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Dilemma: what would you do? A candidate lied about education in their application

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  • Mar 2nd, 2012 12:28 pm
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[OP]
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Mar 7, 2008
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Dilemma: what would you do? A candidate lied about education in their application

I currently work for a small non profit. I am currently hiring my replacement as I am leaving for another opportunity.

Here's the deal: we have extended an offer to a candidate, and I've completed reference checks, which all went well. Got a third party company to do background/credit check, which turned out fine as well.

Now I asked the candidate for a copy of his university degree, and he tells me he actually doesn't have one. He says he left school one term or a few credits short of graduation, and has been doing part time classes since to get his degree. I am stunned, dumbfounded. The degree was not listed as a requirement for this job, but given the competitiveness of the market, we interviewed people who said they have one on their resume.

I informed my supervisor, the hiring manager, of this dilemma, and even he is torn about what to do. This guy seemed like the best candidate, even without the education criteria factored in. Well spoken, his references were legit and glowing (I looked them and their companies up on LinkedIn, Google), no criminal record, good credit check results, he has many years of relevant experience etc.

Any HR ppl/hiring managers out there? What would you do?

Should I appreciate the guy's honesty, at least he didn't submit a fake diploma? Or should I be wary and find someone else?

Should work experience trump education in this case?
87 replies
Deal Fanatic
Feb 9, 2006
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So did he tell you he had a degree? Did he straight out put education: graduated in xxxx?
Did you ask him about his education before hand?

If you ask for it after the fact just because you wanted to see it I don't see how he lied.

He applied and fulfilled the requirements.

So your options are: take the guy who can do the job but doesn't have a piece of $20k toilet paper? or give some idiot with a piece of $20k toilet paper the job?
Member
Jun 9, 2008
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Everyone lies and over exaggerate on their resume. At least this guy was being honest and it seems like hes the right fit for the job. I say just hire him
Deal Addict
Jun 29, 2009
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ahujie wrote:
Feb 24th, 2012 10:46 am
Should I appreciate the guy's honesty, at least he didn't submit a fake diploma? Or should I be wary and find someone else?

Should work experience trump education in this case?
Work Experience trump education 99% of the time

Did this guy lie or you assumed he had degree when his resume only show that he DID go to university but did not indicate he finished? If so, and seems like he didnt try to hide this fact, why is it such a big deal?

Would you really value a writing on a paper that say he graduated and was able to memorize stuff and write exams as opposed to professional references from people who says he can actually execute the work?
[OP]
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tebore wrote:
Feb 24th, 2012 10:53 am
So did he tell you he had a degree? Did he straight out put education: graduated in xxxx?
Did you ask him about his education before hand?

If you ask for it after the fact just because you wanted to see it I don't see how he lied.

He applied and fulfilled the requirements.

So your options are: take the guy who can do the job but doesn't have a piece of $20k toilet paper? or give some idiot with a piece of $20k toilet paper the job?


Well on his application and resume it says: Honours Bach of Arts, 2008. he lists his majors as Sociology and Health Studies, which are areas relevant to our organization. In his interview he mentioned how his undergrad education and courses taught him about the field.

We've started doing more thorough background checks, just beyond references now. In the past, we've hired some really incompetent people who it turns out exaggerated claims on their resumes, and could not live up to job performance expectations. This guy's experience and references are great, but this lie feels like a betrayal. I was rooting for him once we got to know him, and genuinely like him, as did the team.

It is in the hands of my manager now I guess. It sucks because we spent two weeks interviewing many people, through 2 or 3 rounds of interviews. As a small organization without a formal HR dept or budget for it, it takes a significant toll on our time and resources when this happens.
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Nov 1, 2005
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If he said he went to school from such a date to such a date and does not actually say he graduated then that's not lying per se, since what he wrote down was true, it is just open to interpretation and you guys interpreted it wrong. But if he said he has a degree or graduate then that's an outright lie so better not to hire him because who knows if he will lie in the future?
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Nov 17, 2007
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Put him/her on a short leash and see how they perform. If an education is not required than give them the benefit of the doubt. OR call candidate number 2
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Sep 13, 2005
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ahujie wrote:
Feb 24th, 2012 11:09 am
Well on his application and resume it says: Honours Bach of Arts, 2008. he lists his majors as Sociology and Health Studies, which are areas relevant to our organization. In his interview he mentioned how his undergrad education and courses taught him about the field.

We've started doing more thorough background checks, just beyond references now. In the past, we've hired some really incompetent people who it turns out exaggerated claims on their resumes, and could not live up to job performance expectations. This guy's experience and references are great, but this lie feels like a betrayal. I was rooting for him once we got to know him, and genuinely like him, as did the team.

It is in the hands of my manager now I guess. It sucks because we spent two weeks interviewing many people, through 2 or 3 rounds of interviews. As a small organization without a formal HR dept or budget for it, it takes a significant toll on our time and resources when this happens.

