My friend says on his resume that he has MY JOB!
October 25, 2006 2:45 PM   Subscribe

Ethics and friendship: I lost touch with a fairly close friend about six or seven years ago; he'd gotten married, had a kid, moved, etc. We recently reconnected and have been hanging out. My girlfriend likes his wife, I like his kids, so all this is good. BUT...also about ten years ago, he and I happened to be competing for a pretty prestigious job at a major corporation - one people have heard of. I got the job, he didn't. There didn't seem to be any hard feelings; I gave him some (lucrative) freelance work, maybe a little out of guilt, but mostly because he was really good. He did great work, and continued to do so on freelance projects until I left the job a couple of years later...

...After my friend and I reconnected, he was telling me about his new consulting business, and it sounded pretty cool. He even showed me his website. So I was looking around his site, and saw his resume - and he claims to have had the job that I actually had, the exact same position, time-frame (there's no gray area here. He says it was his job.)

I'm not mad, just a little weirded out.. So, what do I do? It would be upsetting for me to bust him - he's got a family to support, and I like him, and I'm no longer even in the same industry - but it does color the way I feel about him (though I could probably maintain the friendship and let the resume issue go.) But I do feel like he's being foolish, because the chances are good that he'll get caught by somebody else. Still, I now understand how disappointed he must have been not to get that job, and I don't want to hurt him.

I guess my question has multiple levels: do I remain friends with him, and if yes, how? Do I tell him that I know? Any other comments are welcome.
posted by soulbarn to Human Relations (34 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I read somewhere that there's a military saying, "If you ain't cheatin', then you ain't tryin'."

He's just tryin' to get by. No harm done. Let it go.
posted by jayder at 2:49 PM on October 25, 2006

It would be upsetting for me to bust him - he's got a family to support, and I like him, and I'm no longer even in the same industry

Ask yourself this: what would be gained from calling him on it? What do you expect the outcome of that to be?

If it were me, I'd do nothing. If it doesn't affect you, your career, or your potential livelihood in any way any more, don't sweat it. If you're close enough friends, maybe bring it up in a joking way - "hey, wasn't that MY job?" - but don't make a big deal out of it. It's been long enough that it doesn't really matter any more, if it ever did.
posted by pdb at 2:50 PM on October 25, 2006

That's a tough one. As a friend, you also ought to be (and it sounds like, are) concerned that he not screw things up by lying on a resume. Is there a common acquaintance the two of you have who could see his resume online and bring it up? I totally understand why you wouldn't want to mention it, but lying about one's credentials can really come back to bite a person in the ass, so it seems best to nip this in the bud. So to speak.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 2:53 PM on October 25, 2006

While Jayder's attitude is disappointing, I think the answer in your case is, No, you shouldn't needlessly inform friends that you've discovered their embarrassing secrets.
posted by cribcage at 2:59 PM on October 25, 2006

The fact that he's claiming to have held a good position at a prominent company does suggest that he will be found out at some point. And if he's talented and doing well now, changing a staff position to work for hire with the same firm shouldn't make a big difference on the resume.

If you feel close enough, and can make it seem supportive rather than petulant, you might very well be doing him a favor in pointing it out. Just be sure of your motives and word your advice carefully. As a bonus, his reaction and subsequent actions (if any) will tell you a lot about him, which could help answer your first question.
posted by rob511 at 3:05 PM on October 25, 2006

I agree with everything said so far (except for cribcage's 'disappointment'). Of course you guys should remain friends, despite the fact that you now think of him in a slightly different light. As you should.

Ultimately, at one point, he felt lying about his work experience was best for his family and his career. While that is a little sad, I personally wouldn't judge my friends too harshly for it. Sometimes - especially for struggling freelancers - you gotta do what you gotta do.

If it were me, I would never mention it, especially now that you guys are not in any way competing in the same professional space. In general, I find that a part of being friends with someone involves minimizing any advantages you have over them, be it financially or otherwise. You have this on him. I would let this sleeping dog lie*.

*double entendre intended.
posted by littlelebowskiurbanachiever at 3:18 PM on October 25, 2006

he's got a family to support

A version of the Yuppie Nuremburg defence, and an example of flexible morals.

I am sure someone at Enron said something like this at one point, you just have to figure out if you are comfortable with this.
posted by Deep Dish at 3:28 PM on October 25, 2006

Can you look at your resume and honestly say it's all true? Sure, he might be lying rather than, say, misrepresenting, but it's just a difference of quantity, not quality.

