Lying on Resumes, and an Ethics Test

Posted by Amanda Nieweler

on September 10, 2015

An ethics test: the truth about lying on resumes and how it could affect ethical decisions.

There is a fun test in this post, but we’ll get to that a little bit later.

Here’s a surprising infographic that sheds some statistics on lying on resumes. The data was assembled by Accu-Screen, ADP, and the Society of HR Managers, and reveals the following little white lies job applicants told on their resumes:

Lying on resumes and an ethics test

46% contain some measure of false information
70% of college students would lie on their resume to get the job they want
3% have a misdemeanor record
7% have a felony record
27% give falsified references (wouldn’t the truth come out when those references were called?)
29% show altered employment dates
21% state fraudulent degrees

Insert shocked emoji face here.

If potential employees are willing to lie on their resumes, does it stop there? Or would they be faced with a myriad of ethical dilemmas in their newly acquired positions that they are willing to lie about, or twist around for their benefit? Would you, the employer, put a stop to it?

When a job candidate first puts lie to paper, then gets hired, they feel like they’ve gotten away with it. Cue the next scenario. Now that employee instigates, or becomes involved in, some form of misconduct happening within the company and gets away with it (management doesn’t know, or chooses to ignore it). The employee may feel the pressure to hit numbers, or may find that the bribes are paying off in the form of now being able to afford luxury items.

Cue the fun test. I found it here. It’s pre-empted by the statement that “some our finest and brightest have consistently failed to pass the test, and that they’ve done so quite spectacularly. These folks, incidentally, have included some of our smartest and highest paid executives, attorneys, accountants, bankers, financiers and academics.”

It also states that “many of those who failed the test were also distinguished alumni of some of our most prestigious colleges. In fairness, some taking the test might have inadvertently skipped the class in college that might have helped them pass the test.” (bet they didn’t mention that on their resumes)

You’ve just got off the subway, making your way to the escalator taking you up to street level. Your progress is blocked. A seedy looking guy brandishing a small velvet-covered case is standing in your way. You stop. He flips open the case revealing dozens of quite expensive watches. As he pulls a Rolex from his case, he breaks the silence.

“Wanna buy a Rolex?” he asks. As you look at it, you admit that it looks real. As he hands it to you, though, it’s as light as a feather and you know it isn’t real. But you begin to think that it might be fun to fool your friends into thinking you actually bought a really expensive Rolex. And, if you never take it off and hand it to them, they’ll never know. You ask how much. He responded with “$25”. You exchange some crisp bills for the watch.

Later that day, you show your new watch to a friend, “Bob.” Bob is experiencing some difficult financial times. He has rent to pay, an ex-wife and children to support. And you know he’s developed a “habit” that he can’t shake. You’ve already lent him money, but you’ve written off any possibility that he’ll be able to repay you.

Bob tells you he’s in the process of raising money for his new project. He asks if you’d be interested in investing. You politely decline. Bob’s gaze then shifts to your new watch. He’s intrigued. He asks if he can borrow it for a day or two. He tells you that he’s having dinner that evening with a prospective investor who he wants to impress. You sympathize with him and agree, knowing instinctively this is probably a mistake.

And because life is strange, when Bob tells you the name of the friend he’s having dinner with, you discover you know him well. His name is Hal. You tell Bob that Hal is a really good guy and that you really like and trust him. Bob is excited and then invites you to join them for dinner. He explains that Hal might be more comfortable with you at the dinner. With an uneasy feeling, you agree – even though your instincts are screaming out that this might be another mistake. At dinner, Bob shows Hal his new watch. He’s eager to impress Hal that he’s a man of substance.

“Ain’t this a beauty?” Bob gushes. He continues as he smiles at you, “Michael and I went to Tiffany’s a couple of days ago. When I saw this particular Rolex, I just couldn’t resist it – even though it cost $30,000. Paid cash.”

Hal is impressed and says he loves the watch. Fortunately, he doesn’t ask Bob to take it off so that he can take a closer look. Through this conversation, though, Hal does look at you. And you return his gaze. You say nothing – absolutely nothing. Over time, Hal’s attitude to Bob begins to warm up. By the end of the evening, convinced that Bob is someone of substance and feeling comfort that you know Bob, Hal announces that he will indeed invest in Bob’s new business. Needless to say, Bob’s scheme was a scam and Hal loses his investment.

Did you become a co-conspirator with Bob when you remained silent as he claimed that you were together when he bought the watch for $30,000? Most would say you became a co-conspirator the instant you said nothing.

Did you pick up on the fact that the fake Rolex was purchased for the same reason that Bob used it – to fool others?

Humans are creatures of habit and we crave acceptance and achievement. People feel pressure, seek acknowledgement, and want to look good in the eyes of their superiors, or future employers. As an employer, you can only do your best to ensure you are hiring the right people for the job. It’s impossible to say that misconduct will or won’t happen in your company. But for every employee who may cross an ethical line and participate in fraud or other behaviour that can threaten the company, there are plenty more who are willing to use your ethics hotline to draw attention to the bad behaviour.
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