To be fair it doesn't say he graduated just that it's implied, and you never asked to verify he graduated. I don't think he misrepresented himself at all. I would hire him if he's the right man for the job. I give him extra credits for taking courses at night/distance ed to complete the degree we're debating about here. It is very hard to dedicate time to studies after a long day at work. I don't know why it's such a big deal when it's a job that don't require a degree. Degree or no degree, who cares as you don't need one to do the job.
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Nov 15, 2010
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I guess I am in the minority but I would never hire him. When a resume says "Honours Bach of Arts, 2008" it means that he graduated in 2008 with an Honours Bachelors of Arts. I don't understand why people on this message board think that's not a lie. He should have made it clear that he didn't graduate. Also, why would he leave a couple of credits short of graduation? That doesn't make a lot of sense. If he is willing to lie on his resume, he is probably not the most trustworthy person in the world. I agree that having a degree vs being a couple credits short probably doesn't affect job performance, but the fact that he lied about it does.
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May 25, 2009
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setell wrote:
Feb 24th, 2012 11:19 am


To be fair it doesn't say he graduated just that it's implied, and you never asked to verify he graduated. I don't think he misrepresented himself at all. I would hire him if he's the right man for the job. I give him extra credits for taking courses at night/distance ed to complete the degree we're debating about here. It is very hard to dedicate time to studies after a long day at work. I don't know why it's such a big deal when it's a job that don't require a degree. Degree or no degree, who cares as you don't need one to do the job.
Actually they did lie, they listed that they attained a Bachelors of Arts degree with Honors in 2008 in their resume, and it turns out they don't have one. It's a lie.

Things like education and training certificates and degrees are never implied on a resume, they are explicit, it's not like the skills sections where there's some leeway for interpretation.

But definitely a very "grey" scenario, tough situation really. I wouldn't know what to do either.
"God's in His heaven. All's right with the world." - Robert Browning (1812-1889)
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Dec 23, 2003
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Let me say that I have looked at hiring issues for many large firms in Canada and US and our view was that whatever is listed on the resume is 100% and can be backed up. If he says he graduated with a degree and in fact didn't, I would not only fire/revoke the offer to the guy, but look at him to reimburse the 3rd party incidental costs you did in order to screen this guy. You relied on good faith and paid companies money to do background checks, and then found out that he didn't graduate. Why piss around with this guy when there are many others who would be happy to work and get turned down because someone lied on their resume. Sue this bugger and he will learn not to do this again. Turn a blind eye, and who is to say that he does not try this again?

I would also question how good those companies that do checking are if they didn't uncover that this guy faked his graduation.
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Dec 23, 2009
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ahujie wrote:
Feb 24th, 2012 11:09 am
Well on his application and resume it says: Honours Bach of Arts, 2008. he lists his majors as Sociology and Health Studies, which are areas relevant to our organization. In his interview he mentioned how his undergrad education and courses taught him about the field.

We've started doing more thorough background checks, just beyond references now. In the past, we've hired some really incompetent people who it turns out exaggerated claims on their resumes, and could not live up to job performance expectations. This guy's experience and references are great, but this lie feels like a betrayal. I was rooting for him once we got to know him, and genuinely like him, as did the team.

It is in the hands of my manager now I guess. It sucks because we spent two weeks interviewing many people, through 2 or 3 rounds of interviews. As a small organization without a formal HR dept or budget for it, it takes a significant toll on our time and resources when this happens.

Was there any reason given as to why he was a few credits short of graduation? Did you outright ask if he graduated in the interview?

To me, if someone put "Bachelor of XXX" with a single date, to me that means he has graduated. I can understand why people lie and overexagerate on their resumes given today's economy, but I am also a man of principle. I have seen people outright lie, especially on the education, from having an accounting designation to ballooning up/doctoring their transcript to get a CA training position, and it really makes my blood boil, because these people probably won't wind up getting dismissed...even if they are grossly incompotent at what they do, and also there was someone more deserving of the position.

Did #1 blow everyone out of the water? This is a very tough situation but I would not hire #1 and go with #2...a lie is a lie.
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setell wrote:
Feb 24th, 2012 11:19 am


To be fair it doesn't say he graduated just that it's implied

I think that's dead wrong. When you list a degree and a year on your resume it means you completed your degree during that year. If he didn't finish, he should have put in progress or expected date of completion.

It's like if I put: "President Bank of Montreal 2006" and then said oh I didn't actually say I was the president I just almost got hired.
[OP]
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keano wrote:
Feb 24th, 2012 11:27 am
Was there any reason given as to why he was a few credits short of graduation? Did you outright ask if he graduated in the interview?

To me, if someone put "Bachelor of XXX" with a single date, to me that means he has graduated. I can understand why people lie and overexagerate on their resumes given today's economy, but I am also a man of principle. I have seen people outright lie, especially on the education, from having an accounting designation to ballooning up/doctoring their transcript to get a CA training position, and it really makes my blood boil, because these people probably won't wind up getting dismissed...even if they are grossly incompotent at what they do, and also there was someone more deserving of the position.

Did #1 blow everyone out of the water? This is a very tough situation but I would not hire #1 and go with #2...a lie is a lie.

He says he currently has two more courses left for his degree. I asked if he has plans to finish it, he says by the end of this year, since he needs program specific upper year courses which are only offered in the fall of this year.

No we did not outright ask if he graduated in the interview, nor did he say it. It never crossed my mind

However, in the online application system, there is a question that asks "Do you have a degree or diploma" and he checked the "YES" box. I asked him why he did this, and he said he didn't see an option to list that he had partially completed his degree or was working towards it, so he went with the next best option.

#1 and #2 were quite close. But what set #1 apart was his relevant work experience - he had more of it, and a better understanding of issues in the health policy field - or it seemed, I thought his degree helped him with that. #2 also has a degree, or so his resume says.

I think I am more in a grey area than my manager is about this potential hire. He sees things more black and white - a lie is a lie.
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