Will they catch me if I lie and say I have my degree?
May 9, 2006 11:49 AM   Subscribe

I am applying for a job at a large computer/electronics retail chain. It's an entry level job, but some experience is required, which I genuinely have, but I am thinking of lying on my resume about having my degree. What are the odds that they will check?

I have a good amount of college credit in a totally unrelated field; I had a major depressive episode the last year of school and I left; I never finished. I'd like to just say I have the degree without explaining why I went to school for three years and didn't bring home the prize. Will they check on something like that? Once again, this is a large retail chain, and an entry level position. I realize this is dishonest, no doubt about that, but I am curious.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Don't lie and say you have your degree. If they ask why you didn't finish tell them you had medical problems.
posted by aubilenon at 11:54 AM on May 9, 2006

Don't say you had medical problems; that's not their business. Say something vague about "better opportunities".
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:58 AM on May 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

posted by KneeDeep at 12:02 PM on May 9, 2006

Will they catch me if I lie and say I have my degree?

posted by Faint of Butt at 12:03 PM on May 9, 2006

Don't lie - I know at my last job we always checked on any education details on an applicant's resume first.

Just put your Education line down, and fill it out the usual way:
______ University, 20XX - 20XX Major: Rollercoaster Tycoonery

You're not lying, but it still shows that you attended for a few years. If they ask if you finished and why, just state "family reasons." An HR person worth their salt isn't going to pry any further than that.
posted by SassHat at 12:05 PM on May 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

The "better opportunities" explanation has worked well for me. I'm making more than I was going to with the degree I was going after. People were offering me so much money that staying in school seemed a bit silly.
posted by y6y6y6 at 12:06 PM on May 9, 2006

"Don't" x a billion.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:12 PM on May 9, 2006

As long as you know your techie stuff, I can't imagine they are going to care about a University degree.
posted by eurasian at 12:16 PM on May 9, 2006

Don't lie. And you can always finish later.
posted by A189Nut at 12:18 PM on May 9, 2006

I am not a lawyer, but I know that lying on your resume is always grounds for termination, and may make you ineligible for unemployment insurance, etc. However, you are in no way obligated to divulge your prior medical condition, and there are probably laws where you are preventing discrimination based on said condition. But really, don't lie.
posted by graymouser at 12:21 PM on May 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

As others said, they'll probably check. All it takes is a call to the university's registrar to confirm whether you graduated or not. I used to work at a registrar, and 30% of our calls were degree checks.
posted by Zosia Blue at 12:24 PM on May 9, 2006

It's not worth it to lie.

What if they see the degree and think you're over-qualified & likely to leave quickly so don't interview you? What's worse than having 3 years of university credits on your resume? Having a job history where you got fired for lying on your resume. Refer to the years you attended, and not to why you stopped.
posted by raedyn at 12:28 PM on May 9, 2006

Don't. This sort of thing has a way of coming back to bite you in the butt. What if you ended up dating in somebody with HR who has a big mouth?
posted by contessa at 12:29 PM on May 9, 2006

Don't. Also, they probably won't care. I worked at Future Shop (Canadian version of Best Buy, although we have Best Buy now as well) and university degree's were few and far between. Even management types were more likely to have college plus experience.
posted by tiamat at 12:32 PM on May 9, 2006

Don't - aside from all of the other reasons it's not a good idea, think about how awful it would feel to have that hanging over your head (the possibility that you might get found out *after* getting the job...).
posted by KAS at 12:36 PM on May 9, 2006

Don't lie. One employer actually made me bring in my degree and others have asked for transcripts. I have friends who've been through the same thing. Plus lying is grounds for termination. Just do what Sasshat said and say you had some medical problems, long since resolved, and that better opportunities presented themselves. You could say you have a five-year plan for completing those few credits via distance education, if it seems important to them. (Then do it.)
posted by acoutu at 12:55 PM on May 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

I suspect they won't check. In my experience looking for jobs over the last year, employers either ask for a transcript or don't really care.

