I'm just like Yahoo's ex-CEO.
May 14, 2012 8:28 AM   Subscribe

I have attended college but did not graduate. I just told an interviewer that I did. What should I do?

The job is for a data entry position. Like all office jobs, it states that it requires a degree. I chose to ignore this because I fit all of the other specifications. I wrote on my resume that I attended a school during a span of years, but did not say that I graduated.

When I got the call back for a phone interview, I figured they saw that and it wasn't a dealbreaker. However, when they asked me if I had graduated in the last year I got the "deer in the headlights" reaction and said yes.

I have freelance work in addition to this, so I am not that worried about this job becoming a resume stain in case I work there for a while and then am exposed as a fraud. I just want to have a gig with benefits.

Also, this was a job referral from someone I know. Not a close friend, but I'd rather they not have to take any heat from my actions.

So, what do I do? Do I email the person I spoke with? Do I hand-wave it in a subsequent interview? Do I say nothing and stick to my story? How do I finesse this?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If it were me, I would email the person that you spoke with and just state what you did here (I was nervous and said yes, but upon reflection of the question after the interview, no). It comes across as honest now rather than waiting.

I've known people who wait until there is a review of their background and then it came out and was humiliating for that person and the offer was retracted (Do you want to risk the person that referred you to find out about this?)

There are people without college degrees who get great jobs, even ones that list a college degree as a requirement. Just be honest.Show them with your background and job skills that you can do this.
posted by Wolfster at 8:37 AM on May 14, 2012 [9 favorites]

I don't think there's much finesse to this, you told an outright, easily demonstrated lie. Email saying I realized I misspoke in our recent conversation, I did not graduate from college. Could quite possibly be be the end of the line on this job, though you never know.

Sticking with it is a bad idea, it's always a bad idea. You never know where relationships in your work life may lead or come up again in the future. Thus, installing an uncertain time bomb in them is a bad idea. There will be other job opportunities.
posted by nanojath at 8:39 AM on May 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

I am not that worried about this job becoming a resume stain in case I work there for a while and then am exposed as a fraud.

I think you should be worried about this. Not because of using it as a reference on your resume, but because if you get hired and are "found out", it will be a bigger deal and be a gossiping point (omg can you believe anon did that!) and who knows who or where the information will reach. It's really not something that you want your name to be associated with.

I strongly advise you to gracefully make the correction. Email the hiring manager, and say something like "I wanted to apologize- I was caught off guard and misspoke..blah blah... I know this is awkward and I fully understand if you won't be hiring me... for the sake of integrity I wanted to clear the air"

Moving forward, be prepared to answer the question with "My degree is still in progress, however I am fully qualified because of a,b,c"
posted by sarahnicolesays at 8:39 AM on May 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

Withdraw your application. If the job "requires" a degree then you weren't/aren't going to get it without one, and obviously now that you've lied, if you admit it they might respect your (after-the-fact) honesty but they won't hire you. Withdrawing from consideration is the simplest, quietest way out.

You don't "finesse" it. You can't. The only two other options are either to keep lying and maybe get the job and keep lying, or to come clean and not get the job. This isn't really an ethical gray area, but the choice is put into even more stark relief by the fact that you relied on a friend's referral. "I just want to have a gig with benefits" is not a good reason to choose the former—for yourself, for the company you'd be lying to, or for the friend who did you a favor.
posted by cribcage at 8:40 AM on May 14, 2012 [8 favorites]

When you email your thank you note to the interviewer, just put a line in that says, "I wanted to clear up a misunderstanding. I may have indicated that I graduated from XYZ college. I have X credits to go."

Don't apologize, don't make an excuse, just put in the information and move on.

It may not be a deal breaker, but you might want to have a canned reply in the future.

"No, I've not yet graduated."
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:43 AM on May 14, 2012

Seconding Wolfster.

Let's break it down

Case A: You call up and correct the error.
Outcome A1: They don't hire you. You're back to where you started from.
Outcome A2: They still hire you, and it's okay. A good, but not perfect outcome.

