I'm scared. This is the first chance I've had for a reasonable job with a company of any stature (previous employment was as an RA in college, retail after college, and some work with a nonprofit agency) and I don't know if this will be an issue or not. I didn't intentionally lie about this but to try to correct it now might bring attention to the fact that I let something so ridiculous get by me when I'm claiming to have a good attention to detail (I normally do).

The interviewer did mention the honors thing in our interview but I was so stressed and spooked about it that I let it slide at the time (this was probably a mistake, I know).

Is there any good way to resolve this? Should I even try? Have I blown it completely and is it best just to keep looking and move on? Will the background check even be that extensive or will they just confirm my graduation?

I've been tearing my hair out for what feels like forever and I won't know about the background check until at least later this week. There was also a drug test but I have no worries on that front.

Any and all advice appreciated. Thanks, MeFi.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
No one will care. That's not something they check. Don't bring it up, it will make you look careless at best, shadiest at worst.
posted by kimdog at 7:35 AM on May 16, 2009 [2 favorites]

I mean... your GPA is 3.47, which is pretty good. It's not likely to raise any red flags. I don't know what the GPA cut off for "honors" is (even though I did graduate with them) and it may vary from school to school. It would be different if your GPA was 2.47.
posted by kimdog at 7:39 AM on May 16, 2009

Did you receive _any_ honors at graduation? Not to say it's something you shoud keep on your resume, but for this job maybe it will help you sleep better and have something to mention should it come up.
posted by monkeymadness at 7:45 AM on May 16, 2009

It would be interesting to hear from someone on the HR side what exactly goes into the background checks, but this is not something that I would find out or care about if I was hiring somebody. Especially considering that the job doesn't even require a degree, if they are to the point where they are making you take a drug test and doing a real background check then even if they find out that you didn't graduate with honors it probably won't make much of a difference.

At any rate there's not much you can do now other than fixing your resume and hoping you get the job. You made a mistake, but that's easy to do and it's no worse than totally bombing on a question in an interview. If you don't get this job just chalk it up to a learning experience and try to land an interview somewhere else.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:53 AM on May 16, 2009

Unless you release the transcript, there's no way the background check should be able to get the details of your undergrad record. Universities consider that private information. The background check isn't generally that invasive, they're not hiring a private investigator to go through your trash or interview ex-girlfriends. It's more like checking your credit history and looking for a criminal record.

You've made a mistake, correct your resume before you give it out to anyone else, then never mention it. I bet you made dean's list at least once or twice, right? If someone mentions it, say that's what you were talking about.
posted by bluejayk at 8:11 AM on May 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

Actually, it's not considered private information by all universities. The college in my city has a website where you can look up any former student and find out if they graduated, and it lists their degree and the honors the received.

To the OP, I don't think it will be an issue, but going along with what some others have said, is there anything in your academic record that you could "spin" into being honors? Like membership in an honors society or taking honors courses or something like that? Only mention it if you're called out on it, though. Otherwise just don't bring it up.
posted by ishotjr at 8:55 AM on May 16, 2009

Your employer will neither care, nor ask, nor know, unless you tell them. You have no reason to tell them.

Take it off your resume for next time, though.
posted by toxic at 9:26 AM on May 16, 2009

The salient question is, do you plan on working there for a long time? If so, I'd suggest coming clean.
posted by fourcheesemac at 9:28 AM on May 16, 2009

The last university I worked at would disclose whether or not an individual graduated with honors. Even so, if your employer wants to hire you, they shouldn't care about whether or not you graduated with honors when they already know your GPA. If they do care to the extent that it would affect your chance of employment, then it probably doesn't matter if you tell them or if they find out by calling your school, because your chance to clear yourself without looking like a liar or being purposely misleading was at your interview, when your prospective employer brought it up. In other words, you really can't make it look like an honest mistake anymore.

Another point: I know that I graduated with honors, but nowhere on my transcript or diploma does it state this. Perhaps your university is the same way.
posted by Polychrome at 9:36 AM on May 16, 2009

What I meant when I said we disclosed whether an individual graduated with honors, what I meant was that the following scenario happened regularly: Someone (typically from the HR department of a company) would call our office, tell us who they were and where they were from, and provide the name and other identifying details about an individual who they were considering for employment. They would then ask to confirm the degree. We would tell them the degree the student attained, if any, the date the degree was attained and whether or not the student graduated with any honors. This is generally considered not to be private information. Specific grades and GPAs are considered private information and nobody, not even the student's parents, could get that from us without the student's written consent.
posted by Polychrome at 9:43 AM on May 16, 2009

While I can think of no reason why telling the employer would benefit anyone including the employer, it bothers me to hide it. All the above posters seem to agree that this is not something worth telling about, but if it is that inconsequential, then it shouldn't matter telling either.

I would tell. I would wait until they made me a firm offer after completing background checks and say to them, "I cannot accept the job. I was so excited after the interview and so happy about potentially working here. I still want to work at [insert co name here] but I was looking at my resume I submitted and noticed there was a mistake. I did not graduate with honors, although my gpa was 3.47. I can submit a corrected resume and would still love to work here if you will accept it."

I know that it is not a big deal if you don't do this. The employer will likely never find out. Or they probably won't care. And, telling may raise red flags and you lose the job. But full disclosure is the right thing to do.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:31 AM on May 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would talk (in person or by phone, not email) with the nice HR person. I assume that you didn't accidentally type "graduated cum laude", but instead transposed your GPA numbers (that is, typed "3.74" instead of "3.47") or made a similar typo. Since the job does not require a college degree at all, I think this will not be a mark against you, especially if you just come clean to the HR person. Just explain that you transposed the numbers or typed a typo, and that you were so excited during the interview that you didn't correct them when they mentioned it, but now realize what you've done.