But don't lie about the degree. It might even make it harder to get the job you want, saying you have a degree. They might put you into the overqualified camp and assume you will be leaving in a month or two when something better comes along.
posted by teece at 1:09 PM on May 9, 2006

What sasshat said. List your relevant educational experience.

The lying thing has a tendency to get really complicated at unexpected times.
posted by storybored at 1:22 PM on May 9, 2006

Don't lie. I had my major depressive episode after four years (so talk about really not bringing home the bacon) and I simply state my educational experience and time in school. No one's going to ask you why, and if they do just say better opportunities.
posted by sugarfish at 1:23 PM on May 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

It's not uncommon for an employer to have a policy that immediate termination is the only action when an employee is determined to have lied on their application, and many are completely inflexible on the matter. What if you get the job and somehow end up working your way up the ladder there, then 10 years later they find this out and can you? And more importantly - what if they would have hired you anyway?

Or maybe it's more pedestrian - you like it and stay, and they have tuition assistance. How are you going to claim that in a few years if you want to go back to school but claimed you already had that degree?
posted by phearlez at 2:05 PM on May 9, 2006

Another vote for don't, of course.

It sounds like you're just trying to find a way to avoid difficult questions about the 3 years of college. Don't sweat it. TONS of people have a partial college education. It's not odd unless you make it odd. When (if) someone asks, just say something true but vague. Note that truth doesn't necessarily equal a big medical disclosure. For instance, "I needed to attend to a personal obligation." (keeping yourself alive and sane being a major obligation) is a perfectly valid and common reason for leaving school for a while.

Really, you're overthinking it. Just put down dates of attendance and org/school name. There's a good chance everyone will go straight down the resume without even noticing the lack of degree. And among the minority who do notice, it's unlikely that a qualified candidate for an entry level job would be grilled about their senior year of college.

Good luck with the job!!
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 2:15 PM on May 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

I was just looking up information about the poet Quincy Troupe for a different AskMe thread. Troupe, a fine poet who was a distinguished professor at University of California-San Diego, was found to have falsified an undergraduate degree and was subsequently forced to retire from his position.

I think Troupe got a bum rap, but the point is that people at all levels can check up on academic credentials, and if you lie about it once you'll end up lying about it forever (which is what got Troupe in trouble).
posted by the_bone at 2:31 PM on May 9, 2006

Given that one can apparently hold a position at NASA giving them authority over scientists after lying about their degree, I suspect that people get away with it more often than not. I wouldn't try this at NASA after the George Deutsch episode though.
posted by Manjusri at 3:28 PM on May 9, 2006

Waht SassHat said.
posted by singingfish at 4:17 PM on May 9, 2006

Don't lie. Be yourself; be confident that who you are is good enough, too. You don't need a degree to succeed.
posted by ikkyu2 at 5:09 PM on May 9, 2006

If the electronics chain is Radio Shack, do not lie about a degree.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 5:50 PM on May 9, 2006

Add me to the list of "Don't do it!"s. On behalf of your future employer who may really want to hire you, I ask you to please not lie about a degree. Nothing sucks more than spending countless hours screening and interviewing to find a person with the right skill set and fit, and just after the offer is extended, HR calls down and says "Sorry, they lied about their education and failed the background check--find another candidate."

The worst part is that every single time this has happened (more than once at multiple companies) it was for a job that didn't even require a college degree! Why would you sabotage yourself like that? It's frustrating from a hiring perspective and I'm sure embarassing for those whose offer letters were contingent on a background check.

Do yourself and your hopefully future employer a favor and tell the truth (the whole truth--you should definitely list your education as Sasshat and nakedcodemonkey recommend). If they're that hung up on a degree and aren't won by your skill set, experience, and sparkling personality, you probably didn't want to work there anyway. And if they do check up on it, you'll be completely mortified and maybe even blacklisted from the company for future jobs, which is no fun at all.
posted by jenh at 8:25 PM on May 9, 2006

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