I say drop it in the memory hole.
posted by milarepa at 3:28 PM on October 25, 2006

If it doesn't matter to you (really) then you could approach him and start by saying it doesn't affect your friendship in any way but that you are concerned for him. Of course, this only works if it is true.
posted by trinity8-director at 3:32 PM on October 25, 2006

Oh, ick.

I'm going to sort-of-agree with the others who say let it go...But.

Is there a chance that your lives will intersect professionally at all anymore? Like, he asks if you know anyone at Corporation X, where he's trying to get a gig; or, in your present job, you hear about something that would be perfect for his consulting company, and want to mention it to him or recommend his company to your company. If someone who knows your work history well sees that he claims that he did your job, it could get hot for both of you.

You seem to have sympathy/empathy for his position, and you are loyal to him as a friend. This is admirable. But the consequences of his actions could come back on you, and neither of you wants that. Unfortunately, I have no advice about how to talk with him about it, other than approach him gently and nonjudgementally about it, if at all.
posted by rtha at 3:39 PM on October 25, 2006

I'm not sure I can agree with the moral relativism advocated by many of the responders to this question thus far. Is "he was just trying to support his family" a justification for any and all questionable behavior?

If so, I assume we will no longer see any complaints on this site about sleazy used car salesmen, telemarketers, unhelpful customer service representatives, pushy real estate agents, unscrupulous mechanics, etc. since they too are "just trying to support their families".

Sure, most people puff up their resumes a little bit. I think there is a pretty huge, obvious difference between slightly exaggerating your importance to a previous employer and outright claiming you once held a job that you never actually did. This guy's resume includes a blatant, outright, misleading lie.

Unless we are to believe that this person is a perfectly upstanding citizen 99.9% of the time and just had one major slip-up, I think his actions in regard to his resume tells a lot about his character. I'm not comfortable telling someone whether they should maintain or end a friendship, but this guy has proven to have little qualms about being dishonest, which isn't exactly a criteria I would consider positive in a friendship.
posted by The Gooch at 3:45 PM on October 25, 2006

Obviously you wouldn't out him if you were in a position to do that, but -- a full-on, outright, not to mention easily verified lie on a resume? I don't know.

I definitely disagree with those here who think it's no big deal. It speaks to this guy's character (maybe also his intelligence), not any hurt feelings over the job itself. If lying for monetary gain -- as opposed to lying for social gain, if you make a distinction -- is cool with you, then you're good, otherwise not.

For me, I wouldn't say anything -- what is there to say?
"You're a liar, but it's cool."
"You're a liar, and I disapprove."
"You're a liar, and I somehow blame myself."
posted by Methylviolet at 3:48 PM on October 25, 2006

Or should you give him the benefit of the doubt that he was only describing (the best he could) the freelance work you gave him?
posted by Sassyfras at 4:02 PM on October 25, 2006

He showed you his website, with this resume on it.

That seems like a natural way to bring this up. "Hey I was loking at your website some more - great design, by the way. And there's something weird on your resume; the way your job from [time frame] is phrased is sort of misleading. Are you worried that clients might call [previous company] and find out that you didn't actually work there?"
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:03 PM on October 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

It seems to me that the best thing to do is to get him to change it himself. This may require an awkward conversation, but that's better than what may happen if he is caught in the lie by someone else later. It would also allow you to be more comfortable with your friend's resume. I don't see how punishing him for it could make the situation any better for anyone involved. (Except maybe the company, but unless it's disaster relief or something similar, it's hard to see why you would have an obligation to the company.)

But in general it seems that we have less of a duty to make sure others are telling the truth than we do for ourselves.
posted by ontic at 4:04 PM on October 25, 2006

I agree with LobsterMitten...even though you don't want to bust him, it'll be easier if you call him on it than if he gets busted later on by a potential employer. You're doing him a favor by calling him on it.
posted by christinetheslp at 4:07 PM on October 25, 2006

Oh, and Gooch, it's not necessarily moral relativism to have a lesser standard. One can have a non-relativistic but lax morality. I think the term you want is "lack of high moral standards" (maybe "subjectivism", but I don't see anyone advocating that this poster should just do whatever he/she wants to do). See Moral Relativism for more.
posted by ontic at 4:13 PM on October 25, 2006

I would keep my mouth shut, unless: how generic is the job title? Would many of those job titles be working at one company at any given moment, or is it a specific title likely to apply to just one person?