Unlike JohnnyGunn, though, I recommend doing it now, before they offer you a position. This shows them that you told them as soon as you realized the mistake and that you are an honest person, and also has the benefit of never giving them the option or idea (an option/idea you don't want them to take/have) of not hiring you.

People make mistakes. Resumes sometimes have typos. People understand. You just don't want them to think that you were deceiving them.

I have applied for jobs where they verified that I graduated, and verified my final GPA with the university via a computer system (I did not have to provide transcripts). So, yes, they can find out.
posted by Houstonian at 11:33 AM on May 16, 2009

I vote for "Don't bother." I have hired many people also, and this is not at all something I would care about. Agree about having an answer ready if you are asked, including your GPA. Leave it at that. Take the job. Don't worry about this inconsequential detail ever again. If the job doesn't even require a degree, you are way ahead of their expectations anyway. You are overthinking this.
posted by raisingsand at 11:42 AM on May 16, 2009

and say to them, "I cannot accept the job.

If offered the job, do not say this. Tell them or don't tell them, but definitely don't say this.

Once I gave the wrong name for a reference. This person was the COO at a place where I had worked, and I gave the wrong last name to the hiring company. So the recruiter at the hiring company calls and asks for "Bob Wronglastname." When the recruiter called to ask what was up, I was mortified when I realized what happened. I gave her the right last name and apologized profusely.

I got the job in the end, and I've been working there for about 4 months now.

This kind of mistake isn't a dealbreaker.
posted by jeoc at 12:09 PM on May 16, 2009

I hereby recognize and honor you for your 3.47 GPA at time of graduation. Congratulations!

There. Problem solved. You have graduated with honors ;)

On a more serious note, don't worry about it. For a certain job that involved a 10 year background check, 5 references and verifying every piece of information on my resume, my employer never once found out that I had never graduated highschool.

Never graduated.
posted by Rendus at 12:54 PM on May 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd come clean- the likelihood that they'll find out about it is very slim, but if they do, it will reflect very poorly upon you. Also, it sounds like you are feeling guilty and worried about it and you'd probably be much more at ease without this hanging over your head. I think a simple, straightforward email with a new resume attached would suffice. Just say something like "it's come to my attention that there was a minor error on my resume. I graduated with a GPA of 3.47 but not with honors. I apologize for any misunderstanding. etc..."

Don't overexplain, it will only draw more attention to your mistake. But I think that you will feel better having corrected this, and they will probably appreciate your honesty (and attention to detail- when something is incorrect you make sure it gets fixed!). If they don't, screw em- you probably wouldn't have wanted to work there anyways.
posted by emd3737 at 2:31 PM on May 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you happen to be interviewing at Google, they'll want your transcript and it will be absolutely a huge deal that you lied about this. Companies that have a huge stick up their asses about grades are few and far between, but they do exist. They're usually pretty well known though, because people with job experience are generally pretty shocked and insulted when companies ask them what they got on their SATs.

I'd say probably you should get through the interview process and mention it to HR when they ask you for references to call. At that point, they'll know whether they want you or not, and if they want you, it probably won't be a big deal that your resume contained incorrect information. Definitely make sure they know you made a mistake....though they may assume you're lying about that.

I also think emd3737's plan is an OK one.
posted by crinklebat at 3:12 PM on May 16, 2009

If you really want to fix it, I wouldn't even point out the specific error. I would just send along a fresh copy of the resume, saying something like, "I noticed a minor error on the previous resume I sent. Here's a corrected copy."
posted by not that girl at 3:14 PM on May 16, 2009 [7 favorites]

My advice would be to not say anything. My guess is no one will attempt to verify this. I think you just make matters worse by saying anything up front.
posted by ornate insect at 3:55 PM on May 16, 2009

Nobody cares.
posted by rokusan at 5:05 PM on May 16, 2009

Ditto nobody cares.

That said, if it's really bugging you, send an email to the hiring person and say, "I'm really sorry, I was borrowing from templates, blah blah blah." To me, that would actually say Conscientious and Pays Attention To Detail, and it would be a mark in your favor. But I'm an over-conscientious perfectionist, so I'd appreciate that in an employee, whereas a person in a public relations industry wanting someone more willing to bluff when needed to maintain appearances might not appreciate it.
posted by salvia at 8:01 PM on May 16, 2009

I would come clean, especially if you are a recent college graduate, and I would do it as soon as possible. "I was looking over my resume and noticed that I had included an error. This was completely inadvertent. Let me know if this creates an issue in my candidacy in any way."

From places I've worked at in the past (financial industry, where there is serious privileged information in play) stuff like this can be taken quite seriously. If I was interviewing a candidate and found out that he/she lied about something like this, I would reject immediately. An ethics violation is inexcusable, especially in light of the past decade's scandals, etc. But come clean early and I think it'd all be fine.
posted by gushn at 7:51 AM on May 18, 2009

I second gushn - I work in the financial industry and have seen people get fired for less. The kicker is that the comprehensive background check takes a while, so Isometimes people get hired and then fired 6 months later due to an inconsistency on their resume. If you're applying to a job in this industry, come clean immediately. It wouldn't be that hard - you simply say (not in email) to the HR rep that you used a template for your resume and didn't notice the error beforehand.

(Although I must admit, if I were the HR person I wouldn't buy it since you didn't fess up when we discussed your 'honors' - I would just assume that you realized you were about to get caught in a lie and got scared.)
posted by widdershins at 1:44 PM on May 18, 2009

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