Case B: You don't correct the error.
Outcome B1: They don't hire you for some other reason. Back to where you started from.
Outcome B2: They hire you, but you'll be worried the whole time you work there about it being discovered. Hellish.
posted by Mercaptan at 8:43 AM on May 14, 2012 [12 favorites]

Yeah, you want to address this head-on. Like they say in politics, it's not the lie, it's the cover-up.

Basically you are setting yourself up to have the rug yanked out from under you at any time. No matter how high you climb, you will always be vulnerable to this. Lying on a resume (and I think that the combination of your actions amounts to a lie) is a "we've got to fire you regardless" sort of a thing. Flubbing an interview when nervous, and addressing it shortly afterwards, is a move of integrity. Even if they don't hire you -- it's hard to say you'll be better off, but in a lot of ways you'll be better off.
posted by gauche at 8:44 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Echoing the above, contact them and say you'd like to withdraw your application because you gave an incorrect answer in the heat of the moment. I'd imagine they'd still offer to proceed if you suited the vacancy but you don't want this to come up in the future when it could harm you..
posted by epo at 8:45 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think your best option is to email the interviewer or HR point of contact and withdraw your application for the position. Something along the lines of "Thank your for speaking with me about the position, but I am withdrawing my candidacy at this time"

The advice to email the hiring manager and explain yourself is fine I guess; however, be prepared to lose your reputation with the acquaintance who recommended you. I really don't think it is worth the risk (likely they will decide not to hire you anyway). You sound young, take this as a learning opportunity, trust, integrity, and reputation is more important in the professional world than you might think.

Do I email the person I spoke with?
If I was your interviewer, I would not hire someone who did this.

Do I hand-wave it in a subsequent interview?
This is not 'hand-wave' scenario. You told a significant lie in the interview.

Do I say nothing and stick to my story?
This is lying.

Next time be prepared for this question, it is almost certain they will ask about it.
posted by seesom at 8:46 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

As a lesson in how this can bite you in the ass, the CEO of Yahoo just lost the job after a few months when it was discovered that he said he had a CS degree he never earned . The point being these types of things can stick with you.

BTW if the interview went well its likely the college degree thing could be overlooked.
posted by bitdamaged at 8:48 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree that you should withdraw your application without giving this slip-up as a reason. Admitting to it is admirable, but that won't prevent gossip. The gossip wouldn't be as malicious as if you got the job and were found out months later, but it will still be something people talk about.
posted by neushoorn at 8:49 AM on May 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

[This is a followup from the asker.]
Thanks, guys. I sent an email to the person I spoke with and told them that I had misspoken and should have corrected myself. I then explained that I did not have a degree yet.

Thanks, AskMe, for talking some sense into me.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:57 AM on May 14, 2012 [8 favorites]

so many companies now (sure big ones) outsource back ground checks. a previous employer of mine allowed us to get a copy of that report. they called betty at my old high school, the secretary (who I can't believe still works there) to verify my HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA even though they verified my college degree and my 15+ years of related job experience. a smaller company you might get away with this but a larger one I don't see how. just my 2 cents
posted by thilmony at 9:42 AM on May 14, 2012

OP, good for you for doing this the right way. It is entirely possible that your willingness to correct yourself rather than save face will in fact be seen favorably by the hiring person at this company. You don't know and you may never know, but you should still feel good about doing the upright thing.
posted by gauche at 10:32 AM on May 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't withdraw your application. Simply state in whatever followup you may do that you misunderstood or misspoke, and that you may have enough credits to graduate this year, but have not yet graduated.
posted by Gungho at 10:43 AM on May 14, 2012

Just FYI, at my company they check educational credentials before even extending an offer, at least for entry level positions. They also cannot hire someone without a degree if the job listing calls for a degree. We ran into this recently with a new hire who had an educational issue that was the result of a screwup at his school. They really wanted him but were unable to extend an offer until he was able to prove that the degree had been granted.

I mention this so that you understand that if you keep applying for jobs with degree requirements you are going to run into this issue again and again.
posted by cabingirl at 1:31 PM on May 14, 2012

Email HR and clarify the misunderstanding.
posted by lotusmish at 3:26 PM on May 14, 2012

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