If it's the latter situation and both of you remain in the same industry, there's a better possibility his lie could affect you, particularly because he's put his resume out there in a very public way. If the title's not generic, you'd be justified to call him on it & have that talk.
posted by pricklypear at 4:15 PM on October 25, 2006

I don't know if this makes a difference to you, but it looks to me like the only lie involved is that he's implying he was an employee, not an independent contractor. (Does the rest of his resume distinguish between employee and contractor gigs?)

The time frame is the same because he did his contract work while you were there. That's definitely not a lie.

You were both up for the exact same job - was the contract work something that could be accurately described by that job title? If it was Executive VP of Something Important, obviously this doesn't fly, but, for example, Senior Programmer? Web Designer? Editor?

Maybe I'm being too charitable here, but that's the way I see it. Since he was very upfront about his website, either he doesn't think he's done anything wrong, or he's completely forgotten about it.

Regardless, I can't imagine how this could go well for your friendship if you call him on it. Even if you are, objectively speaking, doing him a favor.
posted by expialidocious at 4:40 PM on October 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

Two concepts here, I'd separate them out:

1 He's lying on his resume.
2 His lie is connected to you, because he's claiming he did a job you did.

Together these things maybe seem harder to take than if you take them separately.

Take (1): ok, he's fibbing, but that's his problem, not yours. Is it worth spoiling the friendship in search of a perfect world? Nobody's perfect.

Take (2): ok, it affects you, but that's (in a way) a form of flattery, and a sign he looks up to you; it's certainly not a slight; treat as an accident: if he'd been in a different line of business, he'd maybe have put someone else's job in his resume, not yours. In other words, (2) is irrelevant.
posted by londongeezer at 5:04 PM on October 25, 2006

When people lie it's like walking around with a sleeping ferret in their pants. Man's inclinations is to move toward purity. Consciously or not, he showed you his webpage so you would find him out. He wants some form of absolution because claiming your job on his resume is a metaphysical theft. If he is a really good friend you should talk to him about it and tell him how you feel then he can explain to you why he did it and and both of you can come to a resolution.
posted by any major dude at 5:18 PM on October 25, 2006 [3 favorites]

When I read that you are "a little wierded out" and that it "does color the way I feel about him," I start thinking that answering your questions depends on how you amplify these comments and put them in the context of your past and future relationship.

If you and he are to remain friends, you need to deal with these feelings, whether you express them to him or whether you choose to abandon them. To deal with these feelings, you need to define them more concretely than you have here. What's "wierd" about it? What is "the way you feel" about him now, really? You've left that rather vague, and we are left with a sense that you are disturbed, but not given enough detail to honestly advise you what to do.

If you can describe your feelings a little more clearly, perhaps your decision about what to do will also become more clear to you.
posted by Robert Angelo at 5:33 PM on October 25, 2006

Personally, I would just tease him mercilessly about it. It's up to him if he wants to fix it or not.
posted by tkolar at 5:43 PM on October 25, 2006

I tend to agree with the folks who say that, in saying he had "your" job, he was just slightly misrepresenting the freelance work he did.

cribcage writes "While Jayder's attitude is disappointing, "

Just for the record, I have never lied on a resume. In fact, I have probably been over-punctilious about the truthfulness of what's on my resume.
posted by jayder at 5:56 PM on October 25, 2006

If he should ask you for a reference, you'll have to tell him you are not lying for him and will set the facts straight if asked. Otherwise... it's his conscience, his decision, and no one is being directly harmed thereby.
posted by orange swan at 7:08 PM on October 25, 2006

If I were in your shoes I'd be thinking, "Hold on there, I don't like your taking credit for doing something that I won fairly and worked hard at. What's the use of being talented and qualified if someone less qualified can just lie and get away with it?" I'd also think less of the guy, both for this big lie and for the foolishness (or arrogance) it takes for him to make the claim.

It doesn't sound as if you're much inclined to bust him -- and what good would that do? If you decide you want to stay friends with him, and if you continue to feel weird about your discovery, you're going to have to talk with him about it. You wouldn't be needlessly informing him that you'd discovered his embarrassing secret, as cribcage says -- he invited you to look at his web site, and there IS a need to inform him, if you plan to continue your friendly relationship with him. I completely agree with Robert Angelo's comments about it. If you discuss the resume with him, tell him how you feel... including the part about not quite knowing how to feel. If desperation has led him to compromise his values, you can help by reassuring him that his real qualifications could get him a good job (if you actually believe that.

You can wait to decide, though, if it's just too weird right now. You might choose to say nothing and just let a distance grow between you.
posted by wryly at 7:46 PM on October 25, 2006

Can you look at your resume and honestly say it's all true?

Hell yes.

If you were promoted in your last year of work, and you list that better title as the only one next to your three-year tenure, that's a little white lie. And I've seen plenty of "rhetorical flourishes" that prop up meager credentials, but this is an outright lie. This is an outright lie, one that will immediately be learned if he ever applies to any company, anywhere.

I don't think this needs to spawn any sort of existential crisis, but make no mistake- your friend needs to stop telling people he held your job.
posted by mkultra at 9:09 PM on October 25, 2006

I'm not sure I can agree with the moral relativism advocated by many of the responders to this question thus far. Is "he was just trying to support his family" a justification for any and all questionable behavior?

No. And that's the beauty of moral relativism. It doesn't have to abide every possible scenario. Ergo, it's fine for the OP's friend to lie about a job on a resume as opposed to, say, lying about not killing that homeless guy, because the two have markedly different implications.

And to answer the question: if you're going to bring it up, please don't be a side-stepping pussy about it—"Oh, I was looking at your website and saw something that I thought was kind of strange..." Horseshit.

How about, "I noticed you're claiming you got the Anderson job. Look, I don't care one way or the other, and I understand you probably have your reasons. But as a friendly warning: you can get fired for shit like this. Be careful."
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:30 PM on October 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

Are you looking to hire him? If not, then why do you care what his resume says?

Either do like tkolar and bust his balls about it or Lobster Mittens with the vague concern. I like the latter because if you just reconnected, who knows if your relationship can take jabs yet, and Lobster's query is just damn smooooth...

Just don't go about it as though you have some higher moral ground like Civil_Disobedient's suggestion. He's an adult, he knows that stuff like that can get him fired. I have a friend that is constantly telling me shit that as an adult I am aware, and it's put a strain on our friendship, plus others my friend has been doing this to.

Again, why do you care what's on his resume? I have many friends, many from high school 15 years ago, and I have no idea what they have on their resume, nor do I care. If he gets busted, that's his problem and he should have known.
posted by dozo at 11:11 PM on October 25, 2006

I've done plenty of accidentally finding out embarrassing things about friends and family.

My policy is to wait for a time when that person and I are the only people around, and telling them that I know.

Then I assure them that I wouldn't tell anyone else for the world, but if I noticed, then someone else probably will.

Then it's out of my hands. It lets me care, and it lets them do something about it if they choose.
posted by SlyBevel at 8:43 AM on October 26, 2006

I agree with Lobster Mitten's approach.
Find a way to approach him about this in a friend-to-friend way, and not a bitch-you-stole-my-job-title way.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 8:56 AM on October 26, 2006

Put me in the "do nothing" camp. I find it distasteful and self-defeating and it would inform my opinion of his character but that's his problem, not mine.

As far as "He's an adult, he knows that stuff like that can get him fired." I'd suggest that's not always the case. A lot of people don't seem to be aware that it's a fairly common corporate position that if they discover a lie on your application at any point in your tenure with them, no matter how much later, it's grounds for immediate dismissal. I've heard several otherwise intelligent people say they thought that once they're in the door the deal's done.

I still wouldn't bring it up, however. Just decide what you would say if it did come around to that subject.
posted by phearlez at 11:50 AM on October 26, 2006

My reaction was the same as expialidocious's. You mentioned that he did some work for you - I'm assuming here that it was your company that actually paid him rather than you personally. If the work he did could be fairly described by the title he put on his resume, then perhaps all he's actually done is fail to distinguish between a contract job and a permanent job. I'm not sure how or if you should bring this up with him, but perhaps it's not such an egregious crime as others have suggested. Maybe all you need to do is suggest a different title that reflects the temporary nature of the employment. Lobster Mitten has given you a good way to approach a conversation like that.
posted by miskatonic at 4:02 AM on October 27, 2006

This isn't about just friendship or personal ethics. He may be getting future jobs by lying over someone else who told the truth on their resume- a person who may have otherwise got the job. To say "this doesn't affect me, so who cares" is incredibly short-sighted.
posted by jmd82 at 9:27 PM on November 16, 2006

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